At Alaska Pacific University graduations there isn’t just a few featured speakers.
Each graduating student is welcomed and encouraged to say a few words, if they’d like. During the 2018 Spring Graduation, many students gave shoutouts to family, friends and mentors to helped them along the way, others offered words of wisdom for those still pursuing their degrees, and one even Facetimed their mom in.
Here are just a small collection of the powerful final words our 2018 Spring Graduates left us with.
Nicole Zegiestowsky, Bachelor of Arts, Counseling Psychology
When I first visited Alaska in 2015, about a week after I returned to Pennsylvania I was already Googling universities I could transfer to in Alaska. There were only about five options and I’m really glad I choose APU.
Carly Karin Vangstad Boyd, Bachelor of Arts, Liberal Studies
I learned so many important life lessons about myself here. I want to thank everyone in this room, you truly made this the best learning environment and best experience for me.
Karissa Du Pree, Bachelor of Arts, Liberal Studies
I remember the day I decided I definitely wanted to go to college. I was in Liberia, in a small village, and I was asked by someone that was my age at the time, ‘what do you do back home, are you in school?’ I said, ‘no.’ I was in my twenties and I was doing some cool things work wise, but I wasn’t in school. It didn’t hit me until that moment that I had the opportunity to. And I was a little bit embarrassed in that moment that I hadn’t taken those opportunities. I wanted to. It took a lot of years after that for me to go to college. But as the faculty in this room can vouch for, I had a few struggles along the way… I can’t believe I finished it. Thank you to everyone in this room, whether you’re someone who helped me or are someone who loves someone in this room that has helped me along the way.
Jonathon Lee Singler, Bachelor of Arts, Liberal Studies
I want to thank my dad and my mentor. And my mother who can’t be here today. She’s with the United States Navy and she’s deployed, so I brought her here today. She’s my rock, an inspiration for me, for pursuing education, as she did for herself.
Jacob Dial Behnke, Bachelor of Arts, Outdoor Studies
Becca Erdman, Bachelor of Arts, Outdoor Studies
I’m going to read a quote by Henry David Thoreau. ‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’ I want to thank everyone at APU for helping me build my foundations and building more castles in the sky to reach for.
Ian McDermod, Bachelor of Arts, Outdoor Studies
I know for me it’s been a long journey coming here. For me, college has been many days camping in the backcountry, writing a lot of essays, doing a lot of reading — I’m sure a lot of you can relate to that. I met a lot of great people and built great relationships. I met my wife while in college. So thank you to the APU community that fostered this great learning environment. It’s a really unique experience and I’m proud to be a graduate of APU. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.
Kelly Ballantyne, Bachelor of Arts, Sustainability Studies
I went to college a long time ago and then decided I’d rather be a landscaper. And then I did some traveling, and when I came back from the other side of the world where I was farming and traveling, I made business cards that said ‘student of sustainability’ not realizing the implications of that statement. Ten years later APU helped me make that statement real.
Kaili Martin, Bachelor of Arts, Marine Biology
Four years ago, I boarded a plane at the Boston Logan International Airport, with pretty much just the clothes on my back, a laptop, and a huge bag of scuba gear and 16 hours later I landed in Anchorage. I can confidently say, to this day, that was the best decision I ever made. My time here at APU has been filled with adventures. Like completing the 50K Tour of Anchorage just three weeks after Professor Paul Twardock taught me to ski. Or meeting incredible people, like Felipe Restrepo, who played ping pong with me for hours on end and miraculously taught me to code at the same time. But the past four years have also been an extremely humbling and critical time in my life, with the unexpected passing of friends I was immediately surrounded by a community that respects each other like family. And that kind of atmosphere is so unique and powerful, that it actually becomes kind of addicting. I can’t see myself standing here today without all the support and guidance from my friends and the dedicated and intelligent APU staff and faculty. And I need to thank my family, especially my mom and dad, who have supported me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams, even though I was building another family 4,000 miles away here at APU.
Hannah Gould, Bachelor of Arts, Marine and Environmental Sciences
You know finding APU, which as a community is very comfortable and supportive, is kind of like finding a good bra. It’s difficult. I’m really happy I found it, found APU.
Monica Chase, Master of Business Administration
We have put forth major effort to be able to walk across this stage for our degrees. Guys, we actually did it. We did it. Even after we move into adulthood, it still takes a village to encourage us, support us, to feed us, to offer help and to be proud of us. My village has included my family and friends. My son Ian has a bet going with his grandma that I won’t cry. I’m trying to get that money for you. This diploma is for all of us, except I have the student loan.
Elisiva Maka, Master of Business Administration
I would like to dedicate this specifically to my son and the entire Pacific Islander community. I stand here as a representative on behalf of all Poly’s that want to achieve a higher education. My hope is that people from my community will continue to strive for opportunities in higher educations and other areas to explore and succeed.
Ashley Tanis, Master of Business Administration
When I started this journey, it was because of a job I’d applied for and didn’t get. I thought well I need to do something new. So I encourage everyone else, if you’re at a point and there’s something you need to do to take ownership of where you are and where you want to be, I encourage you do that as well.
Eric Olson, Executive Master of Business Administration
20 months ago, my amazing wife gave birth to our second child. That was also the first night of class in this program. It’s been a crazy 20 months since then. I have to thank my wife and our two kids. They’ve supported me and sacrificed so much for me to get through this. I appreciate their love, encouragement and patience. I also want to thank the faculty and staff, I learned a tremendous amount from each of you. It seemed like every time I took a class, what I learned was directly applied to what I was doing at the time at work. It’s been a great experience. I also need to thank my classmates. I’ve been in some great teams and have learned a lot from each of you as well. So thank you.
Rachel Carter, Master of Science, Counseling Psychology
There was a piece of advice I received at the beginning of this graduate program that I wanted to share with you all. It was from Ebony McClain. She told us to ‘sit in our discomfort.’ And that’s what I did for pretty much two years. It was one of the most terrifying experiences, but I learned so much. This has been probably one of the happiest times of my life. I encourage each of you to sit in your discomfort as you continue your journey as well.
Becky Jacobs, Master of Science, Counseling Psychology
I remember the day I interviewed for this program. Renee asked me ‘how are you going to juggle being a single mom of two, working full time, and internship hours and night classes?’ I remember shrugging and saying ‘I’ll figure it out along the way.’ I didn’t realize it wasn’t my eyes that were bigger than my stomach, it was my cajones that were bigger than my stomach. Thank god for that, because I figured it out along the way.
Emily Mechtenberg, Master of Science, Counseling Psychology
To mom and dad, thank you for accepting me as I am, and letting me forge my own wild path.
Caitlin Marsteller, Master of Science, Environmental Science
3 years ago I drove my 2005 Honda CRV over 7,500 miles to Alaska to pursue my masters in science. My goal was to be a better scientist, to learn what it took to publish peer reviewed articles and carry out a project from the early developmental stages all the way to the presentation. I’ve done that, but I’ve also found a lot more at APU than just that. What I found is being a scientist is a spectrum. On one end is the methodical person we’re taught to be and on the other end is the human with the emotions, complications, and things that life throws at us. What I found is the sweet spot right in the middle where you can be a respectable scientist and still be a human. That wouldn’t have been possible without the APU community. The people here invest on an individual level, that each contributes to this ecosystem where every piece has its own part. I want to thank every piece of that community that has made this possible, not only for me but for everybody here who has or will graduate from APU.
Sara Sawicki, Master of Science, Environmental Science
I want to dedicate this degree to all women and girls in science, because through so much hardship we just persevere.
Robin Lockwood, Master of Science, Outdoor and Environmental Education
I was just thinking about how the frog and the salmon may live in a similar ecosystem, but if a salmon wanted legs so badly that it could be a frog, it would never be able to live it’s life to the fullest. And so to each one of us sitting here, if you’re graduating or not, I think it’s important for us to know what we do have and to strive for the greatest of what we can with the body and mind that God has given us.
Patricia Sloan, Doctor of Psychology, Counseling Psychology
Tom Hanks had a great line in the movie A League of their Own. And I know most of you are thinking about the one that goes ‘There’s no crying in baseball.’ There was plenty of crying in this program, but there was lots of laughter, too. My favorite line was, ‘It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.’ This was a hard journey on many levels, but my thanks goes out to an amazing cohort, caring faculty, and incredibly supportive circle of coworkers, friends, and family. And my Dennis, for making the hard, that much easier.