Colorado State University College of Natural Sciences Spring 2016 Commencement


[Music Playing] [Music Playing] [Music Playing] [Music Playing] [Music Playing] [Music Playing] TAVENER Good Morning TAVENER
Good morning, my name is Simon Tavener and I am the Associate Dean for Academics in the
College of Natural Sciences. On behalf of the faculty and staff of the College, I would
like to welcome you to our spring 2016 commencement ceremony, which marks the 132nd year of commencement
at Colorado State University. Please stand with me as the Air Force ROTC
presents the Colors and join Mr. Schyler Vargas, a student in the Department of Music, Theatre,
and Dance, and The Music Staff, our musicians this morning, in singing our National Anthem.
(Applause) [Singing National Anthem] [Applause] Please be seated.
At this time, I am pleased to introduce to you Professor Jan Nerger, Dean of the College
of Natural Sciences. A bit of an error, I don’t have my glasses. Well, I have been here before. NERGER
On behalf of our board of governors and our faculty, I want to welcome our graduates and
your family, and guests to the College of Natural Sciences Commencement Ceremony. The
word “commencement” can be thought of as simply a noun – a ceremony of conferring
academic degrees. But let’s also recognize that to “commence” is a verb – to start,
to begin and today’s ceremony is just that and more – it’s a time to celebrate and
take pride in your academic successes and accomplishments, and it also marks a beginning,
a passage into a future that you all will be responsible for shaping. At this time, I want to introduce the members
of the platform party and recognize them for the roles
they play in making CSU a great university. I will ask each person to rise and remain
standing through the introductions. Please hold your applause until all have been introduced.
Our Department Chairs • Dr. Laurie Stargell, Associate Chair,
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology • Dr. Michael Antolin, Chair, Biology
• Dr. Chuck Henry, Chair, Chemistry • Dr. Darrell Whitley, Chair, Computer Science
• Dr. Gerhard Dangelmayr, Chair, Mathematics • Dr. Jacob Roberts, Chair, Physics
• Dr. Don Rojas, Chair, Psychology • Dr. Jean Opsomer, Chair, Statistics And in the front row:
• Dr. Donald Mykles, Professor of Biology and Director, University Honors Program
• Dr. Daniel Bush, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
• Dr. Lou Swanson, Vice President for Engagement • Mrs. Mary Taylor Young, Commencement Speaker
• Dr. Simon Tavener, Associate Dean • Dr. James Sites, Research Associate Dean
• Dr. Lisa Dysleski, Assistant Dean • Ms. Ellen Holbrook, Alumna Class of ‘15
• Major Christiane Makela, U.S. Air Force, ROTC
• Lieutenant Colonel James Blanton, U.S. Army, ROTC I would also like to recognize a facutly member here today who have received the highest possible educational and research honors awarded
to faculty by Colorado State University. • Dr. Nancy Levinger, professor of chemistry
and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar • Dr. Diana Wall, professor of biology and
a University Distinguished Professor. Let us recognize these extraordinary people.
(Applause) Our college has long been committed to providing
the highest quality education for its undergraduate and graduate students. These outstanding programs
are made possible by our faculty’s dedication to excellence in teaching, research, and service and outreach
– the tri-partite mission of a Land Grant University. It is through our faculty’s
commitment to our students and dedication to our programs that our College has been
able to achieve our extraordinary reputation. Would our faculty members here this morning
please rise? Please join me in recognizing the talents
and efforts of our faculty.
(Applause) NERGER Oh my gosh [Nerger laughing] NERGER So much better. We are going to make it now, I know it. NERGER
So we are pleased to have Mrs. Mary Taylor Young as
today’s commencement speaker. She’s an award-winning author, Mary has been described as one of
Colorado’s best known nonfiction writers. She has been
writing on the wildlife, landscape, and heritage of
Colorado and the West for nearly 30 years. Her 15 books include Land of Grass & Sky:
A Naturalist’s Prairie Journey; Rocky Mountain National Park: The First 100 Years; and The
Guide to Colorado Mammals. Mary’s “Words On Birds” column appeared
in the Rocky Mountain News for 16 years, and she
was editor and writer of the quarterly Colorado’s
Wildlife Company for 15 years. She has published hundreds
of articles in online media and national print
publications including Outside, Wildlife Conservation,
Colorado Outdoors, and Ladies Home Journal, and she
has written extensively for Colorado Parks and
Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US
Forest Service. Her many awards include recognition
from The Wildlife Society, Colorado Humanities,
the Colorado Authors League, the National Association
for Interpretation, the Association of Partners for
Public Lands and others. In 2012, she was awarded a Residency in creative writing by
the National Park Service and was an Artist in Residence at
Rocky Mountain National Park. She has worked with
thousands of elementary school students as a
resident artist, combining nature study with creative
writing. Mary earned a Bachelor of Science degree in
zoology from Colorado State University in 1977. It is now my pleasure to introduce to you
our commencement speaker, Mary Taylor Young. [Applause] MARY TAYLOR YOUNG: (Speech)
Well, thank you very much Dean Nerger. It’s really a great honor to be here at Colorado State to be your 2016 commencement
speaker. You know, since this is my alma mater. I am just totally delighted to be here. And to honor all of you and all of your accomplishments. Which are really, really significant. Also thank you to everyone on the platform and to all the parents, families, friends who have come out here and also to all of you for, for having me. So 30+ years ago, I was all of you, I was sitting out there eager to get my diploma. So, I just want to say, from my viewpoint as you many years further on…
I’ll just quote Adele and say “Hello from the other side.” As you’ve heard, I earned a BS in zoology
from CSU. I have made a career using my CSU education, but in a way, along a path that might not
be the first to come to mind of how to use a degree in zoology. So I won’t bore you with details of my entire journey but after, about ten years after I graduated I began… Sorry, I got a little confused there. When I was a senior, I had thought to go to graduate
school. What else do you do with a degree in zoology, right? I had been very fortunate to be given my undergraduate degree, my education by my parents. So I said, well yeah I’m going to go to graduate school. I had study all figure out. I was in communication with a proffessor at a prestigious university who was
very interested in being my advisor. And then my parents informed me that if you want to go to grad. school you are going to have to pay for it yourself. And I was like, “Wha-at?!” That had not been on my radar. So, needless to say I didn’t go to grad school, and about 10 years
after graduating I began pursuing a career as a nature and wildlife writer. I write about
science for the general public, and my mission is to touch both hearts and minds of readers and to move readers to support conservation of natural communities in Colorado and the West. My first point to you, then, is don’t limit your
vision of what your life can be after college and how you can make use of your college degree. Some of you likely have plans to follow a traditional
path and that’s really terrific. But if you aren’t one of those certain ones, or even if you
are, I encourage you to remain open to creative possibilities of where you can go in your life. I couldn’t have accomplished all I have
as a nature writer without my CSU education. I use my zoology degree every in my work everyday, I really do.
Everybody wants to write about nature, I mean that sounds very fun. But I came out of CSU as a scientist, not just
somebody who likes animals and wildflowers. My knowledge base is grounded in how natural
systems work, not some idealized concept of happy fawns and pretty scenery. So that my education allows
me to stand toe-to-toe with researchers and biologists I might interview. I can ask insightful
questions, understand what they’re saying, read studies and technical material. Then I can
translate all of it for the general public. Not just so they understand it, but so that they also
care. More importantly, though, my CSU education
taught me how to think. It taught me how to look at and evaluate the world around me. Writing and scientific inquiry really use
many of the same skills. In both disciplines, you are confronted with a large, unorganized
mass of information and raw data, and you have to analyze it and look for patterns.
Then you explore those patterns for relevant meaning. Finally, you present those meanings
to others in ways they can understand and be persuaded by. I can do all of those things because my CSU education schooled
me to have a disciplined mind. And all of you are now equipped with that as well, and it truly
will be a great asset to you all your life regardless of the path you follow. Next I’d like to urge you to put yourself
in the way of opportunity. Much of life is serendipitous.
At the beginning of my writing career, I was taking any paid writing assignment I could get. I had written on men’s neck-tie design and manufacturing. Obviously not in the field of zoology. Water features and home landscaping, programs for children at Colorado ski areas, even a profile of the Los Favorita Tortilla factory. So I was a one week expert on tortilla manufacturing. But I knew I wanted to get back to my field and write about wildlife. So I attended a one night wildlife photography class sponsored by the
then-Colorado Division of Wildlife. The organizer announced he would be publishing a new quarterly called
Colorado’s Wildlife Company. So after the class, I went up to him and said “I’m a wildlife
writer. I had published one magazine article on beavers at that time. But whatever. And I said I would love to be involved with your publication .” He
said he didn’t have the budget to pay me but if I was willing to write the first issue we could see what happened. So I did that, the publication was extremely well
received, he got a large grant to continue publishing, he not only hired me as the writer, but he back-paid me for the first
issue. I went on in a few years to also become editor of that publication and project manager. Colorado Wildlife Company
is on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website if you’d care to take a look at it. It ran from 1988
to 2004. And it was very successful and we reached hundreds of thousands of readers. That project also led to a lot of referrals for me for other projects and work and in many ways it ignited my nature writing career. Now i f I’d been too tired to go to the class that night,
or too timid to go up and talk to him and say I was a wildlife writer that would not have happened, at least not in the
way that it did or perhaps not in the time frame that it did. So truly put yourself in the way of opportunity. I’d like to leave you with a message to
have courage, and especially, to value yourself. My book Land of Grass & Sky: A Naturalist’s
Prairie Journey, is about time I spent on the Colorado prairie, and all it taught me.
Here is a brief passage: “It is so easy to travel the open country
and see nothing but emptiness. The prairie and its space can be overwhelming, exhausting,
defeating. Eyes used to woodlands and hills, tall buildings and houses, look across open
country and feel a sense of exposure and vulnerability. A prairie is not empty, but its vitality projects
downward into the earth instead of up. The life of a grassland dwells in an enormous
network of roots and the galleries of prairie dog towns. The prairie turns its life force
inward. To look beyond the open space, to truly know a prairie and its secrets, I must
look inward also, see with other than my eyes.” The takeaway, then, is this: “Seeing beauty and joy in the commonplace
is part of accepting ourselves as we are, others as they are. Few, few of us will be
movie stars or supermodels, presidents or champion athletes. To judge by narrow extremes
of appearance or accomplishment is to blind ourselves to the truly sublime—the wonders
of our daily lives and daily selves. As I learned to see the beauty and wisdom of the
prairie, this ugly duckling land, I grew to appreciate the simple beauties within myself.
Inside we both are swans.” Thank you for listening to my words and I
wish all of you the very, very best. [Applause] NERGER
Thank you Mary; it is truly an honor having you with us today. The academic sector of Colorado State University
is composed of eight colleges and the Graduate School. The individual colleges are listed
in the University Commencement program you each have. The College of Natural Sciences is composed of
eight departments and the Bachelor of Science degree is currently awarded in 12 different
majors. Today we are celebrating the academic accomplishments
of our spring and summer graduating class. We have 480 students graduating in spring
and another 120 graduating in summer. At 600 graduates, this is the largest class in the
history of the College of Natural Sciences! [applause] Will the candidates for the Bachelor of Science
degree from all our eight academic departments please rise? NERGER Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to
present to you these students, who have completed all of the requirements established by the
various departments, the College, and the University for the Bachelor of Science degree. The Faculty Council has recommended to the
Board of Governors of the CSU System that these candidates receive the Bachelor of Science
degree in their respective disciplines. At their meeting last week here on campus, it was officially
voted to confer those degrees. So it is my sincere honor to formally declare: “On behalf of and with the authority of
the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System, I hereby confer the Bachelor
of Science degree on each of you, together with all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities
appertaining thereunto.” Let us all recognize the achievements of this
wonderful group of students. (Applause) TAVENER Please be seated Thank you, Dean Nerger. An important tradition in
academia is the “tassel switch.” It symbolizes one’s transition from candidate to graduate.
Before conferral of your bachelor degree the tassel is worn on the right side of your mortarboard.
Now that your degrees have been officially conferred, I now ask you each to please move
your tassels to the left. Congratulations! [Cheering and applause] In a few moments, our Spring 2016 graduates
will receive their diploma covers. At that time we will also recognize those students
who, through their academic achievements, have received various academic honors and
distinctions. A few words are in order to better appreciate the accomplishments of these
students. Students earning the ‘cum laude’ designation
have distinguished themselves through outstanding academic performance during their time at
CSU. Their GPA is in the top 10% of their graduating class. ‘Cum laude’ is a Latin
expression meaning “with praise”, but in this context a more appropriate translation
is “with distinction.” Those students graduating ‘Summa cum laude’,
or “with highest distinction,” are students in the top 1% with a GPA of 3.98 or better.
Students designated ‘Magna cum laude’ or “with great distinction” make up the
next 3% of the class with a GPA above 3.9; and those designated ‘cum laude’ constitute
the next 6% with a GPA above 3.76. These students are wearing golden gowns or a gold cord over
a green Honor’s gown. The University Honors Program offers a challenging
and rewarding curriculum for outstanding students and all Honors students must achieve at least
a 3.5 cumulative GPA. These students are wearing green gowns and bachelor’s hoods. Will the ‘summa cum laude’, ‘magna cum
laude’, ‘cum laude’, and Honors graduates please rise so that we may applaud your extraordinary
academic accomplishments. (Pause for students rising; applause) Thank you, please be seated. Student achievement is also recognized by
initiation into various honor societies. These include:
• The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, an honor society for freshmen and sophomores
ranked in the top 15 percent of all CSU students. • Golden Key, an Honor Society for juniors
and seniors ranked in the top 15% of all CSU students.
• Phi Kappa Phi, an Honor Society for seniors in the top 10% of the College.
• Phi Beta Kappa, an Honor Society for students who complete at least 90 credits in liberal
disciplines including foreign language and mathematics and have at least a 3.5 GPA.
• Mortar Board, a National Honor Society for seniors who demonstrate superior academic
abilities and service to the University and local community. Will the National Society of Collegiate Scholars,
Golden Key, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Beta Kappa, and Mortar Board members please rise? Congratulations
on your academic successes. (Applause) Please be seated. In addition, we would like to recognize students
completing the Teaching Licensure Program. Historically, CSU graduates more science and
mathematics teachers than any other college or university in the state. Blue cords signify
those students who are to be licensed as middle school and high school science and mathematics
teachers. Would you please rise? [Applause and cheering] Please be seated. Thank you. The Dean’s office wishes to recognize those
students who have enriched their education in the sciences by completing a second major
outside the College of Natural Sciences. The “Academic Enrichment Award” was established
to honor these students for the breadth of education they have obtained. Each of these
students will be mailed a certificate from the Dean. Would students with a second major
outside our College please rise so we may recognize your achievements? [applause and cheering] Please be seated.
Another group the College would like to recognize is our first-generation students. First Generation
students in our college and at our university are a point pride for us all. Will the first-generation
graduates please rise so we may applaud your success? [cheering and applesause] Thank you. Please be seating. And, finally, we would like to acknowledge
the academic success of all former and current members of the U.S. armed services earning their
degree today and those former and current members joining us in the audience. Please
stand so we may applaud your commitment to the Nation. [Cheering and applause] Thank you all. Please be seated. Shortly, we will begin the diploma distribution.
You, our newest graduates, will be introduced by Professor Jake Roberts and receive your
diploma covers from Dean Jan Nerger. At that time you will have your picture taken with
the Dean. You will then be congratulated Vice Provost Bush, Vice President Swanson, and
the Chair of your major department. Dr. Don Mykles, Director of the University
Honors Program, will congratulate Honors Program Graduates and Major Christiane Makela, U.S.
Air Force & Lieutenant Colonel James Blanton, U.S. Army, will congratulate our ROTC graduates.
Faculty from your department will greet you as you proceed off the stage. You will have
your individual picture taken and will then continue on to the table to receive your senior
gift, a copy of Mary Taylor Young’s book, Land of Grass & Sky, followed by an opportunity
for family members to take your picture before returning to your seat. And now – on to the most important part of
this afternoon’s celebration . . . Marshals, please escort our Spring 2016 graduates to
the platform. [cheering and applause] ROBERTS Okay. My apologies for that. In just a moment I will present the Spring
2016 graduates of the College of Natural Sciences, but first let me make a couple of announcements: • Guests attending our ceremony are reminded
not to block the view of others by standing or by taking photographing at the railing
and to refrain from the use of air horns. Graduates will receive digital images from
the professional photographer approximately one month after the ceremony. • This is your commencement. We invite you
to take photographs during the distribution of diplomas, but please do so in an orderly
manner. So that our ceremony may run as smoothly as possible, please use ONLY the designated
photography area on the main floor in the back. Access to the photography area is available
through the northwest and southwest stair-wells only [point to both back corners] and through
the northwest back door of the auditorium. Please follow the signs located in the hallways
and stairwells. We ask that you send only one family member
down to take pictures from within the area reserved for you, stay out of the traffic
flow as students return to their seats, and please return to your seat after taking your
photos. Physics and Psychology families, your graduates will not be announced for about
an hour, so please wait to come down. • Graduates will proceed across the stage
by department, beginning with the Department of Biochemistry. Honors graduates will lead
each department. • Graduates, if you are the first person
in your major, please let me know when you reach the microphone. And now–ladies and gentlemen, mothers and
fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, neighbors, and friends—
it is my great pleasure to present to you the Spring 2016 graduates of the College of
Natural Sciences. Congratulations to our class of 2016. [Applause] It is now my honor to present to you Ms. Ellen Holbrook, graduate of Colorado State University, Class of 2015 and current student in our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. Hello, my name is Ellen Holbrook, and one year ago I was sitting where you are now, holding my diploma. I’ll never forget how excited and proud I felt to finally have that diploma in my hand. With four years and a quality education behind me, I still had a way to go in order to fulfill my dream. I was thrilled when I was offered a place in CSU’s PVM program. Colorado State was always my top choice. It allowed me to stay here on this beautiful campus, remain friends with those I have met along the way, and complete my education with a highly regarded professional degree. One day, down the road, I will be back where you are, right now. It may be time for you all to move on, and everyone sitting here has a different path and future ahead but whether you stay in Fort Collins or travel to the far ends of the world, you all have one very important thing in common with each other and more than 200,000 others who have come before you: You are all alumni of Colorado State. And I’d like to be the first to welcome you to the alumni family! You join other scientists, teachers and engineers, poets, food producers, care providers, and entrepreneurs. When you leave this campus, be assured your University will not leave you. No matter where your personal and professional journey takes you, know that the CSU Alumni Association, your college, and your former professors will be here for you every step of the way. Congratulations on a job well done, and GO RAMS! [applause] NERGER Before making my closing remarks, I would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to thank another group here this morning that deserves our thanks and gratitude. Graduates, please rise and join me in thanking your parents, family, and friends for their support and encouragement of you and your education. [applause] Please be seated. So as Dean, I want to impart to you two rather simple messages each of which resonates well with the message from our commencement speaker What Mary Taylor Young told you was: to put yourself in the way of opportunity, to have courage, and value yourself, and don’t limit your vision. And my message is much the same, though it doesn’t come to me from the same place that it did Mary. It comes to me from a slightly different place. Not the grass and sky of the Colorado plains but from the Broadway musical Wicked. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to see the play, I have seen it three times, it is essentially a prequel to the Wizard of Oz. It spotlights the untold story of the unlikely friendship of Glinda the Good Witch from the North and Elphaba, the infamous Wicked Witch from the West. What you might now know is that Glinda and Elphaba met while college roommates and they went through their undergraduate careers together. Now you have to give me some leeway here – I’m not endorsing nor disparaging witches. I’m supporting any particular compass point in the Land of Oz. Now in our collective consciousness, saturated as it might be is by exposure to the 1939 movie, Glinda and the Wicked Witch are polar opposites one is “good,” and the other is “wicked.” But in Wicked, things aren’t so dichotomous. Their relationship certainly is strained as they struggle to understand each other. Their views of the world couldn’t be more disparate but in the end each shapes the character of the other and they become close, lifetime friends. I think this is much like the experiences I’m sure each of you have had while here at CSU the last four or so years. interacting and engaging with people who are like you and people who are very different from you and come to appreciate different backgrounds. What I’m sure you’ve learned is to grow from these differences and let these friendships flourish. Some of which will last a lifetime. So I hope you will carry my first message on – respect and appreciation for yourself and for others. Now my second message has to do with not limiting your vision of the future. And again, I turn to Wicked. This time it’s from the song at the end of the first act. The theme of the song is empowerment. Empowering yourself. The title of the song is “Defying Gravity” — it could have been titled something like “I’ll do it my way” or “Don’t bring me down,” but instead the word “defy” is used signifying strength. The lyrics assert that if you can “defy” something so strong and resolute as gravity, with my apologies to the physicists here this morning then nothing can stop you. It’s a declaration of courage and independence. As I mentioned earlier in the ceremony, the word “commencement” indicates a beginning, and the ceremony this morning represents a point in time to pause – to take a moment to think about how far you’ve come and where you might be going. So my hope is that each of you in your own way will defy gravity – rise to great heights in whatever you choose to do your future direction is uncharted and unlimited — continue to make CSU proud. And I do hope you get to hear the song “Defy Gravity” at some point before you leave CSU. Congratulations and best wishes. [cheering and applause] Thank you Dean Nerger Before the recessional, I would like to thank a number of people who worked very hard to make today’s ceremony possible. First, I would like to thank the Dean’s Office staff, our work-study students, and our tireless announcer, Dr. Jake Roberts. [cheering and applause] I also want to thank the faculty who are here this morning and our marshals Dr. Volbrecht from the Department of Psychology, Dr. Marty Gelfand from the Department of Physics, Dr. Steven Strauss from the Department of Chemistry, and Emeritus Assistant Dean Dr. Jack McGrew. Thanks also to our soloist, Mr. Schyler Vargas as well as The Music Staff for the music that has added so much to this ceremony, and special thanks to our signers from the Office of Resources for Disabled Students, who so ably translated our ceremonies into sign language. [cheering and applause] And, once again, thank you to Mary Taylor Young for an inspiring commencement address. [cheering and applause] Please turn to the first page of the Commencement program. Please stand and join us the singing of the Colorado State Alma Mater. Mr. Schyler Vargas will lead the singing accompanied by The Music Staff. [llama mater playing] [cheering and applause] I would like to ask the members of the audience to please be seated and to remain seated until the platform group, faculty, and students have left the auditorium. Thank you for being with us this morning – Graduates: congratulations and enjoy the rest of this very special weekend with your family and friends. [cheering and applause] [Defying Gravity playing] [cheering and applause] [band playing recessional music]

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