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Friday, December 17, 2010

The race you have to win

All glory and honor to Jesus! The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8. C'est fini! Today, I completed my last exam, as a student at the University of Illinois. After 7.5 years, it is time to say goodbye to Champaign! Thank You Jesus!

Saturday, December 11, 2010, I graduated from the School of Labor and Employment at the University of Illinois. The graduation took place at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in the Colwell Playhouse. I gave the remarks on behalf of the Class of 2010 and the transcript is below.

Good afternoon, graduates, faculty, families and friends. Thank you all for coming to our ceremony. We are happy to have you here to share in this joyous time with us.

The title of my speech is called “The Race You Have To Win.”

In life, we are all in a race, yet each of us are in a different race with several supporters cheering us along the way. Many of those supporters are here today in this auditorium. Thankfully, along each of our races, we were able to cross paths for the past year and a half at the School of Labor and Employment.

Seven years ago, after my first semester in undergrad, here at the University of Illinois, I remember running down the stairs at the Weston Residence Hall exclaiming “one semester down, just seven more to go!” with a sigh of relief that I completed my first semester as a college student. Little did I know, in my capped off far-sighted vision into the future, that I would actually be at the University of Illinois for an additional seven more semesters after undergrad. This would make an additional seven years from my first semester.

Seven is also my favorite number. It’s signifies completion. Now seven years later, I stand before you today along with my colleagues, having completed our last semester, as a student, at the School of Labor and Employment at the University of Illinois.

So after seven years, you might imagine I would receive the “oh you must really like school” comment and the “What is MHRIR?” question. And you’re right. Just the other day after a student visit, I was talking to Brandon and Jen and after explaining that I’ve been here since 2003, Brandon asks “do you like Champaign?” And as a city girl, I never thought I would say this but I actually do and it will be sad to leave this place I’ve come to call home. I will miss the good cornfields. I will miss getting to places in 10 minutes and watching this city change and the temperature being slightly warmer than Chicago and gas being slightly cheaper than Chicago. I won’t particularly miss the parking enforcement though. More importantly, it will be sad to leave all of you.

I began undergrad in Champaign, as an 18 year old Psychology major; a familiar beginning for many of my colleagues. And like many of you, I also came to that turning point in undergrad where I decided to change majors. Yet at the same time, it is a very different story for many of my colleagues hailing from 94 undergraduate institutions and 13 countries! It would eventually turn out to be a different story for me as well.

After undergrad, I decided to stay pretty close for law school, as in down the street, which added another 3 years to my tenure in Champaign. And at the law school I met Professor LeRoy! Anyone who has come into contact with him, or taken any of his classes here, knows exactly what this means. He and other important people in my life, such as my mom, are the reason that I stand before you today being able to pursue exactly what I wanted to do.

We all began this lap of our race in 2009. I was so surprised that on the first day of orientation, Becky knew my name and everything about me. Then I quickly understood that this school cares about each person in the program and makes it a point to know you. On that first day, I also discovered the wealth that existed in the three-story brick building on 5th and Armory. I felt so fortunate to be in the newly-named-changed School of Labor and Employment. Here I found diversity of cultures, and schools of business and technology as well as an immense and supportive career service center, faculty and alumni base. On a Monday, I told Nell exactly what I was interested in and literally by Tuesday she connected me with alumni from across the country. These alumni significantly helped me change my perspective on my career for the better.

Here we are today December, 11, 2010, a year and a half into the race from where we started and the race is nowhere near complete. Some would even say our race is just beginning depending on your perspective and the School of Labor Employment gave us the best warm up laps. Now we are sitting here about to receive our degrees with many of our supporters and a cloud of witnesses happy to join us here in the audience. I think we need to give our supporters a round of applause because they were the ones that helped us to keep running this race.

As of Summer 2010, there were over 2300 School of Labor Employment alumni employed in 47 different states in the U.S. including, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and in more than 30 foreign countries. Among them are senior corporate executives, government officials, HR consultants, union officials, faculty members, and university administrators.

Now graduates, look around, we are the new generation of HR and IR professionals, consultants, government and union officials, administrators and directors. I think you should also clap for yourselves for making it this far on your race. And as we finish our last final examination in the program next week, we will race out into the world to join these successful University of Illinois MHRIR alumni. Fellow graduates, we are very privileged to be in these seats. I am so honored to be in great company, having the opportunity to join the graduating class of December 2010.

I admit it hasn’t hit me yet, that we’re actually leaving. Maybe it will hit me when I’m stuck in traffic again in the big city on my way to work, or sometime next year when I no longer view the year in semester lenses. Or maybe, it will hit me when I’m not driving down Interstate 57 on a Sunday night for my 8am class with Professor Avgar. Although, it will be sad to leave, it is a bitter sweet leave. This program is the hardest thing many of us have done, it is the hardest thing I have done to date and we have successfully completed this lap in our race. The School of Labor and Employment has adequately prepared us for the next step, judging by the experiences from many of my peers this past summer as well as our antecessors who have shared their experiences with us. So in a sense it was our warm- up lap for our race. And although there are no official rankings, I am certain that this was the best warm up lap hands down.

Before I came to this program I somehow avoided the business classes, like the plague apart from the general requirements. Leaving this program, my business acumen has skyrocketed. One thing I learned in Professor Lubotsky’s Health Savings and Family Issues in the Workplace class is that generally speaking there are two assets that are very hard to diversify. One is your house and the second is your skill set; your human capital. However, at this program we are at such an advantage with the second asset. Our skill sets are already diverse. Our education at the School of Labor and Employment has opened so many roads of opportunities and given us several choices that many of us otherwise would not have had prior to entering this program.

Graduates, no matter where we are in this world, whether we are in small town, Ohio, to New York City to Beijing, China we will always have the bond of being Fighting Illini at this point in our race. And as I conclude, I would like to leave my fellow Illini with following words of advice. There is a race set before that you have to win. This race isn't given to the swift but to the one that can endure through the end. I started this year with many goals, and graduating from the School of Labor and Employment was one of them, we all made it!   More importantly, we are guaranteed a prize at the end of this race, so continue working hard and I know that we will hear of many of each of our races throughout the school walls and across the world.  As we leave this campus as alumni, continue to run your race.   Pace yourself through your race to run your best race, helping others along the way and know that you’ve already won.  Thank You.

Convocation Ceremony School of Labor and Employment at the University of Illinois

Reference: I Corinthians 9; Ecclesiastes 9.
Speech inspired by: Pastor Fola Oluwehinmi -- King's Assembly, RCCG.
Photo by: Lola Adegoke
Supported by: So many people: family, ACF, JHC, KA, friends, mentors, faculty!
Could only have done it by and through: JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats Christiana. May God take you to great heights beyond your dreams. Congrats


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