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(Posted 12-18-03)
Contact: Steve Gilliam, (336) 334-5371

Kevin Lackey raises his hands in triumph just before Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan hands him his diploma Dec. 18.

UNCG grads told to cooperate, cultivate relationships

GREENSBORO – New graduates of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro got a lesson for life from commencement speaker Dr. Rebecca Adams, who told them Thursday to cultivate relationships and practice cooperation as they pursue careers.

“You will be more successful in the complex global economy because you know something about people who are different than you are,” Adams told the graduates. “Cooperation, not competition, is the watchword of the Millennium.  We have to cooperate in order to survive.

“It is a lot easier to cooperate with people from diverse backgrounds and countries when you understand their cultures, and there is no better way of achieving that than by having a diverse group of friends and colleagues like many UNCG graduates do.”

Chancellor Patricia A. Sullivan welcomed graduates and their families. Graduate student Brent M. Harvey of Greensboro was speaker for the December Class of 2003 and Bernadette Christine Wilson of Greensboro served as tassel-turner. Altogether, almost 1,400 graduates from fall semester and summer session were recognized during the commencement exercises. Of these, there were approximately 1,000 bachelor's degrees, and the graduate degree recipients included those who earned 46 doctoral degrees.

Adams’ address contained references to a video game, “The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis,” and to Horatio Alger, the 19th-century author known for his “rags-to-riches” fiction. She said that jobs and opportunities aren’t as plentiful today as they have been, and that education and acceptance of diversity are key factors to success.

“As you look up the career ladder, it may appear that nothing is going to stop you from reaching the top rung,” she said. “Beware, however, because there might be a glass ceiling over your head, and bumping your head against it would be a rude awakening.  Although this could happen to anyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity, women and minorities are particularly likely to have this experience because they aren’t as likely to have the sponsorship of well-placed, powerful senior colleagues.

“My advice to those of you on career paths is to cultivate relationships with potential sponsors and hopefully, when you are ready, one of them will reach down through the entry hatch in the glass ceiling and pull you up the ladder.  If all else fails, keep bumping your head against the glass ceiling until it shatters.  Not only will you make it through the glass ceiling, those following behind you will be able to climb to the top of the ladder without difficulty.”

She also spoke about her father, who was the first person in his family to go to college, to underscore the importance of education. Adams said her father did not graduate from college and eventually left to take a job offer.

“Today so many people have college degrees that graduate school is becoming a necessary prerequisite for success,” Adams said. “Don’t misunderstand me – attending college is definitely worth it.  Research shows that having a college degree, in any subject, is better than having no college degree, and college graduates earn about one-third more than high school graduates.

“It is clear, however, that a graduate degree makes success even more likely.  Those with master’s degrees earn twice as much as high school graduates, and those with doctoral degrees or professional degrees earn three or four times as much.”

As she concluded, Adams gave the graduates four “charges” for their future.

To read Adams' full speech, click here.


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