Student Commencement Address

December 14, 2013
Charlotte Cialek

Members of the Board of Trustees, President Haynes, faculty, staff, families, friends, and my fellow graduates; I am honored to say a few words to celebrate the accomplishments of the Northern Michigan University class of 2013!

Take a second to look around at everyone dressed in green robes. We’re glowing with achievement and success. All of us have worked unimaginably hard to get here. Going to college has been more than a job. It has been a drive, a passion, a focus that has been our constant companion and will walk beside us throughout life. It’s given us a wealth of ideas, knowledge, memories, and connections.

When we turn our tassels, our transformation will be complete. We are Wildcats, and we have completed our educational goal. We have resumes, transcripts and letters of recommendation that sing our praises. We made it through “that 400-level class”, the one everyone in our major warned us about…

The tests are done.  The homework is over.  But that’s not all that made us Wildcats.

We Wildcats have walked along the shore of Lake Superior. We’ve jumped into the freezing water in the heat of the summer, maybe under the glowing Northern Lights. And every year, we watched the waves freeze into flows of ice. Wildcats have experienced some of the toughest winter weather in America…and lived to tell the tale. We’ve shoveled our cars, our roommates’ cars, our neighbors’ cars out of snowdrifts. We’ve sent pictures back home to prove to our families and friends that we’re not exaggerating when we say the snow gets this deep. Wildcats may have moved away from home, from across the UP, under the Mackinac Bridge, or out of state, but we found a new home. Wildcats have a special place here in Marquette. We know that from meeting our neighbors, working at the many local businesses, volunteering at the many Marquette celebrations, or raking leaves of the elderly during Make a Difference Day. I don’t know if all of us can truly call ourselves “yoopers” just yet, but for us Wildcats, Marquette has a special place in our hearts.

When I was interning in Washington state last summer, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean instead of Lake Superior, I was walking along in my NMU shirt when to my surprise I heard someone say, “Go ’Cats!” She had graduated from NMU a few years ago. We connected instantly about NMU memories and our favorite places around Marquette.

So, soon-to-be Northern graduates, I would like to ask you something:

When you’re walking the streets of your new home, the next place life takes you, and you see a green-and-gold t-shirt or bumper sticker, be like that NMU grad. When you see an NMU t-shirt or—better yet – when you’re wearing your NMU t-shirt, show your NMU pride. There are Wildcats that have come before you and there are Wildcats that will come after you.  You are a part of something BIG!

I will always be connected to NMU, Marquette, and to you.  In the future, not if but when we cross paths, I’ll be that girl that says ‘Go ’Cats’.  And you, Class of 2013, will be the person who knows what it means! Congratulations, and “Go ’Cats!”