Friday Focus: Two useful words for graduates

April 30, 2021

Tori Tragis

Chancellor Dan White. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.
Chancellor Dan White. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

— by Dan White, chancellor

Commencement day is my favorite day of the year. My second-favorite day is move-in day (for students living in the residence halls) or for our nonresidential students, the first day of classes. These two days, my two favorites, bookend a student’s educational journey. There is no better day than when a student begins their education, well, except when they finish it, whether that is a certificate, associate, bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. Even if it is a stop on the way to the next degree, commencement is a special time for students, parents, supporters and friends.

In her welcome at the beginning of the school year, former Provost Susan Henrichs used to offer words of wisdom to first-year students. She would share that it was really just one thing they needed to do to be successful at the University. And it could be captured in two words. Phone home? Study hard? All-nighters? Nope. It was “show up.” All you have to do is show up. I have found these two words useful as I have counseled students myself. I have also found them useful in my own life.

That’s it, just show up. And yes, it is as simple as it sounds. No tricks, no double meaning. Just show up. Be an active participant in your future and in the future of those around you — your family, your colleagues, people you mentor and those who mentor you. 

Show up for the meeting, the class, the seminar that makes you better. Show up for the day’s challenges — especially the tough ones. 

While you show up to help others in their journey, don’t neglect to show up for yourself. Only you know when you need help, and showing up for yourself means finding the courage to admit it. Ask for help when you need it and someone will show up for you. 

For a university committed to respect, diversity, inclusion and caring, we all benefit when you choose to be that person who shows up for someone else, whether they asked for it or not. Everywhere around us is someone who needs a smile, a helping hand, or a word of encouragement. That is the easiest thing to give and often the most meaningful. And when you look around you today, I bet you will find someone who needs you to show up for them. 

I don’t know if this is exactly what Provost Henrichs meant in her message to first-year students, but it is what I mean when I say that all you have to do to succeed in college is show up. It is also my message to graduating seniors. As you enter this next phase of your life, fresh off the success of graduation, I have two words of wisdom for your new journey. Show up. Show up for yourself when you need it, show up for others, and show up for tomorrow’s challenges today.

Friday Focus is a column written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week. On occasion, a guest writer is invited to contribute a column.