Commencement 2024: Goals 'to live the life you want'

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Heidelberg’s 171st Commencement was a picture-perfect day in so many ways as the 278 members of the Class of 2024 began their new journey as alumni, ready to experience “great success and great satisfaction” as they live their lives of purpose with distinction.

On a joyous Mother’s Day, a proud class celebrated the culmination of their accomplishments and also recognized and appreciated those who helped to get them to their graduation day. “Today, we salute each and every one of you for your tremendous achievements and your march along the way,” said President Rob Huntington. “We also thank the very dedicated administration, staff, coaches and faculty for their role in teaching, advising, guiding and mentoring you.”

2024 Commencement speaker Sylvia Taylor

Heidelberg welcomed Sylvia Taylor, an experienced human resources professional, as the Commencement keynote speaker. Currently the Chief Human Resources Officer for Safe-Guard International, she has also worked in HR leadership roles for The Weather Channel, AutoTrader, General Motors, PepsiCo and ExxonMobile. She provided excellent practical advice to the grads in her speech, You Have Your Degree … Now What?

Sylvia tailored her remarks around achieving goals. “You didn’t come to Heidelberg for nothing,” she said. “You came with a goal in mind. From my perspective a degree and a career are simply a means to an end … the end is achieving your life goals.”

Although they now have degrees in hand, there’s more to finding success in the working world and life. Those degrees, she said, may get the new grads in the door, but her 10 tips will help them get to the top.

1.    Know who you are, what motivates you, what makes you feel good about yourself, what your values are, then be who you are.
2.    When you are looking for a job, tell everyone you know, so you have more than just two eyes looking for you. 
3.    Craft your resumé to give companies what they are looking for in recent college graduates: personal characteristics – “success behaviors” – that bring value to the company.
4.    When interviewing, provide examples where you’ve demonstrated “success behaviors” while a student at Heidelberg: a situation where you’ve had impact or one in which you faced a challenge and how you handled it.
5.    There is no substitute for work ethic. 
6.    Network inside the company.
7.    Find ways to have impact. Ask questions about why things are done the way they are, speak up if you believe the process can be improved, and come up with a solution that demonstrates initiative and problem-solving.
8.    Own it if you make a mistake. Explain how it happened, what you learned and your plan to keep it from happening again. 
9.    Handling bad bosses and good bosses. Bad: Remember, nothing lasts forever. Try to stick it out, but if you can’t refer to Tips #4 and #5. Good: Take full advantage of working for this person. Meet with them. Ask for feedback.
10.    Establish a career goal. If you’re undecided, make a goal to figure out a career-related goal in the next 6 months. That will give you footing and direction.

Sylvia encouraged the grads to remember that there’s more to life than a career.

“I want you to remember that a degree and a career are not your life. Your family is your life. Your true friends are your life. Your values are your life.

“Your career is a means to an end to allow you to live the life you want to live.”

Commencement by the numbers

In all, 176 undergrads received Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. A total of 102 graduate students received their master’s degrees in Business Administration, Counseling and Athletic Training. They join more than 15,400 living alumni worldwide primed to support the newest alumni.

Among the Class of ’24, there were 16 states and four countries represented: the U.S., Peru, Ecuador and the United Kingdom.

A team effort

During major milestone events like Commencement, the entire campus community comes together to pull it off.

Special music was provided by the Heidelberg University Symphonic Band, under the direction of Professor Rod Miller, and the Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Gregory Ramsdell. Graduating senior Jayce Porter led the singing of “The National Anthem” and Zaria Keys ’25 performed the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Graduating senior Rebecca Eppard led the singing of “Sweet Alma Home” to conclude the ceremony.

For the first time, a trio of graduating seniors – Camryn Hedrick, Jackson Helmholtz and Morgan Woycitzky -- provided the invocation, representing the various faith traditions on campus. Board of Trustees Chair Kathleen Geier ’78 assisted President Rob Huntington in presenting an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to the Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr., Executive Director of the Ohio Council of Churches, who delivered a magnificent and significant sermon at Baccalaureate on Saturday, and an honorary Doctor of Business degree to Sylvia Taylor.

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