Remarks from EMU President James Smith

Graduates, today’s commencement is very different than Eastern’s previous commencements, but it is still a time for celebration.

It is a time when you are being honored for a major accomplishment – earning an Eastern Michigan University degree that is nationally recognized for academic excellence.  And to have fought through the challenges you faced during the past year is truly a testament to your grit, determination, and unwavering persistence.

Along with Eastern’s faculty and staff, you had to make unexpected adjustments to your academic work and your way of life. All of us at Eastern thank you for your cooperation and applaud your flexibility as you forged new paths to reach this goal.

It was not an easy path, but Eastern students are known for facing challenges head on and working to succeed and excel beyond expectations. You are truly the problem-solvers of tomorrow. I have every confidence that you have grown from this experience and are even better prepared for the future that awaits you.

Eastern’s foundation as an institution of opportunity is more important than ever. We are a place where first-generation students, people from urban and rural communities, and all races, cultures, backgrounds, and identities are embraced.

We are a place where our faculty is deeply engaged with our students in a way that sets us apart in public higher education. When students are asked about their cherished memories of Eastern, many of them will mention their experiences and connections with our faculty.

We are also a place with a rich history of public service and engagement with our community. Many of our academic programs work with local businesses and corporations, nonprofits, health organizations, and local schools to connect Eastern students with real-life opportunities to work and learn.

As interns, volunteers, or paid employees, Eastern students work side-by-side with professionals in a multitude of fields to make a difference in the community, and to gain real-world experience.

Graduates, when you arrived here at Eastern four or five years ago, things were a little different. Strong Hall, Sill Hall, and the Rec/IM looked much different than they do today. Just like they have changed for the better, we know that you have changed too.

You are stronger, smarter, and ready to face the next challenge. You have learned to think on your feet and express your beliefs. You have learned how to thrive on very little sleep, how to stretch a dollar, and how to meet deadlines. Your future employers will appreciate that last one.

More importantly, you have learned who you are and what you are capable of. And now it’s time to take what you have learned and focus on your next goal.

We at Eastern know that every one of you will be successful and will make a difference in your community. Your faculty, staff and I are exceptionally proud of you.

You will now join the ranks of our more than 180,000 alumni around the world who are known for their strong academic accomplishments, practical experience, and community engagement. They will welcome you with open arms and opportunities.

You will always and forever be an important part of the Eastern family.  

Dr. James M. Smith
President, Eastern Michigan University