"It's a community that is always tight-knit but always seemingly expanding."
One of the most challenging and unique academic years at Millikin University is coming to a close. Millikin and other institutions of higher learning were compelled to change almost everything they do because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the spring 2021 semester has wrapped up and commencement is on the horizon.
Millikin is honoring the Class of 2021 with two in-person commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 16, at Kirkland Fine Arts Center. The first commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the College of Arts & Sciences, Tabor School of Business and graduates earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The second commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the College of Fine Arts and College of Professional Studies as well as graduates earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Typically, a commencement ceremony has one, maybe two student speakers, but in light of the times, the University asked five student speakers to share messages: Jada Miller, Collin Krakowiecki, Sarah Obert, and Adam and Marcus Hayes. The opportunity provides the graduates with a chance to not only share a message but reflect on their Millikin experience.
Jada Miller, a human services major from St. Louis, Mo., says she has certainly stepped out of her shell since arriving on campus as a freshman. "I got to campus and began socializing and networking, and now I'm at the end. I've had a lot of leadership positions which has made me happy," she said.
Marcus Hayes, a nursing major from Joliet, Ill., says his growth, from a maturity standpoint, and time management were important factors during his four years. "Going into the professional world, I think I'm ready to tackle the challenges," he said. Marcus' brother Adam, also a nursing major, said one of the best things about a small-school environment, like Millikin's, is "creating a relationship with every single person you meet."
The graduates are preparing to reflect and deliver a speech to hundreds, some in person and some watching virtually. Collin Krakowiecki, a finance major from Hanna City, Ill., said he feels like he has been preparing his speech for four years.
"I was a campus tour guide, and now four years of hyping up Millikin and telling people about all the great things I do has prepared me to give that speech at graduation," said Krakowiecki. "I hope my speech will make other people feel the way I do about Millikin. I want everybody to understand the importance of the time that was spent here and the impact they have all had on my life. I think when you talk about Millikin, what's really important is that you are talking about the people. It's the professors, the students, it's the human beings you spend time with."
Adam Hayes says it's a blessing to represent the senior class. "It's an honor to represent what everyone has gone through … the pandemic, racial injustice. To be able to be up there with my brother and talk about what we seniors have been through together, it's a real blessing," said Hayes.
Sarah Obert, a musical theatre major from Plainfield, Ill., noted, "I just hope my speech reminds people that we have each other and moving forward, things are going to get better."
When asked what makes Millikin stand out as an institution, Jada Miller says the University helps students reach their destination. "I would not be here if it wasn't for the faculty," she said.
The inclusivity of the campus community stood out to Marcus Hayes. "It was neat to see everyone doing their own thing but yet we all partnered together, just like a Big Blue family," he said.
Adam Hayes added, "I looked at it as a way of expanding your comfort zone and being comfortable with things that are uncomfortable. Being able to have a conversation and putting yourself in someone else's shoes … learning from other people is something I'm very passionate about."
Sarah Obert says it's the community of people that makes Millikin thrive as an institution. "Even up to the last moments, I still feel like I'm meeting new people and learning new things about people that I didn't already know. It's a community that is always tight-knit but always seemingly expanding."
Millikin community members can watch the graduation ceremonies through a public livestream on Millikin's graduation website and Facebook page. For more details, visit millikin.edu/commencement.