Letter from the Editor: Graduation


Photo by submitted photo

Color Guard Director Allegra Wolff and Muleskinner Managing Editor Bethany Spitzmiller were roommates and quickly friends during their two years at UCM pursuing their Master’s degrees.

  It’s been an honor to be the managing editor of the Muleskinner for the last two years. I’ve been able to oversee the publication as it’s grown, but more importantly, I’ve been able to see so many students become young journalists with the hunger to find good stories and the skills to put them together. The years haven’t been without hardship, but we’ve persevered and overcome each challenge.

  Last night I had the honor of being the graduate student speaker at the 6:00 p.m. graduation ceremony for students receiving their master’s and education specialist degrees from the College of Education; College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; and the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies. After I spoke, I joked that my speech was written much better than it was spoken, not all communication graduates have the same skills, and our adviser recommended I share the speech here as well. I though that was a pretty good idea, so here it is:

Muleskinner Managing Editor Bethany Spitzmiller being hooded by CAHSS Associate Dean Kathleen Leicht and Muleskinner Adviser Julie Lewis. (Submitted Photo)

Bethany Spitzmiller’s 2022 Graduation Speech (as written) :

  Good evening, it’s an honor to be the graduate student representative chosen to speak today. 

  To introduce myself briefly, my name is Bethany Spitzmiller, and I’m graduating with my masters in communication. The largest part of who I have been at UCM is the managing editor of the Muleskinner, which is our student newspaper.

  I always think it’s valuable when a speech can be a little educational, and not many people know what a Muleskinner is. There have been many times when I say the name of our student publication, and people think about taxidermy or some violent mistreatment of our beloved mascot. The newspaper’s name came from a naming contest in the 70s, but it’s really kind of clever. A Muleskinner is slang for a person who leads a team of mules. Because mules are so stubborn and smart, in order to lead a team of them, the driver has to be extremely clever themselves in order to “out-skin,” or outsmart, a mule. There’s your fun fact for the day.

  During my time at UCM, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about leadership and stubbornness. I think all of us have learned how to be stubborn during these past two years. To be here today, everyone in this room has had to be determined and strong-willed. Starting graduate school is a difficult decision in general, a decision only about 13% of people make, but starting in 2020 was especially challenging because there was so much uncertainty in the world.

  Another fun fact, graduate student enrollment was one of the only areas of enrollment that saw an increase during the pandemic. When others were hesitant about attending university at all, we were a little stubborn and decided to go ahead regardless.

  One of the reasons I pursued graduate school was because I lost my graduation ceremony for my Bachelor’s when we were more concerned about social distancing, and I decided I was still going to have a graduation ceremony, no matter what, even if that meant getting another degree. I hope for everyone else in those shoes, today is everything you expect it to be.

From left to right: Sports Editor Meah Copeland, Managing Editor Bethany Spitzmiller, Copy Editor Anna Furney and News Editor Emma Fischer all stand for a picture after the May 6 6:00 p.m. graduation ceremony. (Submitted photo)

  Leading the Muleskinner team, my responsibility was to make sure students were informed about issues on campus and those on the Muleskinner team were able to learn how to be journalists. The first goal of a journalist is to seek truth and report it, and typically that is done by conducting interviews.

  When I was a little stuck about what to talk about today, my first instinct was to talk to some other graduates. Many described their experience during grad school with words like lonely and isolating. Online classes, social distancing, and masks created barriers between people. My first semester, I only had one in-person class, with seven students, that met once a week, and I was so thankful for that time to see other people.

  When we started taking classes, campus was kind of empty, but look at it today. We’re able to be here together and see each others’ smiling faces. We’ve all had interesting journeys to be here today, but the perseverance we’ve shown as we’ve pursued a master’s degree, despite a global pandemic and despite individual challenges, is commendable. I know I’m proud of the growth I’ve seen while I’ve been here, from myself, from classmates, and from the Muleskinner staff. 

  Everyone is on their own life journey, experiencing challenges and growth. While we grow through hard times, it’s also important to remember to rest and celebrate victories.

  I find some of the hardest moments are when we compare ourselves to others, when we feel we’ve not done enough yet. Some of us are graduating with our Master’s degree right after undergrad, while others have come back to school after having careers, families, or both. I think it’s important to celebrate this accomplishment we all share, celebrate graduation today, and enjoy the happiness that comes with this achievement.

  In a society where individuals are praised for their endurance, and sometimes their exhaustion, it takes courage to say yes to rest and taking a break. I hope everyone in this room takes an extra moment to pause today and realize how much hard work and dedication today’s graduates have put toward earning their degrees, and I hope every graduate takes time to celebrate and be proud of this achievement. I wish you all happiness in what you choose to do next, and congratulations on surviving and thriving throughout your grad school journey. Smile as you walk across the stage, you’ve earned it.

  I’m currently writing this before I get ready to attend the first undergraduate ceremony of 2022, to say goodbye to our Muleskinner graduates. Being at UCM has been great for growth, learning, and making connections, and I’m so excited to see what’s next for everyone.