Sherri Jones' Nebraska Commencement Speech
Sherri Jones speaks during the May 3, 2019 graduate commencement ceremony. Jones is dean-designate of the College of Education and Human Sciences and chair of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders.
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:04.080]Well, I just have to stand here
[00:00:05.220]and look at you all for a moment.
[00:00:06.470]This is really wonderful seeing for all of you out there
[00:00:09.890]who now are my UNL colleagues.
[00:00:13.170]So Chancellor Green,
[00:00:14.670]members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents,
[00:00:17.461]distinguished faculty and administrators,
[00:00:20.780]graduate degree candidates and family and friends.
[00:00:24.366]It is a pleasure to be with you
[00:00:26.460]on this beautiful spring day.
[00:00:29.060]And graduates, congratulations.
[00:00:31.950]I'm honored to count you among my academic colleagues
[00:00:36.240]and to welcome you later today as alumni of Nebraska.
[00:00:41.560]Graduation is actually my favorite event
[00:00:45.030]because it gathers such a large group of people together
[00:00:48.730]where everyone is happy.
[00:00:51.150]I have attended graduation many times in several capacities;
[00:00:56.070]as a parent to celebrate our children's degrees from UNL
[00:01:00.760]and in fact our youngest will graduate tomorrow
[00:01:03.530]with her bachelor's degree,
[00:01:05.720]as a faculty member and department chair
[00:01:08.630]to celebrate our students' degrees,
[00:01:11.690]and now as commencement speaker to celebrate
[00:01:14.870]all of you and your accomplishments.
[00:01:17.490]What an honor, in fact three times I have sat where you are
[00:01:22.040]in earning all of my degrees at UNL.
[00:01:25.370]And yes graduation is my favorite event.
[00:01:28.870]And this is a special year for you,
[00:01:30.890]as you saw at the beginning,
[00:01:33.000]because you are graduating during a memorable time
[00:01:36.170]for the University.
[00:01:37.720]The 150th anniversary since its founding.
[00:01:41.750]And many things have changed at the university
[00:01:44.370]over a course of 150 years
[00:01:47.210]and I'm sure that in your comparatively short time
[00:01:50.300]in graduate school,
[00:01:51.710]you have seen changes in yourself.
[00:01:54.420]You have grown in your knowledge and skills,
[00:01:57.260]you have expanded your thinking
[00:01:59.330]and question prevailing theories,
[00:02:02.090]perhaps at times questioned everything.
[00:02:05.170]You have generated new knowledge
[00:02:07.440]or refined existing knowledge
[00:02:09.700]through practice or research.
[00:02:12.110]In short, graduate training changes you
[00:02:15.700]and you now have a greater capacity to change the world.
[00:02:20.020]I hope you will have very fond memories of graduate school
[00:02:23.330]and long-lasting memories of today.
[00:02:26.240]For myself, I fondly remember particular aspects
[00:02:30.000]of my commencement ceremonies.
[00:02:32.320]I distinctly remember processing in, much as we did today,
[00:02:37.250]crossing the stage to receive my real diploma,
[00:02:40.740]as you will do today,
[00:02:42.710]and being hooded for my PhD degree,
[00:02:45.390]as some of you will do today.
[00:02:48.080]Regrettably, I do not recall who the commencements
[00:02:51.460]speakers were, nor do I remember anything they said.
[00:02:55.910]I fear that is my fate today.
[00:02:59.510]Nevertheless, permit me to spend just a few moments
[00:03:03.230]highlighting how I think Nebraska has prepared you
[00:03:06.810]for the future of work.
[00:03:08.810]For me, my future of work began at age six.
[00:03:12.900]As you heard in my introduction from Chancellor Green,
[00:03:16.200]I was born and raised in Nebraska.
[00:03:18.950]In fact, I grew up on a farm
[00:03:20.980]in a small town south of Lincoln called Clatonia.
[00:03:25.010]Is anyone here from Clatonia?
[00:03:27.590]Hey, neighbor, everyone in Clatonia is your neighbor.
[00:03:32.320]Well, there's always a lot of work to do on a farm.
[00:03:35.230]I remember a time when I was about six years old
[00:03:37.980]and my family was outside
[00:03:39.740]doing various tasks on the farm.
[00:03:42.530]My twin sister and I were instructed to pick up sticks
[00:03:46.000]and put them in piles.
[00:03:47.960]I'm not sure why we needed to pick up the sticks.
[00:03:50.900]I really think it was an exercise
[00:03:52.880]to keep two six year olds out of trouble.
[00:03:55.510]But we did as we were instructed
[00:03:57.350]and picked up the sticks and put them in nice little piles.
[00:04:01.210]It seemed like an endless task
[00:04:03.120]with an endless supply of sticks.
[00:04:05.570]After some time had passed doing this work,
[00:04:09.110]my sister and I sat down on a log
[00:04:11.730]and at that moment I declared,
[00:04:14.077]"If this is work, I am not going to do work when I grow up".
[00:04:19.370]In that six year old mind
[00:04:21.070]the future of work was completely defined
[00:04:23.580]as picking up sticks and that wasn't very appealing.
[00:04:26.870]Now, I do think there might have been a lesson
[00:04:29.570]in that work assignment,
[00:04:31.130]like developing perseverance to get the job done.
[00:04:34.760]But luckily my experiences with work
[00:04:37.160]improved as I grew older.
[00:04:39.730]Now I hope that your experience in graduate school
[00:04:43.130]did not feel completely like picking up sticks.
[00:04:46.820]Although, I'm sure you might have a thought or two
[00:04:49.180]about some assignments that felt about as tedious
[00:04:52.120]or useless as that.
[00:04:54.110]But, as I said, even in that tedium
[00:04:57.120]there was likely preparation for the future of work.
[00:05:01.180]So what might your future of work look like?
[00:05:05.340]According to a number of think-tanks
[00:05:07.820]the nature of work is changing rapidly.
[00:05:11.250]First, significant proportions of work
[00:05:14.750]that we do today will become automated.
[00:05:18.150]Picking up sticks, for example,
[00:05:20.050]is work that can be easily automated
[00:05:22.290]and I'm all for that.
[00:05:24.040]In my own discipline of audiology,
[00:05:26.693]automated hearing testing is already possible.
[00:05:30.880]My audiology colleagues who will graduate today
[00:05:34.510]may experience the impact of that automation
[00:05:37.500]in their careers, and I know they are ready for it.
[00:05:41.460]Indeed, some of you may actually use the knowledge
[00:05:45.310]you've gained from your graduate training
[00:05:47.820]to contribute to the automation of work.
[00:05:51.170]It has been predicted that the automation of work
[00:05:54.550]will actually open avenues for new types of jobs,
[00:05:58.500]which leads me to my second point about the future of work.
[00:06:02.720]A large proportion of today's jobs will no longer exist
[00:06:07.030]and the majority of jobs that will exist in 2030
[00:06:10.650]have not yet been invented.
[00:06:13.070]So in the next decade all of you will have the opportunity
[00:06:17.680]to define and develop the jobs of the future.
[00:06:21.510]Embrace that opportunity to design your job.
[00:06:25.930]In fact, in order to develop the jobs of the future,
[00:06:30.160]you will need to use some special skills
[00:06:32.640]that are the focus of my third point
[00:06:34.890]about the future of work,
[00:06:37.140]and that is, that human skills,
[00:06:40.320]like leadership, creativity, critical thinking,
[00:06:45.080]communication and problem solving
[00:06:48.300]are among the most in-demand job skills in the job market.
[00:06:53.010]These human skills are not easily automated
[00:06:56.690]and I believe they are among the most important skills
[00:07:00.240]that you have gained in your graduate training at UNL.
[00:07:04.240]Perhaps some of you might be wondering,
[00:07:06.757]"Did I have a course in creativity,
[00:07:09.197]"or critical thinking, or leadership?"
[00:07:12.480]Perhaps not, but I would argue that your training program
[00:07:17.200]did have requirements
[00:07:18.970]and ample opportunity to hone these skills,
[00:07:22.400]which are at the heart of graduate training.
[00:07:25.370]For example, at one or more times in your training
[00:07:29.440]I'm sure you were asked to analyze, synthesize,
[00:07:33.800]or evaluate information gathered from observations
[00:07:38.290]or experiences or experiments.
[00:07:41.499]You were expected to apply the outcome of that analysis
[00:07:45.620]or evaluation to a new situation.
[00:07:49.070]Or more broadly, to your own or other disciplines.
[00:07:53.090]At multiple time points,
[00:07:54.950]I'm sure you were communicating information to clients,
[00:07:59.260]peers, professionals and others.
[00:08:02.710]Throughout your training, your analysis were challenged,
[00:08:06.900]your ideas were questioned,
[00:08:09.320]your communication was critiqued.
[00:08:12.460]And yes, even the picking up sticks activities
[00:08:16.330]that you may have had to endure honed your perseverance,
[00:08:21.300]your grit and your stick-to-it-ness.
[00:08:24.480]Your ability to skillfully conceptualize,
[00:08:28.040]analyze, synthesize, and apply information
[00:08:32.930]generated by observation, experimentation, reflection
[00:08:38.340]or reasoning, will be critical to the future of work.
[00:08:42.670]I know that UNL prepared you for the future of work
[00:08:46.470]because UNL prepared me for the future of work.
[00:08:50.040]My learning at UNL certainly enhanced my knowledge
[00:08:54.170]and technical skills,
[00:08:56.290]but it also honed my critical thinking,
[00:08:59.500]pushed my creativity and developed my leadership.
[00:09:03.910]I'm confident your time here has done likewise for you.
[00:09:08.170]So embrace your future of work.
[00:09:10.870]As a graduate of UNL you are ready.
[00:09:14.780]I'm confident that you will be successful
[00:09:17.470]and accomplish great things.
[00:09:19.610]If your future work keeps you in Nebraska, fantastic.
[00:09:24.050]Nebraska wants you!
[00:09:26.060]If your future work takes you elsewhere,
[00:09:29.040]that's fantastic too.
[00:09:31.000]Take Nebraska with you!
[00:09:33.120]In fact, Nebraska will be with you always,
[00:09:36.710]wherever you may go.
[00:09:38.900]For now, celebrate today.
[00:09:42.070]Take some time to enjoy this moment with family and friends,
[00:09:46.830]and after that, Monday perhaps,
[00:09:50.330]let's get to work.
[00:09:54.310]I celebrate each of you
[00:09:55.990]as you make your memorable walk across the stage today
[00:09:58.899]for your diploma.
Log in to post comments