Distinguished Utica College alumnus Dr. Anthony Baird '91 delivered this year's Convocation Address on Friday, August 30, 2019. Here is the text:
CONSTRUCTING SUCCESS: The Business Enterprise of YOU
From Convocation to Graduation, Opportunities Within Your Circumstances
By Dr. Anthony Baird '91
GOOD MORNING AND THANK YOU PROVOST PFANNESTIEL for your welcoming introduction, Board of Trustees- Chair, Bob Brevnik, President Laura Casamento, Senior Vice President, Jeff Gates, Student Government President, Michael Delia. Dedicated faculty and staff, and most important, the INCOMING Class of 2019.
Welcome to the Convocation Ceremony for the academic year 2019-2020.
It is an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity to share my reflections of my journey and experiences at Utica College. And, to offer some words of inspiration and motivation to the INCOMING CLASS of 2019.
Before I proceed with my remarks I want us to capture the magic of this moment…
Take out your Mobile Device, SNAP IT, TAG IT, and POST IT
This the beginning of your New Beginning- the foundation of your success
THE THEME FOR TODAY’S REMARKS IS--- CONSTRUCTING SUCCESS: The Business Enterprise of YOU- From Convocation to Graduation, Opportunities Within Your Circumstances
Pay Attention and Be Open to the Opportunities Within Your Circumstances…. They serve as foundation to your success.
I came to Utica College--a few DAYS AFTER graduating from High School, 32 years ago. What I want you to know is that getting to college back then was riddled with similar challenges you have today. It was not less hard to afford tuition, fees, room & board, books, etc. Paying for applications to multiples schools of my interest was not an option for me. I could not afford it.
There was no Common Application back then. When you are a first-generation college student, with siblings ahead of you already in college, -- your turn to enter as a freshman-- comes down to which SCHOOLS MADE ACCESS affordable for an 18-year-old Guyanese boy from the Bronx, and to a single mother of 5 children.
Some of my school choices were, St John University, Hampton University, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Albany, and Utica College of Syracuse.
By a process of elimination, application fee waivers and size of financial aid packages were a major determining factor for whether I would go to college or not.
The fine print in the Utica College brochure about HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) caught my attention. It was for families with certain income levels and students with a demonstrate B or better GPA and some minimum SAT score.
HEOP Made a COLLEGE EDUCATION POSSIBLE for residents who were ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED
I CHECKED ALL THOSE BOXES. Although my circumstances seemed grim, it was Utica College’s Summer Institute and the HEOP, led by Ms. Adelaide Lee, and the mentorship and friendship of Ms. Stacey Moore, that were the opportunities in my circumstance that set the foundation for the Educational, Personal, and Professional life I have been able to experience today. There is an old Chinese proverb that says…
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
On or around June 27, 1987, I VAULTED into my sister’s boyfriend’s blue pick-up truck and JOURNEYED THE 252 MILES (approx. 4h 15min) to Utica College. I was excited, anxious, and overwhelmed to find out what the next chapter had in store for me. I landed here in the Summer 87, for a 6-week summer program. As we pulled into the campus, the landscape was pristine and immaculate, a beautiful layout of architecture and landscape FOR A COLLEGE CAMPUS. Coming from the Bronx and the City, as a whole, I THOUGHT I WAS Julie Andrews in The Sound OF Music, frolicking about singing “My Favorite Things.”
That summer I met some great people who became good friends, supportive faculty, JAN DEAMICIS, SCOTT SMITH, HAROLD PIER and a flexible and open-minded administration-- CONSISTING OF PEOPLE SUCH AS, Dean Robert Woods, Claudia Bell, Mark Kovacs, Richard Frank and Kay Hobaica, and Connie Brown in the Financial Aid Office, to name a few.
These people were my support network and eco-system that helped to facilitate my transformation here at UC.
"Pay attention and be open to the opportunities within your circumstances. They serve as the foundation to your educational, personal, and professional development."
The Utica College Summer Institute was the best thing that could have happened to a person in my predicament and circumstance. My circumstance did not define me. It informed my thinking, my determination, and my decision to never take any OPPORTUNITY I was presented for GRANTED.
The OPPORTUNITY allowed me to EXPLORE the possibilities of who and what I might become in the future. I DISCOVERED my WHY- my purpose, and my Personal AGENCY while I lived, learned and matured here.
A FEW YEARS INTO MY JOURNEY, the President of the BSU, Ms. Brenda Godwin, approached me and said three simple words that changed the trajectory of my educational, personal, and professional landscape.
Brenda said… “You Should Run!” “I should what?” I replied. She said… “It’s easy… All you have to do is write a few word about why you should be president.”
I ACQUIESCED. I took the gentle nudge was as a personal challenge and a plea from Brenda for someone to step-up to lead the organization and EXECUTE its mission.
It was evident that Brenda saw things in me that I had not yet realized about myself. I went home at the end of that Spring semester to write my first speech about a BUS.
B.U.S. was an acronym for Black United Students, who were led by a bus driver (ME) responsible for the goals surrounding the well being, education, and cultural heritage of black students on a predominantly white college campus.
We worked collaboratively with the President’s Office, along with the cultural diversity committee, when racism threaten our campus. More importantly, we established some notable and traditional activities for the campus during my time here
- The First Unity March & Candlelight Vigil and now “Walk a mile for unity with students and colleagues”
- BSU Office or Multicultural Center in South or North Hall. We designed a mural for that office - I understand we are about to celebrate 50 years of BSU this fall
- The Big Chill “Black Alumni Weekend” was an effort to bring back black alums to reengage them and a scholarship fund was born out of those efforts.
- The Resurrection of Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Zeta Chapter, Spring 1990
By the time I graduated from Utica College, I was working fulltime at Mohawk Valley Community College as the Assistant Director of Student Activities and Off-campus Housing; Changed my major from ME, double majored in Sociology and Anthropology, and made the Dean’s List.
-------------------WORDS OF INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION-----------------
What I want you to take away from my Journeyed-reflection, is that from the time I made the decision to experience Utica College, it was the moment I decided to begin the Construction of my SUCCESS.
I had gotten the opportunity to ATTENDED Utica College, LEAD at Utica College, and Now to REPRESENT Utica College, my alma mater, anywhere and everywhere I am in the world.
Pay ATTENTION AND BE OPEN TO THE OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES…. They serve as a foundation to your educational, personal and professional development.
YOU ARE THE ARCHITECT of your success. YOUR success is always under construction. Your success is to be measured not by where you have arrived to, but rather, by the challenges and obstacles you have hurdled while journeying to succeed.
For today’s WORKFORCE & GLOBAL ECONOMY, it is important that YOU See Yourself as a Business Enterprise on to yourself, with a Vision Statement, Mission/Purpose Statement and a Strategic Execution Plan; AN ENTITY THAT CAN NEGOTIATE AND LEVERAGE YOUR IMPACT, VALUE & ENGAGEMENT
NOTE: Your PERSONAL BRAND Requires A MARKETING & PROMOTIONAL PLAN. You must be prepared and ready to bring your #TAGS (Talent, Abilities, Gifts, & Skills) to bear on problems and challenges the world has yet to see. INNOVATION & CREATIVITY MUST BE TOOLS IN YOUR PORTFOLIO
The Business of You requires that you follow @Dr.eppic 8 principles:
- KNOW THYSELF- Strengths, weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to your success. IT WAS ARISTOTLE WHO SAID… “KNOWING YOURSELF IS THE BEGINNING OF ALL WISDOM.”
- THINK POSITIVELY about yourself and the situations you are facing. The Power of Positive Thinking, Author: Norman Vincent Peal
- According to Napoleon Hill, in the book Think and Grow Rich, Anything you VISUALIZE, CONCEIVE, BELIEVE fervently, and THEN take measured steps towards its ACHIEVEMENT, the REALITY is THE manifestation of your CREATIVE VISUALIZATION.
- SET GOALS- and Grow On All Levels. You will go through situations that will cause you to transform, grow, and change. Embrace it all.
- Remember pressure brings diamonds! A diamond is- Nothing BUT a chunk of COAL that is made good UNDER PRESSURE. When you are hardest hit is not the time to quit. IT IS THE TIME TO JUST DO IT, like Nike SAYs!
- You will get a strong sense of who you are to become and what you will do in the future based the type of activities you are drawn to or thrusted into while immersed into this campus.
- Connect, Engage, and Build meaningful relationships with THE people around YOU and in your COMMUNITY.
- Mind your thoughts. Our thoughts become things… Rene Descartes says… “I THINK THEREFORE IAM”
YOUR Destiny is the MANIFESTATION of YOUR thoughts, words, behavior, habits and your values.
So, in the words of Henry David Thoreau… “Go [CONFIDENTLY] and BOLDLY in the direction of YOUR DREAMS, BE GREAT and live the life YOU have IMAGINED!
Look to the person on the left and to the right of you AND Tell them…
“I AM GOING TO COMPLETE THIS DEGREE, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. JUST WATCH ME!"
IN CLOSING: FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MIGHT BE ANXIOUS AND AFRAID TO TAKE THAT FIRST STEP.
I LEAVE YOU WITH THIS POEM THAT GUIDED ME WHEN I WAS PLEDGING MY FRATERNITY, ALPHA PHI ALPHA FRATERNITY INC.:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
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