Words of wit and wisdom for the Class of 2023

What advice would you give the graduating class of 2023? What do you wish someone had told you when you were graduating from college? We asked, you answered: Here’s what members of the Lumberjack community, including President Cruz Rivera, had to say.

Paul Lenze, teaching professor, Department of Politics and International Affairs
Keep in touch with the friends you’ve made here at NAU. I graduated from college 28 years ago and I’m in touch with many of the friends I made back in college. These friendships will sustain you in many ways you won’t realize now but will be grateful for years from now. Congratulations… now get a job!

Jane Muller, graphic design manager, University Marketing; Class of 2017
Breathe deep and always look for the good. 

Carsen Jones, technical training analyst, ITS; Class of 2022
When looking for jobs, remember that you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Ask good questions and figure out if you think their culture and values fit in with yours. 

Alex Fischer, communications manager, College of Health and Human Services Try everything, go places, meet people, say yes!

Bradley Mihalik, deputy chief of police; Class of 1997
Expect to start in the trenches and be willing to work jobs that are not your ideal job. You should be proud of earning your degree, but it is not an immediate ticket to your dream job or large salary. Get your foot in the door and work hard. You’re not entitled to anything; you have to earn it! Your degree will benefit you, but you may not see that benefit right away. Consider an advanced degree or specialized training to set yourself apart. Be a good citizen. Engage in and give back to your community. Find your balance and remember what is most important in life is not what you do for a living. Maintain balance, a good work ethic, a good attitude and treat people with respect. Understand life is a journey and has its ups and downs and twists and turns. You never know where it will lead. Congratulations, Lumberjacks—enjoy YOUR journey! 

Jill Christensen, assistant director of operations, College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences; Class of 2005
Pick a direction and proceed. Remember that you can always change your direction, even when it feels like you can’t. Your life and your career will have ups and downs—don’t worry about it. It’s a long journey—be present every day and enjoy it! 

Stephanie Del Giorgio, program manager, Student Life; Class of 1991 and 2021
Please take a moment to read the short poem by Max Ehrmann titled Desiderata (a list of things desirable in life). 

Roger Bounds, vice provost for faculty affairs
Congratulations, graduates of 2023! Your college “ride” may have been smooth or more like a tough technical/sketchy single-track. Either way, the advice is the same: do not focus on the trees or rocks. They will always be there, but those are just things in your way. Instead, focus on the open space between those barriers as those are your true “opportunities.” Gear up for an exhilarating ride ahead, and enjoy the grind on the uphills knowing that work will pay off with a sweet downhill run. 

AJ Swartz, academic advisor, senior; Class of 2020
I recommend reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. This book improved my mental health and motivation in life after feeling “stuck” for a couple years post-graduation. I was able to replace my time endlessly scrolling social media with the things that actually fulfill my life. Congrats, grads! 🙂 

Darvin Descheny, social media coordinator; Class of 2021 Do not rush things—you will find a job, you will figure it out, you will find your place in the world. Live in the moment and celebrate all you've accomplished!

Luis Estrada, graduate assistant, Office of the President; Class of 2023; first-year MBA student
Show confidence in what you do, cultivate relations and only follow advice from people who are where you want to be! 

Nick Smallwood, videographer, NAU-TV
No matter where your journey takes you, remember where you came from and the people who helped you along the way. Work hard, believe in yourself and always remain humble. 

Maria DeCabooter, assistant director, NAU Social Media
Fake it ‘til you make it! There were so many times when I didn’t try because I thought I wasn’t prepared enough or checked all the boxes. Don’t miss out on opportunities in front of you if it’s something you really want. Try your best and be confident—even if you’re faking it. It will either lead to something great or will be another learning experience under your belt. 

McKenzie McLoughlin, client services manager, University Marketing; instructor; Class of 2017
Remember that success is not always linear!  

Daniella Murphy, marketing manager; Class of 2009
Get a job interview outfit you feel confident in! Doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, and you can never go wrong with a crisp white shirt and black pants. 

Andy Wang, dean, College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences To err is human, but avoid irreversible mistakes.

Charlese Bedford, marketing accessibility analyst; Class of 2016
Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. Everything else is an extension of that. Take your next chapter in stride and keep asking why! 

Nathan Hoepner, Army ROTC instructor
Don’t give in to the prejudices of your elders. 

Erin Munn, director, Alumni Engagement; Class of 2001
Make decisions out of faith over fear. Mistakes are often great learning opportunities, and you are generally more capable than you give yourself credit for. Take the chance! And learn how to talk to people! Your biggest asset is often your network. (Follow @NAUAlumni to learn more about how the NAU Alumni Association can help you connect!) 

Nik Ineich, lab technician; Class of 2019
Your first job does not have to be exactly what you went to school for. Taking time to explore other industries will allow you to build a skillset far beyond what your “dream job” might require. Having jobs that expand your knowledge outside of your degree will help prepare you for the future and give you more leverage when you find the job you want to make your career. 

Christine Kirby, research coordinator, Center for Health Equity Research
Hang tight to that little bit of work that makes you happy or inspired. Sometimes focusing on a project that gives you energy can make all the difference when you’re stuck. 

Grant Belcher, editor, University Marketing
If you see a job posting you love but don’t quite meet the minimum requirements for, don’t be afraid to go for it anyway! The worst that can happen is you get some good practice working on your resume and cover letter. The best that can happen is your enthusiasm for the position might make up for any gaps in your education or experience!

Randy Duerinck, applications programmer, Office of Strategic Planning, Institutional Research, and Analytics; Class of 2022 Everything is figure-out-able! It might just take a bit of time! 

Kelly Laurila, research scientist; Class of 2008
 – Say yes to opportunities even if they intimidate you.
 – Learn to work well with a team; problems are better addressed when multiple perspectives are considered.
 – Own your mistakes. 

Samantha Billings Dailey, Class of 2014
It is so easy to view graduation as another box to check. I encourage you to savor this accomplishment a bit and not just by posting about it on social media! Spend time with the family and friends who helped you reach your goal. Also, go ahead and frame your diploma! Hang it up in your home or your office, not for anyone else, just as a reminder of what you have achieved. As you continue your education, start a career or shift into a new one, you will face obstacles and you will question your abilities. If you look back on all the miles you’ve traversed since the last time you doubted yourself, you’ll see you have really come a long way. You can do this! 

Carly Banks, assistant director, NAU Communications; Class of 2010
Find a mentor—ideally someone whose career path you hope to follow—and wholeheartedly invest in their guidance. Their career advice, connections they offer and tips on how to professionally navigate your industry can be invaluable. Sure, you might be successful on your own, but your odds of growing into the professional you want to be with the help of someone who has walked a similar path are exponentially higher with the help of a good mentor. Heed their advice, whether you think you need it or not. Trust me, you do—because as it turns out, wearing cut-off shorts to the workplace are not appropriate. (I’m only slightly ashamed that it took my mentor calling me out to realize this.) Sincerely, A working, pants-wearing professional. 

Jessica Clark, communications assistant manager, NAU Communications; Class of 2009 and 2011
Not every degree is a straight line to a fulfilling, lifelong career, and that’s OK! It’s great to explore your options, find what is a good fit for you and be willing to make changes to your plans as you change throughout your life. The best professional skill you can develop is the ability to describe your degree (and your other life experiences) in terms of what you learned from them and to apply that knowledge to whatever opportunities you choose to pursue. So many doors open to you when you begin to think creatively about yourself, your achievements and your future. Congratulations, and be sure to celebrate this amazing accomplishment! 

Sarah Kline, Class of 2022
Always be looking to opportunities and ways to connect with others. 

And finally, from President José Luis Cruz Rivera: Enjoy the ride!

Congratulations, Class of 2023!

NAU Communications