As I write this Public Affairs Minute, I want to recognize that the 2020-2021 academic year is coming to a close and our spring graduation celebration will be held on May 13 and 14. I also must share feelings of congratulations, sadness, hope and pride for our spring 2021 graduates.
In the midst of one of the most turbulent, unsettled and confusing academic years to date, our graduates have stayed the course, completed their studies and will receive their diplomas. They and their families and friends and loved ones all deserve our sincere congratulations!
At the same time, I must convey some sorrow about the impact of our COVID 19 Pandemic and its affect upon our graduating class. For some, this has been a very difficult and sad year as COVID affected so many students and friends of the University directly or indirectly. Please know the College of Public Affairs and Administration and the University of Illinois Springfield have tried our best to stay the course. We have tried to be flexible and thoughtful to situations and circumstances students and others have faced. Our course delivery, scheduling, and approach to learning has tried to accommodate these difficult times.
Unfortunately, some of our students have stumbled and faced insurmountable obstacles to completing their classes and must now pause or postpone their studies. Given our COVID environment, this is most understandable and we urge you to reach out to any of these students and encourage them to complete their studies in the College and at UIS.
For those alumni, friends, stakeholders and students who made it through 2020-2021 despite the COVID Pandemic and its complications, we all share in your hope for a brighter tomorrow. Not just in 2021 but in the years beyond. Despite these COVID complications, with your degrees and experiences in hand (new and old), you have overcome almost insurmountable odds – be proud of that!
For new graduates the timeframe that constitutes your college years may be quite atypical. You may look back with mixed feelings about how this Pandemic disrupted your college years. But we encourage you not to look back but to look forward. With your degrees in hand you will either continue your studies, jump into the workplace, continue your career progression, and otherwise embark on life experiences.
At the same time, I’d like to share these same sentiments to graduates, old and new, to reaffirm that the degrees you hold from this College and your programs and departments are needed now more than ever to make a difference in this world. Our College namesake of “Public Affairs” says it all. Your degrees are in fields that require dedicated, smart and caring leaders to tackle the many social and political and policy problems facing Springfield, Sangamon County, the State, Midwest and the nation in the 21st Century and beyond. Graduates, new and old, make the College of Public Affairs and Administration and the University of Illinois Springfield your jumping off point for making that difference in the world.
Every spring graduation at UIS marks a beginning and an end. For new graduates’ academic studies may be completed, but your careers and life adventures lie ahead. For alumni, your degrees marked an important accomplishment, but your studies and years at UIS will always carry the value and spirit of your degree wherever you go in life.
For graduates and alumni and friends whether attending our in-person streamlined graduation ceremony or participating in our virtual graduation, please know on graduation day and the rest of your lives you will carry the hope and best wishes of the faculty, staff, administrators and classmates in the College of Public Affairs and Administration in the years ahead.
Robert W. Smith, Ph.D.