Although an award-winning student of communications and literature, Heather Knott said she was at a loss for words when trying to write a speech to address her fellow graduates of the SUNY Cobleskill class of 2018.
"So, like any millenial with a question, I Googled it, and I was still at a loss," Knott said. "I listened to a lot of inspirational addresses given by wealthy, successful people, people who seemingly had the answers to everything and could perfectly encapsulate the final lessons of life in less than three minutes. The more I researched, the more muffled and esoteric the analogies became."
Knott was the recipient of the 2017 Betty Flood Morrow Women's Press Club of New York State Scholarship, one of only 60 recipients of that award since 1967. She told her fellow graduates Saturday that it's OK not to have all of the answers yet.
"It's easy to forget we're only 22. Only just getting started. When we check our social media pages, catch up with friends and family it's difficult not to compare ourselves and ask why we haven't moved out yet, why we haven't gotten that job yet, why we don't know what we're doing yet, because the conjunction of what we know and what's next is uncomfortable," she said.
Rain and chilly temperatures Saturday limited the comfort of the attendees of the 100th annual commencement of SUNY Cobleskill, which was held under a tent.
The keynote speaker of the graduation was Jamienne Studley, who received an honorary doctorate of law. Studley is a Harvard Law School graduate who helped create a student loan-forgiveness program at Yale Law School while she was an associate dean and lecturer there. She served in the administrations of presidents Carter and Clinton. She did her best to warm up the crowd, and offered some commentary on some of the criticism higher education has come under in recent years.
"It's a beautiful sunny day in all of hearts. I want to congratulate all of the graduates for smiling inside, and I hope that smile shines every day hereafter," she said. "I worry that some who question the value of higher education, already have their college educations themselves and unquestionably expect top notch experiences for their children, too. They only wonder if it is worth it for our society to invest in the educations of other people's children."
Roy Garrett, SUNY Cobleskill class of 2018 president, said one of the first things he needed to learn how to do at college was how he fit into the diverse student body.
"I remember telling my father, I don't fit in here. I don't belong. He understood what was going on in my head. As we looked around, I didn't look like anyone. He assured me that it would all work itself out. I stand before you today to tell you that it indeed worked itself out," he said.
"This campus that I have called home for the past three years, is extremely diversified," Garrett continued. "It has 2,500 students, 198 faculty, 280 staff members, who are all very different from each other, yet they are all the same. Some people wear their steel-toed boots and camouflage, some people wear their pants a little lower than others, some people have tattoos, piercings, some grew up taking the bus, the subway or a taxi everywhere, while others drove a four-wheel drive truck to prom. There as many different lifestyles here as there are people, but we all the same."
The SUNY Cobleskill class of 2018 included 665 bachelor's degree recipients and 250 associate's degree recipients.
Ballston Spa resident Samantha Berube graduated from Cobleskill Saturday with a bachelor's degree in animal science. On her graduation cap she wrote "Will work 4 puppies." Berube said she plans to take a "gap" year and then apply for veterinarian school, which she admits is a difficult goal.
"Vet school is really hard to get into, so it's kind of up in the air, so I don't know. Right now I'm working at a vet hospital as a vet assistant," she said. "[College] was really long and it was hard, but we're here now, so, I don't know."
Megan Collischonne, a Cobleskill native who received her degree in graphic design in December, returned for the graduation Saturday so she could 'walk' with her classmates to get her diploma. She said she very quickly got a job at a Schenectady graphic design firm called Portratz, making online advertisements for car dealerships.
"I absolutely loved it here. The small class sizes were amazing. All of the professors, the amount of knowledge they had and gave to me was incredible. The professors email you constantly with job offers that they think you will fit well with."