My Bradley story

May 26, 2010

Editor's Note: Organizational communication major Ashley Porter was selected to give this year's student address at Bradley's May commencement. A native of the West Chicago suburbs, Porter made the most of her time at Bradley, serving as president of Bradley HEAT, lecture coordinator for ACBU, residential advisor and Homecoming court member. She graduated summa cum laude and was named organizational communication student of the year. In her address, Porter speaks about the importance of making a personal mark on history and refusing to give in when times get tough.

To my fellow graduates, after years of lecture halls, exams, midterms, founder's days, homecomings, snow days, squirrels, and what felt like a decade of watching Sam Singh play basketball, we have made it to commencement day and I extend my congratulations to all of you. I would also like to give a warm welcome to our family and friends, faculty, staff, the Board of Trustees, President Glasser, and distinguished guests.

Bradley University has been my home away from home for the past four years. However, I almost did not choose to be a Brave. I was torn between multiple universities until I stepped onto Bradley's campus for a visit day four years ago. I felt more comfortable and confident with Bradley than anywhere else. I could imagine myself here. I saw myself hanging out on the quad and eating in the cafeterias with friends. In fact, I could see myself living and breathing every ounce of this campus. In that moment, I knew this was more than just an educational institution, it was a family. We all chose Bradley for our own reasons, but when it comes down to it, we could all envision ourselves excelling here. We were in for a change, but we all knew it had potential to be one of the most beneficial transformations in our life.

I cannot discuss the changes we have made individually before acknowledging the momentous alterations Bradley has made in the few short years we have been here. In 2006, the spring prior to my freshman year, our men's basketball team exceeded our expectations by advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. In 2007, Joanne Glasser became the first female president in Bradley's 112-year history. Shortly after, our men's soccer team advanced to the Elite 8. In 2008, students, faculty, and staff implemented a comprehensive alcohol action plan to make a difference in alcohol use and abuse on campus. Later that year, we began our evolution into a premier university with the Campaign for the Bradley Renaissance as the Markin Recreation Center was completed. Most recently, in 2009, Bradley designed the Sports Communication concentration, which is one of the few programs of its kind in the country. If these are just a few of the advancements we have made in the past four years, imagine where change will take Bradley next.

Amidst all the progress happening around us, Bradley students cannot help but change themselves.  The average Bradley student has spent 3,040 hours in class and another 4,212 hours studying for those classes. The average Bradley student has spent 2,560 hours advancing their leadership skills in campus organizations, 2,020 hours in an internship or job they obtained through Bradley's many resources and prestigious networks, and an additional 1,020 volunteering in the Peoria community. That is 12,852 hours spent transforming a young college freshman into a leader of tomorrow. Now imagine that number multiplied for every graduate in this room. When you think about it, we do not sound average or ordinary, we instead sound extraordinary. And as extraordinary people, we have a responsibility to make a difference in this world.

I'd like to share with you the story of a carrot, an egg, and ground coffee beans. Each of these items faces the same adversity -- a pot of boiling water. However, each one reacts differently. A carrot enters boiling water strong, hard, and stern. Nonetheless, after being subjected to the trials and tribulations of heated water, the carrot is softened, weak, and turns to mush. The egg faces the boiling water fragile. The egg has a thin outer shell protecting its delicate interior. However, after the egg is pulled out of the boiling water, its insides have hardened. The ground coffee beans, on the other hand, have a different experience when they meet these conditions. When they enter the boiling water, they change it. They create a rich flavor and aroma that was not there before. Each faced adversity, but only the coffee beans were able to overcome it.

Today I will not quote a renowned politician or philanthropist. Today is not about someone else's experiences. Today is about ours. It is about meeting friends in a dormitory hallway or greek house. It is about going to the quad to study, but not really getting any work done. It is about understanding what people mean when they say that Peoria has a certain smell. It is about visiting the Ice Cream Shack to get a puppy chow wizard fourteen times in a two-week span. It is about learning that despite orientation warnings, every direction is down the hill. It is understanding that if you forget your ID for Haussler or Markin, you really do have to walk back to get it, or stealthily sneak past the desk. It is about knowing that once you are a Brave, you are always a Brave. Our memories and experiences at Bradley have led us to be the astounding people sitting here today. 

So now, I encourage you to become the person people will be quoting. Bradley has given us all the tools necessary in becoming someone that people will want to follow, someone to guide others. Change has surrounded our generation. We have seen it. The only difference is that now it is our turn to play a role in that change. No longer are we going to be observing it, we...are going to be leading it. So, which will you be, the carrot, the egg, or the coffee beans?  When you meet hard times, will you become soft and lose strength? Will you begin your journey with a fluid spirit that hardens after hardships? Or, will you change the very circumstances that you are in. When things are at their worst, will you become better and change the world around you? The options are endless, but the choice is ultimately yours.

Thank you and congratulations my fellow graduates of 2010.