Archive for February, 2015

Shaving for a Cause

I’m in my fourth year working in Lawrence Township Public Schools, and as long as I have been here, students and staff have participated in St. Baldrick’s Day, a fundraiser for childhood cancer research in which participants shave their heads.  I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact the event has on our schools and community, and this year I’ll be joining the fun.

On March 14, 2015, I’ll join the Brave Shavers, a team of students and staff from Lawrence Intermediate School.  I’ve never shaved my head before, so who knows what lies beneath?

If you can spare a few bucks, please visit my fundraising page and sponsor me.  I’m hoping to raise at least $100, but if we can surpass that, all the better.  You can feel confident in giving, as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has a high rating on Charity Navigator.

Please consider making a donation to this worthy cause.  While you’re on my donation page, you can see my “Before” pic (it’s a few years old but you get the idea); check back after March 14 for the “After”.  Thanks for your consideration!

As I Pronounced It, Trippingly on the Tongue

Last month I attended both the hooding ceremony and commencement ceremony for my doctoral program.  I was asked to speak at each event, which was a tremendous honor, if a bit intimidating.  

Below is the text of my speech at the 44th Annual Commencement Ceremony at Wilmington University on January 25, 2015.  There were actually three ceremonies that day, each one for two of the colleges at the university.  My ceremony was the last one of the day and was for the College of Education and the College of Technology.


Thank you for that introduction, Judge Farnan.

Members of the Board of Trustees, President Varsalona, Faculty and Staff of Wilmington University, Parents, Guests, and Friends, and my Fellow Graduates of the Class of 2015:

Welcome! It is my distinct honor to speak – briefly, I promise – on behalf of the graduating class of 2015.

I’ve worked in some facet of public education since I graduated from college in 1999, and as I think any career educator will tell you, teaching can be a very isolating profession.  Can be, but does not have to be, nor should it be.

One of the philosophies that drives the Educational Leadership doctoral program here at Wilmington University is that when it comes to leadership, you can’t lead by yourself.  True leaders work with others to build trust, relationships, and a sense of community, because that is the foundation upon which good work is done.  It’s true that too many cooks can spoil the broth, but if I can mix my metaphors for a moment here, none of us is as smart as all of us.

And isn’t that true of our time here at Wilmington University as well?  Every one of us here today had some kind of support system to help us on our journey, whether it was our parents, our partners, our professors, our friends, and especially our classmates.  These are the people who laughed with us and cried with us.  They believed in us when maybe we didn’t believe in ourselves.  They celebrated success with us – as we do today – and when we failed, they helped us to make sure that we failed forward, turning disappointment into an opportunity for learning and growth.

And that’s what I hope we all take with us moving forward from today.  As graduates of the College of Education and the College of Technology, we are all, in our own ways and in our own roles, trying to make the world a little bit better.  We leave here today with a great deal of knowledge and skill in our respective major areas of study, but let’s never lose sight of the fact that the relationships we create are not incidental to our work, they are the foundation of our work.  Because if we’re looking to leave this world a little better than when we found it, that’s how we’re going to do it – not by breaking off and doing great work in isolation, but by breaking down barriers and working collaboratively and cooperatively to meet any challenge and exceed all expectations.

Once again, my deepest congratulations, Wilmington University Class of 2015.

Unaccustomed As I Am to Public Speaking

Last weekend I attended both the hooding ceremony and commencement ceremony for my doctoral program.  I was asked to speak at each event, which was a tremendous honor, if a bit intimidating.  

Below is the text of my speech at the Hooding Ceremony for the Doctor of Business Administration and Doctor of Education programs at Wilmington University on January 23, 2015.  What I found most gratifying about this experience was not the applause – that’s an expected cultural norm – but looking out at my friends and fellow graduates and seeing the smiles and headnods as I was speaking.  That’s when you know you’re getting it right.

Thank you for that introduction, Dr. Mike, and welcome, faculty, family, and friends, to our doctoral hooding ceremony.  I promise to keep this brief, which will come as a welcome surprise to anyone who has heard me present in class or defend my dissertation.

Much of tonight has been focused on the achievements of the graduates, but I’d like to shift focus for a few minutes to the friends and family who are here with us tonight.  I think I speak for all the graduates when I say that we are grateful that you chose to join us here tonight.  While for many of you out there, this may be only your first or second visit to a Wilmington University campus, I imagine that nobody out in the audience this evening is entirely unfamiliar with the journey that we on the stage have made these past three years.  You have been our support system from the start, so it’s only fitting that you be with us here at the end.  You were there with us when we were writing papers into the wee hours of the morning.  You were there with us when we needed someone to watch our kids so we could attend class after a full day of work.  You were there with us when we picked our dissertation topic.  You were there with us when we picked our next dissertation topic.  You were there with us the first time our dissertation committee introduced us as “doctor”.  And you’re here with us tonight, as we approach the end of this very challenging, but very rewarding journey.  And for that, we thank you.

Speaking of the journey, I remember the start of ours, sitting in this very room for new student orientation on August 11, 2011 – I looked it up! – surrounded then, as I am now, by many of the men and women seated in front of me.  We’ve come a long way since that time.  Each of us has traveled a very unique path to get to this place tonight, but as fellow doctoral students, we’ve also shared a core experience that very few people in this world can say they have gone through.  Whether it was staying after class racking our brains over statistics, stressing over how to juggle our coursework with our jobs with our families, or just needing a fresh set of eyes to look at this latest rewrite of our dissertations, we have come up together over the last few years.  And in that time, the personal can’t help but to become very much enmeshed with the professional.  We have celebrated each others’ successes and we have comforted each other in times of need.  Regardless of where our travels take us, we will always be bound together in that brotherhood and sisterhood of doctors, and, I hope, also as friends.

In thinking about what I wanted to focus on in this speech, I thought about leadership and academics, but when it came time to put pen to paper, what I kept coming back to was people.  The people in our lives who made this possible.  The people with whom we took this journey.  And moving forward, the people with whom we will work and lead.

We all chose this path for different reasons: some of us wish to distinguish ourselves in private industry or the non-profit sector.  Some of us, like me, wanted to lead in K-12 or higher education.  Some of us are just really into funny hats.  Regardless of why we chose this path, let us never forget that with the prestige and honor of the doctorate comes the awesome responsibility of being exemplary leaders.  I am confident that Wilmington University has prepared us well for this challenge, and for that, I am grateful.  Thank you, faculty.

Relationships with people are the key to everything we will hope to accomplish with our shiny new degrees, in no small part because it was our relationships with others that helped get us here.  Please don’t forget that, and, my fellow graduates, please don’t forget us, and our time together here at Wilmington University.  Congratulations once again to the graduating doctoral students of the Class of 2015.