Student Speaker: Marti Smithsund

Marti Smithsund graduates with her Project Management Certificate. Smithsund, who holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, came to Edmonds Community College to update her skills after working as a corporate trainer. She enrolled after attending a Project Management program open house. Her husband also retrained mid-career at the college, earning an Advanced Paralegal Certificate.

"I'm preparing myself for new opportunities in a changing economy," Smithsund said. "I feel a sense of urgency – to use (and not waste) the talents I’ve been given, cultivated over years with training and experience."

After graduation, she will seek work in the project management field.

Marti Smithsund2011 Commencement Speech

Welcome graduates, faculty, family and friends. I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you and join with all of you tonight to celebrate our accomplishment.

A good project manager begins a new project by asking the stakeholders what they want. For that reason, I surveyed my classmates and asked them what makes a memorable commencement speech. My hope is to satisfy at least some of their requirements tonight. Their first one is tricky - to be famous - Not yet. "Other ideas are to talk about an experience that many could relate to, to use humor - don't be too serious, and to share a story of your life that makes you real. Their final requirement for a memorable speech may be challenging to deliver: Sing part of it! Well, we'll see.

Inspiration often springs from unlikely sources through unexpected messengers. In my case, it took the form of a bicycle jersey. I was the raffle winner of an Edmonds Community College bike jersey, produced by the project management class of 2009. I won this by attending the annual open house. Months later I would redeem my prize. To do so, I met with Claudia Levi, an instructor in the Business Management department. She encouraged me to consider Project Management and was so convincing that I began the registration process that day!

In truth, I wasn't entirely sure what my new academic goals were in returning to school, in spite of my new bike jersey. But I knew with certainty that action and momentum would lead to something worthwhile. This has been far truer than I ever imagined and from that jersey to this moment has been a great ride.

Like many graduates in this room, I returned to school to prepare myself for new opportunities in a changing economy. It had been more than 20 years since my first college graduation and returning to school was my act of faith.

I arrived on campus happy to find a community of engaged students; diverse in age, previous education, personal experiences, country of origin, and native language - It was exhilarating!; and all sharing the same goal of growing in knowledge and skills in the pursuit of a better future. I also found committed and knowledgeable instructors who have been enthusiastic and supportive partners in my success.

Returning to school has evoked new hope, optimism and anticipation for my future. It is also accompanied by a sense of urgency - felt by many others I suspect - urgency to get every drop out of this opportunity. This adventure has been for me a rocket booster: an infusion of new ideas, a freshening of skills and, what I had not anticipated, a renewal.

Coming back to school now, I am inspired to know more. There is momentum when you know what you want to do. I've chosen the field of project management, which requires a discipline and attention to detail that I have found both challenging and satisfying.

A similar challenge compelled my grandmother, Genevieve McCauley, to achieve her lifelong goal of completing her high school education. Like so many of her generation, she quit school after the 8th grade and yet went on to lead a successful and productive life. Nevertheless, she always yearned to continue her education and because of this commitment, my mother, Kathleen, became the first in my grandmother's family to graduate from college.

Later, my grandmother, while working full time, attended night school and at the age of 58, after four years of study, she received her diploma. How many people can say that they saw their grandmother graduate from high school? As a young girl, I witnessed my grandmother's conviction in the power of education.

On her graduation night, I sat with my family in that audience all bursting with pride to listen to my grandmother deliver the commencement address to her high school class. I don't remember exactly what her speech was about - as you may not remember this one - but I know, unquestionably, it was about courage, commitment, and anticipation for her future.

As graduates, our success is not only an accomplishment we have achieved for ourselves, but also a legacy we will pass on to our families.

Tonight is a celebration, a point of transition, an ending and a farewell. Yet, to commence means to begin - this is not the end, but the platform for your launch into the future. Tomorrow, your life -- the life you author on your own -- begins. Mary Oliver, the American poet, in her poem, "The Summer Day" reminds us of this when she asks: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" We'll have many challenges and triumphs ahead because this adventure is beginning again.

As I look out at you, the largest graduating class at Edmonds Community College in 10 years, I see sitting behind and surrounding you, your families, friends and faculty who are so proud of your achievements. You have all worked hard and given your best to get here. Their presence reminds us that we don't get here all alone. Yes, it requires our own effort and commitment, but we have arrived here with their support, guidance, encouragement, and belief in our success. We must thank them for their gifts.

I thank my husband, Mark, for your unending support and encouragement. It has been a long run and you've pulled the wagon by yourself. I thank you and love you for all your work to keep it all together. My son, Brady, I've missed many moments with you during these months and I hope that you know that this project has been as much for your future as for mine. Thank you for your patience.

My family and friends, thank you for staying close by even when I was absent for weeks at a time. Your presence has been a tremendous comfort.

Thank you, Claudia Levi, for this opportunity, your encouragement, and seeing in me what I had forgotten. Thank you to all my instructors. It has been my pleasure to learn from you.

Now, for the final deliverable from my favorite movie of all time, The Sound of Music, "So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, adieu. Adieu. Adieu. To you and you and you."