Dr. Tammy Jahnke, Dean, College of Natural and Applied Sciences
Future Bears, families, SOAR leaders and faculty. Today is a day to celebrate! We are so excited that you will be joining the MSU Bear Family.
Up to this point in time you have lived your life. You have been challenged by others and by yourself. You took risks and you gained knowledge! And for all of that you should be very proud. Now it’s time to step out of your comfort zone to become the life-long learner that you were created to be.
I am a wife, mother and scientist. I just celebrated my 42nd anniversary with the man of my dreams. We have two grown children and we love to spend time with them. And yes, I am a scientist – specifically a chemist – an organic chemist. Organic chemists study the chemistry of carbon.
I chose to spend my career making drugs – trying to help people with diseases like AIDS and diabetes – live a better life. Some in the room today are future scientists but all of you know how to do to research. You know how to write a hypothesis and conduct experiments to test the hypothesis. You know how to collect data and you know how to analyze that data. You will use that knowledge throughout your time as a BEAR and you will expand your skills in your major.
Some of you are the first one in your family to attend college. I, too, was the first in my family to attend college. As a matter of fact my father never graduated from high school. My mother was a registered nurse but long before a bachelors degree was tied to being an RN. My father went on to work for a publishing company – he was one of the best editors they had at the company because he was willing to learn and he was not afraid to ask questions and try something new. My mother worked in a large hospital in Chicago, a small hospital in Iowa and a clinic. I learned so much from my parents – a strong work ethic, a love of the outdoors and appreciation for life.
I have two pieces of advice as you begin your time at MSU.
#1 – Know yourself.
Do regular self-assessments. What do you know and what do you not yet understand? (Use that for classes and for life.)
Figure out your strengths and weaknesses.
Know how much sleep you need, when you do your best writing, when you do your best studying/concentrating, and when you need to let go of all of the stresses of life?
Be humble. Be honest. Be kind to yourself.
Surround yourself with all kinds of people. With peers who are smarter than you are so you can learn and be challenged by them. With peers who need your tutoring and help. Tutoring others is one of the best ways to truly understand a topic.
Surround yourself with fun people who will support your mental health.
And most importantly get to know the faculty – those people who will challenge you every day. The faculty at MSU will not only challenge you but they are there to help you as well.
Here are some great opening lines if you want to get to know faculty but can’t figure out how to start the conversation.
Stop by during their office hours – “Hi I’m in your class. I’m an XXX major and I was wondering if I could talk to you about how you got interested in XXX.” Or – “I’m struggling with the homework problems. I seem to be able to get to a certain point but never the final answer.”
Or I thought I understood how to do these problems but I missed something similar on the quiz. Please do not be put off if the faculty member starts asking you questions. They are truly trying to understand where you are stuck, what you know and what is keeping you from being able to work the problem.
Then ask the faculty (especially those in your major) where the last few students did internships and where they are working now. This will start you thinking about careers that are available. In addition faculty contacts will help you get an internship or your first job.
At the first SOAR session last summer – a mom came up to me and said I had you in class and now my son is coming to MSU. And you got me my first job in Kansas City. Her resume got her the job but having a direct contact truly helped.
#1 – Know yourself, know your strengths and your weaknesses and surround yourself with friends, colleagues and mentors. Be humble and be kind and be honest with yourself.
#2 – Make a difference!
Our public affairs mission will give you many, many opportunities to make a difference. Pay attention, be bold and take a risk. This will allow you to step up and make a difference – in your life, your community and in this world. You already have the knowledge and skills to make a difference but you will be given the opportunity to use and hone those skills during your time as a BEAR.
Some of the issues that we are dealing with in the world right now seem so big that no one person can make a difference. That is not true. Be active at the local level – you will have many, many opportunities – through the clubs you join, your classes, your peers or faculty advisors.
Solve small problems and we will all get closer to solving the big ones – climate change, systemic racism, health care, and sustainable development. Choose to make a difference. Choose to use your education to find truth, fight for justice and live out Missouri State University’s public affairs mission.