May 11, 2012

A Commencement Message for the Rest of Us

This week 1,156 Northwood students—196 from our DeVos Graduate School of Management, 626 from our residential programs, and 334 from our Adult Degree Programs—will graduate to the ranks of Northwood University alumni. Keeping with tradition, commencement exercises in Florida and Texas earlier this week, and here in Michigan tomorrow, include guest speakers with great advice and insight for leading successful and productive careers and lives, but the focus is understandably on our graduates.

Along those lines, a little commencement-like wisdom and advice might be in order for those of us not walking across the stage this week. As we continue to work toward being an even stronger and more nimble organization prepared to meet the needs of today’s students, we might all try to remember these five enduring principles:

1. Keep a positive attitude. Yes, it’s advice we’ve all heard from as far back as we can remember. But there’s good reason for it. Those who succeed in the long-run are those who stay positive throughout. That’s not to say they don’t experience disappointment and setbacks. But they decide to keep their focus and a positive attitude, knowing obstacles are not only part of life and work but in fact opportunities to learn and grow.

2. Take ownership…in everything we do, such as helping keep our campuses clean, sharing all we have to offer with prospective students, and growing strength in our departments and University as a whole.

3. Think ahead. As we lead our University into the future, we must be attentive to the next “great thing” in higher education and markets in general. What will follow automation, information, and technology as the overwhelming focus for global markets of the future? Where and how should we lead the way?

4. Have fun. Study after study today confirms what philosophers from ancient times through the present day maintain: recreation and relaxation have an important place in our work. Even great inventors and innovators like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made some of their most important discoveries while “tinkering” in their workshops. This is not to say deadlines and important projects can be pushed aside but rather we should make time to work in a little fun and tinkering to our routines. We never know what great new ideas might emerge.

5. Be the change you seek. Our tendency as human beings is to conclude the world would be a better place “if only such and such would change or go away.” Although there may be some truth to that, the reality is the better world we seek lies within us. Some of what happens in our lives is beyond our control, but the one thing we can and should manage is the role we all have in events and issues around us. Following the Northwood Idea, we must work to help things change for the better so we can truly lead others in meaningful and lasting ways.

Have a great weekend.


Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640