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Academic Awards Ceremony -- May 14, 2011

Mark S. Hyde, Ph.D., professor of political science; 2010-11 Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award recipient

Before I begin my remarks, I want to note the presence of the many faculty here today, both on the stage behind me and in the audience. They are a distinguished group on any day, but today, dressed in their full academic regalia, they look especially distinguished.  It is a group of which I am proud to be a member.

And, of course, welcome to all those in the audience who are not on campus every day. Alumni, family and friends of the graduates and all those other individuals who are significant to a member of the Class of 2011. We are happy to have all of you on campus for this weekend of celebration.

And now, to the students--by the way, this is the last day I can call you students, because tomorrow you will be graduates and by the next day alumni.

Not surprisingly for this time of year, I recently received a "thank you" card from one of your classmates.  She thanked me for a number of things I had helped with during her time at the college.  As I read the note, I was thinking how I will miss this student, and many others. She will not be in any of my courses next year; I will not see her as I walk across campus and stop for a short conversation; she will not come by my office for a visit. As I finished reading her note, I realized that her expression of thanks should not be a one-way street; so I want to give you something today that I believe is long overdue--this is your "thank you" note from the faculty.

You know, being a college faculty member is to be part of a profession with great rewards, but not one that leads to fortune or fame.  And if faculty learn early on that they will be neither rich nor famous, what is it that we wish for?  Well, one thing in our wish books is to have good students in our classes--actually, to have really good students in our classes.

And in the spring of 2007, as high school seniors, you helped that wish be granted.

The Class of 2011 is the most selective group admitted to PC over the last decade. And you members of the class being honored today are the highest achievers among that most selective group. You are the kind of students the faculty hoped to find in their introductory classes in the fall of 2007, and there you were.

So, first, thank you for choosing to come to PC. Students of your ability, I know, had other top colleges and universities from which to choose. But you decided to accept the invitation from PC, and the faculty is appreciative that you did.

And now you have been at PC for four years; I have been here just a bit longer.  In my time at the college, I  have seen some profound changes in the underlying concept of undergraduate education, the most important being the idea of "engaged learning" or "active learning" in which students become more than passive listeners in lecture halls.  In this approach to education, you students have to employ higher order thinking well beyond memorization; you must develop your own original ideas for research and other creative projects; you have to learn the methodology of your field in addition to the substantive knowledge generated by others; and you have to do most of this outside the classroom, driven by your own aspirations.

PC has been working hard to encourage this type of learning with a variety of initiatives, including a quarter million dollar grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to foster student engagement, our self-funded Undergraduate Research Grant Program, and the encouragement of student-faculty research collaboration.

But in order for there to be engaged learning, in order for this model of education to work, the faculty must have someone with whom they can in fact engage, and you students are the ones who have led this effort and been the models for other students to emulate. You are the ones who have taken full advantage of the educational opportunities presented to you, taking responsibility for and giving direction to your own learning. By doing so, you have been crucial in helping the College to clarify its academic mission and in promoting a culture of academic excellence. So for all your academic efforts--not just for one exam, or one course or one semester, but for four full years--thank you from the faculty.

Finally, I want to thank you one more time not for what you have done, but for what you will do in the future. The faculty has seen glimpses of how you will perform outside of the classroom and beyond the PC campus, where the waters may be swifter and more difficult to navigate. Your performances on national standardized exams; at internship and service learning sites; at student teaching placements; in art shows, music recitals, and theatre performances; in the study abroad and Washington semester programs; at professional conferences where you have presented original research--all these activities and more make it clear to we faculty that our best students, you who are being honored today, can compete successfully anywhere with anyone.

And when you do well in your careers and in your communities, as you certainly will, you are going to make all of us at Providence College, especially the faculty, look very, very good.  Thank you above all for that.


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