Rachel Dickson: Graduation Remarks 2018

rachel dickson

When Phil asked me to give this speech I almost said no because I hate public speaking that much. There aren’t many things that will persuade my anxiety that it’s a good decision. But the support that I have had through the Environmental Studies department is definitely one of those things. How can you say no to a support system that has provided you with five years of motivation, life lessons, encouragement, and love? To attempt to do the past five years justice in under five minutes is pretty much impossible, so I decided to do what I always do when I get stressed out: Write a list. So here it is: a list of things I have learned from my EVST family.

  1. Always have your emergency contact card when you go on a study abroad trip to a foreign country where the only thing you know how to say in their language is “Happy New Years”. When you get lost on a motorbike in the middle of the Vietnamese jungle you will be very, very glad that you have it.
  2. Using EVST as an abbreviation in day-to-day life is confusing to other people.
  3. When you feel so much gratitude towards your professors that you seriously consider reading an Ode to them for your graduation speech, you should probably not read an Ode, because that is sort of creepy and might make the audience and your professor’s feel very uncomfortable.
  4. Going backpacking and pulling weeds can count as course credit. That’s pretty neat.
  5. It is a good sign when you meet your future mentor and professor (Dan Spencer) on a coal train “float protest” on the Clark Fork River. Meeting a professor in an inner tube is pretty cool, and probably doesn’t happen very often at other universities.
  6. Procrastination works.
  7. I am really bad at catching chickens. But having chicken catching as a course requirement for an education class up at the Peas Farm is pretty great. And being able to see the looks on 3rd graders faces as they pull a carrot from the dirt for the first time or learn that the McIntosh apple they ate for lunch wouldn’t exist without the fuzzy bodies of bees is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever seen.
  8. It is a very powerful experience to cry alongside your peers in a classroom.
  9. It’s normal to not want to do one thing in life. My first couple years of college I panicked at how focused everyone else seemed on one thing. I felt like I needed to squish my passions into a box, but very quickly the EVST faculty and students showed me quickly that it is okay to want to be a scientist, artist, writer, musician, and a teacher.
  10. Don’t let the environmental crisis ruin your life.
  11. If you have a crazy, ambitious adventure planned, your EVST friends and faculty will support you and encourage you to pursue it, with minimal questioning looks and a lot of enthusiasm.
  12. Share your story. Especially when you have a roomful of incredible writers to criticize it and make it better. Listen to their advice and don’t be afraid to write about the things that scare you the most.
  13. Don’t feel crazy when you feel very strongly that blooming wild flowers, bumblebees and families of fungi are your best friends in this big scary world. Many of your peers feel the same way and that might make you feel less weird. Also maybe you have spent too much time alone doing field work.
  14. Environmentalists are insane. They somehow manage to be students and teachers, athletes, activists, artists, scientists, and all the while are overwhelmingly the most wonderful, loving, caring community of people I’ve ever been a part of. During times where I felt like I could barely stand up on my own two feet, I was able to keep coming to school because I felt like I had a family here supporting and encouraging me.

I really can’t say through words how thankful I have been for the past five years in this incredible program. I cannot thank the environmental studies program enough for creating an environment so open to learning and growing as this one. I also want to thank my family and friends for their incredible support and love and all of the other family and friends out there who have changed and shaped the lives of every graduate sitting in this room. Thank you all so much.