MURFREESBORO — MTSU’s new graduates can “double your world” by preparing to “enter a global marketplace of ideas and commerce,” the director-general of the Confucius Institutes said at today’s spring 2014 commencement ceremonies.
They’ll be successful, too, if those students hold onto the strong foundation of ethics and education that the university helped to give them, a retiring U.S. Army three-star general said.
Madam Xu Lin, who also serves China as a vice minister of education, explained that young people must be ready to tackle multiple roles as they move into this next phase of their lives.
“Consider this: Some of you may find yourselves vying for jobs in Asia, Europe and elsewhere around the globe,” Xu said, “or some of you may find yourselves working for companies that have a deep global cooperation with markets in all of the world.
“Great universities like MTSU, and great leaders like President (Sidney A.) McPhee, are preparing graduates like you to enter a global marketplace of ideas and commerce. They recognize that there is much to be learned by studying other cultures.”
During today’s commencement ceremonies, 2,303 students earned their degrees: 1,904 undergraduates and 397 graduate students, including 340 master’s candidates, 42 education-specialist recipients and 15 doctoral candidates. Two graduate students also received graduate certificates.
“You should bask in the glory that comes with this day,” McPhee told the graduates. “Although you may feel this long journey is over, we here at MTSU feel that it’s … just the beginning of even greater things in your lives.”
Xu leads the Chinese Language Council International, known as Hanban, and serves as chief executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing. The Confucius Institute is sponsored by China’s Education Ministry to promote Chinese language, history and culture through tours, exchanges and university partnerships.
MTSU joined with Hangzhou Normal University to open its own Confucius Institute in 2010. It’s already helped teach Chinese language and culture to more than 2,000 students in seven Tennessee counties.
Xu and McPhee have developed a strong friendship thanks to the MTSU president’s continuing efforts in international outreach for the university via educational and research partnerships, especially the Confucius Institute. McPhee’s regular visits to China also have included many lectures, cultural exchanges and even publicity for his popular book of photographic essays, “China: Through the Eyes of An University President.”
“Today the relationship between China and the United States is most important to the development and security of all of the world,” Xu reminded the new graduates. “Young generations of both countries have not only great responsibilities but also great opportunities. I’d like to give you a simple suggestion: Please learn from President McPhee, go to China, work in China and find Chinese friends there. Then you will double your world!”
One new graduate has already seen the world and is ready to tackle it from a new perspective. Charles Baker Whitlock, a business administration major from Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, entered the U.S. Army right out of high school and served as an intelligence analyst from 1984 to 1988.
After establishing himself as an infrastructure consultant for subdivision contractors, Whitlock, who admits to being “40-something,” decided something was missing from his life.
“Along the way, I got a lot more than just the piece of paper,” Whitlock said of his MTSU education. “I wanted the achievement. I wanted that milestone. I got a whole new tool belt.”
Whitlock also served as a senator in the student government during the spring 2014 semester. He said interacting with students who were young enough to be his own children posed no real issues.
“The first few minutes as a freshman, it’s a little different,” said Whitlock, “but as soon as you realize you’re all learning the same material, you’re all just students.”
Lt. Gen. William N. “Bill” Phillips, an MTSU alumnus and native of Bell Buckle, Tennessee, served as the afternoon ceremony commencement speaker.
A 1976 MTSU graduate who earned master’s degrees from Webster University and Troy State University, he served as the principal military deputy to the Assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology from 2010 until last month. He also received an honorary doctorate from the university today.
“As I progressed in my military career, it was the strong foundation from MTSU that has served me well every day of my 38 years,” said Phillips, who will retire from the Army later this summer after 38 years of meritorious service.
“I’ve lived by the values that were engrained at MTSU, which closely mirror the Army’s values: respect, selfless service, integrity and honor.”
Noting that simple human kindness has had a great impact on him and the people he commanded and worked alongside, Phillips told the graduates that time is the most valuable resource they have to use and share with others.
“When you give your time to others with great meaning behind it, I know from experience that it will have a tremendous impact on them,” the general said. “You make a difference in someone’s life, and you make a difference in your own life, when you give your time to others.”
Martin Moran of Clarksville, Tennessee, understands the values Phillips mentioned. He said “academics always was a number one priority” as he studied in the University Honors College, earning University Honors with Distinction with a 4.0 GPA.
After a planned year off from academics, though, he said “the sky’s the limit.” He plans to be a strength and conditioning coach at the university or professional level.
“Every day’s been a stepping stone to the future,” said Moran, who earned a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences. “Graduating today is a culmination of everything — high school, moving out, scholarships, working on- and off-campus, thesis, and having the support of everybody who believed in me.”
You can see special photo albums from the spring 2014 commencement ceremonies at the MTSU Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/mtsublueraiders.