The University of Nebraska-Lincoln granted 792 degrees during the summer all-university commencement ceremony Aug. 13 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Full list of graduates
The graduates are from 37 states and 43 countries.
Melanie Simpson, Willa Cather professor of biochemistry at UNL, associate director of the University of Nebraska’s Center for Biotechnology and a member of the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, delivered the commencement address “Get a Job, and Other Subtle Advice to Maximize the Value of Your Degree.”
Since joining the UNL faculty in 2002, Simpson has developed an internationally recognized research program focused on understanding prostate cancer progression. Her research has helped define how cells in a tumor can manipulate the normal architecture in their surroundings and remodel it to promote their invasion, spread and continued growth. An equally significant contribution is the discovery of a mechanism that allows prostate tumors to survive hormone therapy, one of the most common treatments for advanced or inoperable prostate cancer. By studying these aspects of aggressive cancer progression, her team has developed and patented new ways of diagnosing and treating cancer.
Simpson said when she started college in her mid-20s as a newly single mother of three, her father repeatedly urged her to get a job. However, she said he has eventually come around to her educational and career choices.
“He’s in his 70s and spends a lot of time with his buddies now talking about enlarging prostates and rising PSA,” she said. “So I have a sense he’s starting to appreciate the long-term focus on prostate cancer.”
Simpson told the graduates that the attributes and skills they acquired during their time at UNL would undoubtedly help them find employment, but she offered some other words of advice.
First, she said, recognize and celebrate successes such as graduation.
“It’s motivating to have celebratory thoughts like this in your head all the time every day,” she said, “and the more you learn to recognize the success of others, the more successful you will perceive yourself and, therefore, the more successful you will be.”
Second, choices are important and should be reflected upon often.
“It’s helpful to trace the path of your choices over the course of your life in a conscious manner on a regular basis,” she said. “Assess the directions that those choices led you to follow. This helps you hone your ability to make choices that lead you down a path that ends in a goal you set.”
Simpson encouraged the graduates to choose purposefully and thoughtfully rather than going with the flow.
“No other person knows what’s inside your head, no one knows what you want, no one knows what you know, no one knows, importantly, what you feel good or insecure about professionally,” she said. “You are, by default and by definition, the best-qualified person to make your decisions.”
Finally, Simpson told the graduates that talent and ambition aren’t enough; one must find a problem and work relentlessly to solve it and channel one’s passion to bring about change.
“You will decide for yourself what is important enough to devote your whole being, your whole attention, your whole effort (to), sometimes involuntarily and to the exclusion of food and sleep for days, weeks, months, even years on end to achieve it.”
She closed by urging the graduates to share their talents gratuitously and bring passionate focus to their work.
Ronnie Green presided over the commencement ceremony for the first time as UNL chancellor.
The August graduating class includes 110 new doctors, 297 new master’s degree holders, two new law degree holders and 383 new baccalaureate degree holders. UNL has awarded 277,967 degrees since it was founded in 1869.