On a beautiful spring day in Durango, over 400 new Fort Lewis College graduates and their families filled Whalen Gym twice for the two April Commencement ceremonies.
The next steps after this special day are different for each graduate, but Commencement Speaker Ann Rhoades offered some advice that could apply to all of them. Ann is the founder of People Ink, a firm that helps companies build brands and employee cultures that attract quality people across a wide range of industries.
“I want to suggest something to you, something I did not do, but I would suggest you do, and that is that you think about building the most important brand you will ever build, and that is Brand Me,” she said, adding that, “We will all have a brand, whether we design it or it just happens.”
She suggested that the graduates design their brand intentionally, with enthusiasm, and do it to make a positive impact on the world. Ann recalled when she was part of the team designing the JetBlue brand and they decided to write the description that they hoped would one day be used by others to describe the company. They, as she put it, decided who they wanted to be when they grew up.
She told the graduates that sometimes their brands would be challenged by others and things would not always be easy. Nonetheless, a person should stick to their brand and remain enthusiastic about each day.
“I believe enthusiasm precedes success all the time, but they go hand-in-hand,” she said.
“Wake up everyday, get excited, and continue building Brand Me.”
Finally, Ann spoke about having a positive impact on the world as the graduates build their brands. She used one previous Fort Lewis College graduate, Lisa Kellogg, as an example.
For the past 12 years, Lisa has run Safer New Mexico, an organization that strives to make sure that every New Mexican with a child has a child safety seat for their vehicle. They are also active in coordinating DWI checkpoints.
“[Lisa] is a living example of someone who, as a Fort Lewis College graduate, made sure that she built a brand that is recognized, and she is recognized, for integrity, servant leadership and huge passion, and you all will go on to do that.”
Congratulations graduates! Go out and make Fort Lewis College proud!