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May 20, 2014

Rand reflects on what "Excellence" means in student commencement address

Abby RandAbby Rand, a May 2014 graduate from Melrose, WI, delivered the student “Reflections” speech at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Commencement on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 9 am in the Zorn Arena. Rand graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in health care administration.

Gretchen Hutterli, assistant dean in the College of Business, interviewed Rand about her speech, her experience as a UW-Eau Claire student, and her future plans.

A great speech, Abby. I believe you are the first health care administration major to give the student reflection at commencement.

» View Rand's speech.

This past year has been a busy one for you. You have been working full-time in a long term care facility as part of your required 50 week practicum. You have also been taking a full load of classes. It certainly would have been easier for you to just sit in the audience and listen to someone else give this speech. But you didn't. Why not?

AR: Yes, it probably would have been easier, but it wouldn't have been my way of doing things. When I say that, I mean it wouldn't have been the way I was raised and taught. The practicum experience was amazing and it's just one of the elements that make our HCAD program one of the top programs in the nation. I also had an amazing experience with the UW-Eau Claire Forensics team. Beyond teaching me how to speak, my coaches Karen Morris and Kelly Jo Wright taught me to be hard working and to always strive for the top. I wanted to honor the time I had spent with my speech family just as much as I wanted to honor the education the HCAD program gave me. I thought giving the reflection would help do that.

GH: Your speech focused on the meaning behind the university's motto and to a lesser degree, the colleges' mission statements. You made listeners think how these statements applied to them personally. Where did the inspiration for this idea come from?

AR: Throughout this year, I have come to see the power in simple things. I think that's what makes our motto so special---it really is just simple words. My four minutes were just the icing on the cake of what it truly means. As far as my inspiration, it came from the simple idea of "Excellence" that I've seen play out for the past five years and what those words allowed me to experience while at UW-Eau Claire.

GH: Looking back, what experiences were especially memorable for you?

AR: One of the fun things about my speech is I got to walk down memory lane a bit. I was having a bad day during homecoming week my freshman year and a Statesman walked me from Hibbard to Davies and brightened my day. In my junior year, I was able to visit a friend over Thanksgiving break when he studied abroad in Winchester, England. I was also able to go on the Mediterranean cruise with my parents and the Blugold Marching Band--this is something I will never forget. And, since meeting my speech coach in a random class I took as an undeclared student, I have made lifelong friends and learned so much by being a part of the speech team. Oh yeah, and I have amazing calves, of course, from walking the hill.

GH: The hill is certainly a memory many Blugold alums share with you. Towards the end of your speech, you reminded students to thank everyone who helped them achieve their goals. If you don't mind sharing, who were the special people who helped you on your journey?

AR: Of course, I love talking up the people who helped me get to where I am. Without them I wouldn't have been able to reach my goal. Another nod to my team--they've seen me through some low times and they're the ones I go to whenever I need a laugh or a shoulder. A special nod to Karen and KJ, who were not only my speech coaches but also amazing women, mentors, surrogate mothers, and friends. Finally, I literally would not be here if it weren't for my parents, Dawn and Greg. The love and support I get from them is awesome in every sense of the word. They taught me to be honest, strong, confident, hardworking, loving, and above all faithful. Without them I would not be the woman I am today, and their continued support is what I cherish most.

GH: Now that you are graduated, what are your plans for the future?

AR: I am currently being considered for a position in a skilled nursing facility in South Dakota. My practicum opened a lot of doors for me and I'm excited to make my program proud. I've thrown around the idea of getting my masters and eventually teaching, but for right now I want to take care of people and learn as much from them as I can.

GH: We are already proud of you. Best wishes to you always. Please stay in touch.

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.