Commencement Speaker Competition
2013 Inaugural Commencement Speaker Competition
To promote EIU's commitment to strengthening the academic and personal experience for our students and to showcase examples of exemplary writing and speaking, Eastern Illinois University introduced the Student Commencement Speaker Series. This program replaces the former student and faculty speaker traditions at Eastern. The Student Commencement Speaker Series will be introduced during the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 Commencement Programs and will showcase 6 students eligible for graduation. Student Speakers representing the Graduate School will be featured for the first time during the Fall 2013 ceremony Saturday, December 14, 2013.
Announcing the 2013 selected students and their essays :
David Closson, master of science in Technology- speaking at the 10:00 am ceremony, he will be introduced by his faculty mentor Mr. Ken Baker.
From College Student to College Cop
Brittany Zaring, master of science in Dietetics- speaking the 1:00 pm ceremony, she will be introduced by her faculty mentor Dr. Melanie Burns.
EIU’s Footprint on my Future
In the future when I reflect back on my time at EIU, I will have zero regrets. I will remember walking through campus when the leaves began to change; the close relationships I was fortune to have with my professors; the friendships I made; my mentor, Dr. Melanie Tracy Burns whose red ink pen is never without ink, the research I was able to do, and the passion that was sparked in me while I was here. I ask you to reflect back on your experiences as you made EIU your home. Think about your mentors, friends, and activities while I share some of my experience with you today.
In 2009, I graduated from the Art Institute in Nashville, TN with my Associate’s in Culinary Arts. After graduation, I had only a few prospects of employment; none of which would provide me with a salary to sustain my life nor did they have very appealing work hours. I decided to further my education and pursue something that would be the 9-5 and provide a steady income for myself and potential future family. However, I was not willing to let go of food; so, dietetics it was- as I decided am good with food and chemistry. Dietetics was the reasonable choice. I chose Eastern Illinois University because it was close to home and they offered a degree in dietetics through their School of Family and Consumer Sciences; it fit the purposes I needed it to.
I am not sure what brought you to EIU, but EIU was my first choice for my undergraduate degree based on location and convenience. However, the ending was completely different. My first and second semester on campus provided me with a nice introduction to what I could expect. It was when I came back for that third semester and my final year of undergraduate studies; Dr. Melanie Burns asked me if I was interested in working with Peace Meal Senior Nutrition and doing a research project as part of my undergraduate internship. Peace Meal, then housed under the School of Family and Consumer Sciences it was an easy choice to be my place of internship. However, due to recent state budget cuts Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System has assumed management of this wonderful program.
In the Fall of 2011, I met with Barbara Brown, the assistant director of Peace Meal and started the groundwork for my undergraduate research I was undertaking- testing the acceptability and preference of a researcher-developed oral nutrition supplement. My final semester of undergraduate I worked at Peace Meal Senior Nutrition ten to twelve hours a week. I would do office work that was needed, go on site visits, review menus, and do my research during my internship. My research consisted of administering a Triangle Test that had two one-ounce servings of Ensure and one one-ounce serving of the research-developed oral nutritional supplement. The seniors identified which supplement was different, stated their preference, and which of the supplements they found acceptable.
In addition to doing research while in my internship, I was fortunate enough to assist at Peace Meal. One day I went on a site visit with Blake Sanders, a home delivered meal coordinator. We travelled from Charleston to Bethany to meet with a fantastic, upbeat blind woman in her eighties or nineties with end-stage cancer. Blake told me that site visits normally last twenty to thirty minutes; we were in this particular ladies house for over sixty minutes. I had the privilege to silently listen to this woman describe how she lived out her days in her house, the visitors that would stop by, and how the Peace Meal volunteers would deliver her meals. She told us what those meals meant to her and how nice it was to have a daily volunteer checking on her and to ask how she was doing. It was in that moment that I knew nutrition has a significant impact on people and most do not realize its importance. That experience, provided through my undergraduate internship, solidified my passion and my drive to try and change the world and help the helpless.
Since then, I applied for and was accepted into the dietetic internship at Eastern Illinois University. I was fortunate enough to have a graduate assistantship teaching the foods lab, working with students while they developed their culinary skills and learned about food principals. I chose to throw myself again into research and take on a master’s thesis that focused on providing nutrition education through Facebook to college students. I have also taken all opportunities that have been presented to work with the most deserving populations while in my graduate dietetic internship as to have no regrets while at EIU. I have volunteered at organizations such as WIC, Bread of Love (a senior nutrition program), and various day cares. I have worked at food banks and a mobile food pantry helping families load their cars with much needed groceries. I continue to seek out those opportunities. It is my desire to locate a job upon graduation working with deserving families involved in the aforementioned programs. Nutrition helps children perform better in school, help heal the sick, and can nourish the soul.
Other students here at EIU can have similar experiences that I was fortunate to have. Peace Meal can always use volunteers. Students can help deliver meals, observe assessments, or help serve at congregate meal sites. Hearing about the need and experiencing it for oneself are two completely different worlds. EIU and its professors present students with opportunities throughout the year to be involved, volunteer their time, and help change the world a little bit at a time. Experiences such as I was fortunate to have while attending EIU help to remove the local perspective and move towards the global perspective. They can spark passion and guide students into directions they never knew they wanted to head, just like it did for me.