David Closson, Master of Technology Graduate Speaks at Fall 2013 Inaugural Commencement
Saturday, December 14, 2013, David Closson presented the morning commencement ceremony speech to degree candidates along with their families and friends. David is part of a new program at EIU that replaces the previous speaker traditions at EIU's commencement.
This fall, EIU introduced the Student Commencement Speaker Competition which showcases exemplary writing and speaking by EIU students. David, who also graduated that day with a Master of Science in Technology, was one of many who competed to showcase a message to graduating students.
His commencement speech reveals his diligence and passion, and most notably, how many ordinary people who attend Eastern and go on to accomplish extraordinary things.
David was introduced by his faculty mentor Mr. Ken Baker, retired EIU Director of Campus Recreation.
Here is his message.
From College Student to College Cop
Eastern Illinois University is not just a college; it is the starting block towards success. Let me tell you why I first chose Eastern. Throughout my life, I have learned from many ordinary people who attended Eastern and went on to accomplish extraordinary things. My father is an ordinary man with an exceptional work ethic who was honored with EIU’s Distinguished Alumnus Award following his retirement. Growing up, I heard my parents recall the stories of how they met each other and made life-long friends at Eastern. I knew Eastern was a special place, and I wanted to be a part of it. My appreciation for Eastern grew throughout my undergraduate career, especially as I was deployed to Iraq my junior year as a member of the Illinois Army National Guard. Preparing for a deployment can be a little stressful. Eastern provided significant support throughout my deployment. My chemistry professor, Dr. Mark McGuire, took time to sit down with me and outline a way that I could complete the class even though I was leaving in the middle of the semester. My co-workers and supervisors at the Rec Center quickly stepped up to take care of my responsibilities so that I could focus on what lay ahead. That support continued while I was overseas. I received care packages, letters, and toys that I could pass out to the Iraqi children from my friends and mentors at EIU. I was eager to return to Eastern upon the completion of my deployment. Eastern was still my home. The Rec Center and the Department of Biological Sciences welcomed me back with open arms. While finishing my bachelor’s degree, I was offered both support and academic rigor. In my upper division classes, I was excited to move from the classroom to the field to conduct stream geomorphology studies in central Illinois. I also appreciated the opportunity to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Conducting DNA sampling in search of a pure cutthroat trout population in the mountains of Colorado was an integrated learning experience I will never forget. I entered graduate school and continued to evolve from a student to an adult. I was a non-traditional student in more than just one way. I was a student-veteran and working full-time as a university police officer. The School of Technology valued my diverse life experiences and welcomed me to the program. Eastern offered me a great opportunity to work full-time and complete my master’s degree. I am standing here today thanks to help from the Graduate School and School of Technology which gave me many options for taking classes. They have helped me succeed by offering online classes, evening classes, and even some off-campus classes. I first choose to pursue a master’s in technology due to the versatility and variety of opportunities it would give me. From day one in my first graduate class with Dr. Thomas Hawkins, I saw my paradigm shift. Not only did I learn the coursework, I began to learn a new way of thinking. As my professors continued to work with me, I was able to discover my true passion of working with students. Throughout graduate school, I developed the skills needed to combine my passion and my profession. I saw myself applying what I was learning in class to my every day duties as a university police officer. Eastern has continued to be a special place for me. I am now living my passion every day. Applying the skills I’ve learned and developed in graduate school allows me to give back to the students. As a police officer, I have the opportunity to take a proactive coaching and mentoring approach to policing on campus. When the students can see that I’m not necessarily there to arrest them, but more to help them make good decisions, it’s a win/win for everyone. Another way I have applied my graduate training is through co-teaching classes with the Office of Student Standards. In those classes I have developed my skills of motivational interviewing and am currently working to teach those skills to others. Teaming up across campus on the EIU Mayhem Prevention Team gave me the chance to star in several social media campus safety campaigns and even rappel off Khelm Hall while wearing a 3-piece suit! There no such thing as an average day! The fun and excitement of my job, coupled with the fulfillment that comes from applying my education, pave the way for a rewarding future. I would like to highlight three main points that can help us all achieve this. The first would be relationships, build good relationships with the people around you as those are the people who will be there to help you, encourage you and support you on the journey through life. The second would be integrated learning. It’s not just some fancy buzzword; it is the heart of learning. Taking what you have learned and applying it outside of the classroom is what makes these years of hard work well worth it. The last thing I would like to speak about is bringing your passion and your profession together as one. This isn’t always easy, but through those strong relationships and valued integrated learning experiences, new ideas and opportunities will arise. They certainly didn’t cover teaching college students, public speaking, or even social media campus safety campaigns at the police academy. That came from bringing my passion into my profession. I strive to be one of the many ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things thanks to EIU and I believe each and everyone one of you can too. Thank you Eastern and congratulations on graduating everyone!