Today, Indiana University Northwest will confer 777 degrees to the Class of 2018.
This achievement, years in the making for many, signifies a significant accomplishment in each student’s life. It characterizes our graduates’ vision, dedication and hard work. It represents the countless hours devoted to studying, writing, and researching. And, most important, it symbolizes that they, the Class of 2018, have fulfilled their promises to their individual futures, futures in which they will be forever linked with nearly 700,000 other IU alumni, who, just like them, have also realized their dreams.
The dream of earning a college degree has meaning that we can all understand and appreciate: the confidence and satisfaction of being a well-educated person, knowing how to continue to learn in a rapidly-changing world, and being prepared for full, active citizenship, not to mention advanced professional growth opportunities and increased lifetime net worth.
But for many of our students it is even more than that. It is pride and a sense of achievement by reaching what, at many times, may have seemed like a distant reality.
Our students, without a doubt, lead complex lives. They find ways to manage their courses, work and family responsibilities, while also remaining committed to their individual academic goals.
But what I see each and every day on the IU Northwest campus is that our students also share a common bond and determination to overcome anything that stands between them and their aspirations.
This is very much the case for Dusty, Dakota and Dyllan Bakker, proud members of the Class of 2018.
Beyond classes, work and family obligations, these three students share another bond: they are brothers.
Known, naturally, as the “Bakker Brothers,” all three, will become graduates of the IU Northwest School of Business and Economics.
Nine years ago, when Dusty first enrolled at IU Northwest, he never would have imagined all the twists and turns his life – and academic journey – would take.
And he certainly did not think he would be graduating at the same time as his two younger brothers.
As Dusty would attest, he has likely done it all, from switching majors, to attending IU Northwest part-time and full-time, and even taking several hiatuses, so that his wife could attend college.
He has learned a lot over the last nine years, not only from his studies, but the importance of persistence and patience to achieve one’s goals.
But, Dusty, perhaps unintentionally, has also done some teaching, as an example for his two younger brothers, Dakota and Dyllan.
Dakota followed his older brother’s lead, enrolling at IU Northwest seven years ago, setting out to study Computer Information Systems.
However, during his first year of study, Dakota contracted Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, that greatly affected his overall health, energy level, and ability to focus. He, like his older brother Dusty, attended IU Northwest as much or as little, as life allowed.
But despite the health challenges Dakota faces, the Lyme disease did not steal his passion. In fact, it ignited an interest, a desire that will likely lead him into his next chapter, the goal of attending a chiropractic school to study holistic medical approaches.
And, Dyllan, the youngest of the three, has experienced, perhaps, the most “traditional” academic route. He enrolled at IU Northwest directly after high school, completing his degree in four years.
He excelled academically, graduating with a nearly perfect GPA, and was recently inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the academic honors society for successful business students.
Dyllan is proud of what he has achieved, but it is clear that his pride is rooted, perhaps more so, in what all three brothers have achieved.
Dusty, Dakota and Dyllan’s journeys may have been different, but their individual experiences, in many ways, sum up the many pathways to academic success that are represented among IU Northwest students and graduates. They each set a goal, achieved it and can now proudly affirm what only about 30 percent of Americans can state: I have earned my college degree.
Like the Bakker Brothers, each graduate has a story, a journey for which we should all celebrate.
I am very proud of the entire Class of 2018. Their academic achievements, their engagement in their communities and their commitment to lifelong learning will serve them well and continue to distinguish them in the life and future of Northwest Indiana.
I am very confident that, in the future, we will have every reason to be proud of them, as graduates of Indiana University and IU Northwest.