Dr. Sandi Coyne-Gilbert, director of Goodwin University’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) program, knew that the 2020 graduation season would be unlike anything experienced before. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a schoolwide commencement was not possible, and even small gatherings were out of the question. Still, Sandi wanted to send her graduates off with words of inspiration and support that reflected the philosophy of the program. So, in collaboration with Ben Travers of Goodwin’s Online Studies department, she reached out to some of the many guest speakers, members of the MSOL advisory board, and alumni who helped shape the students’ experience this year.
The well-wishers included Reverend Michael McSherry, Senior Minister, Edwards Church; Cliff Thermer, Dean, Goodwin University School of Business, Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing; Andre Santiago, Vice President for Programs, Leadership Greater Hartford, MSOL graduate; Doe Henstchel, Leadership Preceptor, Leadership Greater Hartford, MSOL Advisory Board member; Connor Martin, East Hartford Town Council, MSOL graduate; Todd Palmer, author, entrepreneur, CEO of Diversified Industrial Staffing; Kate Bolduc, Senior Director, Goodwin Workforce Innovation and Development, MSOL advisory board member; Matt Aronson, consultant on homelessness among young adults; Rabbi Donna Berman, Charter Oak Cultural Center; and Seth Glier, singer, songwriter, motivational speaker.
Following is Sandi’s letter to her graduates, along with a link to the video collection of well wishes and advice to this year’s MSOL cohort. Enjoy!
Dear 2020 MSOL Graduates,
I was just thinking that is the first time I have written those words and had your names and faces flood my brain! I can’t believe this time has gone by so fast. I have been thinking of the life events that have occurred. We have had marriages, births, deaths, divorces, new jobs, lost jobs, found other jobs, moves, new business ventures, and life! There is not one of you who has not had some sort of life change as you put one foot in front of the other and completed your studies.
When I think of each of you, I remember our first conversations, your excitement, your energy, your concern if you could do it, and above all else: hope. Each one of you was hopeful for a better position, a better sense of self, and a drive to move forward to the places you wanted to go. You know what Dr. Seuss said, “You are off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so get on your way!”
As you go on your way, consider this point. Paulo Coelho said, “Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t, and believe that everything happens for a reason.” This is so true! No assignment, no APA structure, nothing in this program or in your life in general could keep you from being what you are today: a member of the 2020 graduating class of the MSOL program here at Goodwin University. Even though we have faced a pandemic, horrible loss of life, and now unrest tearing at the fabric of our society, still you are moving on. What does this mean for you?
There are no promises about where we go from here except this: if we ever needed leaders to guide the transition in our world, it is now! Though you have no promises of what awaits you, we do know a few things. We know the world outside is challenging, tormented, and tormenting, with a deep need for hope. This is where your leadership comes in: you need to find and sustain hope.
Have things fallen apart? Yes, they have. I think you will find that sometimes things do fall apart so you can find a better way. Broken can be mended with thought, care, and change, and in the process become something new and on point. If you start with hope and appreciation of broken people and a broken world, you as leaders can bring into the dialogue energy and enthusiasm for what lies ahead.
We are all flawed! Some of us have flaws that are more visible and others may seem to be able to hide their mistakes, but don’t doubt that we are all flawed. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun who often speaks about healing and moving past brokenness. Pema said, “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.” I truly hope you allow this world, particularly at this difficult time, to soften you and make you kinder. Work to be patient with your flaws and appreciate the flaws of others. I implore you to embrace faith and hope and above all do not forget the beauty that is in each of you.
When I realized you would not have a graduation this year, I imagined all of you feeling sad about the missed ceremony, missing the experience shared with family and friends, and most of all being with your cohort. I wondered what we could do to make a fabulous experience as a temporary stand-in for graduation until such time as our ceremony is rescheduled. When I thought about a commencement ceremony, I thought about the joy, the moments of reflection, and the speakers. I can’t give you a cap and gown or hood you on a stage right now, but as for speakers, well I can do that! Below is a link that will take you to commencement messages from our Leadership Lounge folks past and future, two graduates who hold the same degree as you, and two members of our advisory board. All of them took their time and effort to send these messages because they care about you. You deserve to know how much they felt about the role you can have in inspiring hope and a reminder that better times are ahead.
I am virtually hugging you all right now. I am so grateful our paths crossed, and I do hope each of you will stay in touch and know that if you ever need me, I am a phone call away. So here goes, the virtual commencement speakers for you, our 2020 MSOL graduates! Click here: https://youtu.be/s01C6lovXsI
Thinking of you and sending prayers for the journey that lies ahead of you!
Sandi Coyne-Gilbert is an accomplished leader with experience in both the education and nonprofit sectors. Coyne-Gilbert specializes in working with adult learners and is enthusiastic about instilling a passion for lifelong learning in her students. Her work with at-risk and marginalized groups provided her with unique insights into the power of education for people in transition. Beyond the educational field, Coyne-Gilbert also has experience in marketing and nonprofit leadership. Most notably, she was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, MA. Coyne-Gilbert brings her experiences to the classroom as program director for the master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Goodwin University. Are you ready to make a lasting impact? She’d love to hear from you. Call us today: 800.889.3282 or learn more at www.goodwin.edu/leadership.