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Josh Goldman ’14 knows what it’s like. He’s been there when family and friends have asked that dreaded question: “What are you going to do now?” And he shared his anxieties and hope for the future with the Class of 2014 at Denison’s 173rd annual Commencement Exercises on Saturday (May 17) in his senior address.
“It’s one of those terrifying, exciting, and adventurous questions. ‘What am I doing now?’ There are the straightforward answers: ‘I’m starting a job in education,’ or ‘I’m heading to grad school’ or ‘I’m weeping hopelessly into the couch cushions; please pass me a tissue.'”
It turns out, members of the Class of 2014 have plans to teach English as a second language in South Korea; to set off on Teach for America and Peace Corps adventures; to work for companies like The Nielsen Company, TEKSystems, Battelle, Riverside Methodist Hospital, Deloitte, and Clean Water Action. Some will launch their own start-ups. Some already have landed jobs as playwrights, sales reps, financial analysts, software engineers, and marketing and business representatives. Some are continuing on their educational journeys, pursuing graduate degrees in all areas of study from the sciences to creative writing. One student will be working in the office of the Speaker of the House.
But Goldman’s thoughts on the matter went well beyond the job question: “Other questions, too — bigger questions — come from asking, ‘What am I doing now?’ I could be starting a job, sure. But am I caring for myself and others? Does what I’m doing matter? Should I be doing it at all? These are the questions I think about sometimes — these questions of purpose, ethics, and identity.”
Over the course of the last four years, these students, all 521 graduates of the Class of 2014, have asked themselves these very questions — questions they’ll continue to ask throughout their lives, much like Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient Lawrence Sherman ’70 did after his own ceremony.
Sherman, director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge, went on to found “evidence-based policing,” a scientific approach to policing in which criminologists use their research to effect positive change for victims, police, and even the criminals themselves. Sherman had a job after college, sure, but he developed that job into life work — a very different thing altogether.
The Commencement exercises were the first for Adam Weinberg, who is wrapping up his inaugural year as Denison’s president — a year in which he continually shared his views and his hopes for Denison graduates to become lifelong learners who take the relationships they build at Denison, as well as their sense of community, out into the wider world.
“This is a college that produces graduates who are committed to and capable of building and sustaining community in important ways,” he told the crowd of more than 5,000 in the Mitchell Center. “We produce graduates who lead great lives, but in service to things larger than themselves.”
It’s true. So, Class of 2014: What are you going to do now?