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VU president emboldens 2023 Mid-Year Graduates: ‘Be curious, not judgmental’

A group of VU students posing for a photo together.

December 05, 2023

December 5, 2023

VINCENNES, Ind.-  Vincennes University graduates gathered in the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center surrounded by faculty, staff, peers, friends, and family to celebrate a significant milestone at Mid-Year Commencement on Saturday. VU Provost Dr. Laura Treanor presided over the Dec. 2 ceremony, while VU President Dr. Chuck Johnson shared a thought-provoking message with the graduates and the audience during his greetings.

Referencing a famous quote, Johnson asked the Class of 2023 to “be curious, not judgmental.”

“I want to encourage you to take this motto as your own,” he said. “In a time when we are so quick to label each other when we don’t know each other, and when we don’t really understand what’s going on, we label people. We make judgments. Curiosity allows us to give grace. Being curious allows us to understand and is a true sign of being empathetic. Be curious means I want to learn. Be curious means I consider you as someone of value. Be curious means I’m not so quick to say us and them. What I hope we have taught you beyond the great skills, the great technical knowledge, and the career preparation we have given you is that we have made you more curious, we’ve made you want to learn more about this world, about yourself, and we’ve made you want to learn more about others. I guarantee you if everybody on this stage was a little more curious and a little less judgmental that would make a huge difference.”

Dr. Chuck Johnson congratulates a graduate.

He stressed curiosity is not accepting at face value everything you hear or see and that it is a willingness to dig deeper into the real story and facts.

“I am going to give myself this challenge, and I am going ask you to take it with me,” Johnson said. “Please be curious and not judgmental, and go on to do great things. I hope we’ll see you many years from now, proudly with VU degree in hand, doing great things because you’ve been curious.”

VU conferred 606 bachelor’s degrees, associate, degrees, and certificates at Mid-Year Commencement

The Fall 2023 graduates represented all VU sites, including the Vincennes Campus, American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, Aviation Technology Center, Distance Education, Early College Program, Indiana Military Program, Jasper Campus, and Military Education. The Class of 2023 included grads from 62 of Indiana’s 92 counties, 21 states, and three countries.

Student Speaker Joni Henderson, a Child Development and Early Childhood Education double major from Mount Vernon, Indiana, shared her excitement for the futures of the Class of 2023 graduates.

Student Speaker Joni Henderson standing at podium on RSPAC stage
Joni Henderson gives her speech.

“We can see our bright twinkling futures in front of us,” she said. “Everyone’s hopes and dreams are finally coming within reach. So, if you stop and think about it, dreams really can come true if you put your mind to it. Every little adventure counts as a stepping stone to our future goals. Today a new chapter begins for all of us, so let’s turn the page and take another brave step forward. Who knows what will be waiting for us, but I’m sure we’ll all be ready. Together, we can make a difference in this world. There will always be that fork in the road, but just remember when you do meet this fork in the road, you are braver than you believe, you are stronger than you seem, and you are smarter than you think.”

To see more photos of the 2023 Mid-Year Commencement, explore this PHOTO GALLERY on the official VU SmugMug photography webpage.

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