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UW-RF Commencing Student Praises Experience

An international graduating student at UW-River Falls on Saturday urged his fellow graduates to take the risks and find the rewards in life as he did when he came to the United States.

Takeo Morisaki, a senior from Nagasaki, Japan, with a major in health and human performance became the eighth graduating senior in the modern history of the University to be invited to deliver the commencement address.

Morisaki spoke to some 577 bachelor's and 40 master's candidates and several thousand family members at commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 24. The ceremony was held in the Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center. Conferring degrees was Chancellor Ann Lydecker. Joining her in those presentations was Provost and Vice Chancellor Ginny Coombs, Dean Gorden Hedahl of the College of Arts and Sciences; Interim Dean Stephen Ridley of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; Dean Barbara Nemecek of the College of Business and Economics; Dean Connie Foster of the College and Education and Professional Studies and Dean Leon Zaborowski of Outreach and Graduate Studies.

Introduced at the ceremony was English Assistant Professor Jennifer Brantley who was selected as the 2003 Distinguished Teacher, the highest award accorded at the University. Also during the ceremony, Roxanne Emmerich, a renowned entrepreneur, business consultant and motivational speaker, was introduced as the 2003 Distinguished Alumna.

Morisaki was nominated to deliver the speech by the University's external relations committee and invited by Lydecker to speak.

Morisaki told the assembly that he became determined in high school to pursue a degree in the U.S. In Japan, he explained, many students pursue a college degree and many of those do not know what they want to do in life. However, in the Japanese system, a student can not change majors if they have a change of heart.

"I liked the idea of the flexibility that I might have in an American university," Morasaki continued. "Even though Japan has a world-class educational system, I wanted to experience another culture and another educational system. I wanted to study abroad, to study in America to learn how American people act, how they think, and how they live their lives. I wanted to change myself."

Morasaki related that he had heard that Americans were more spontaneous and expressive than Japanese students like himself, "I was very shocked at the first class because students were very active in class and spoke out very much. I had never experienced such a class in Japan. I could see people were very active, not passive. They were motivated and felt free to say what the felt."

He continued, "This campus, my friends, and professors taught me how to express my feelings and how important it is to do this. I started to get involved in many campus activities and organizations. I became to express my feelings more, to speak out in front of people more than I used to."

Those attitudes led Morasaki to become actively involved in campus organizations, including serving as president of the International Students Association, and assisted the women's basketball team, and the chair of a committee for the health, physical education and recreation club.

As all commencing seniors speakers before him have done, Morasaki also took time to publicly recognize his parents and family members, who flew from Japan to hear him speak. To his parents who do not speak English, Morasaki said "Arigatougozaimashita"-- "Thank you very much" for supporting his college career.

Turning to his fellow graduates, he challenged, "Last but not least, I want to tell all of you one thing which I believe is important for our life. Whatever you are going to do, do not miss any opportunities you can get in your life and do not be afraid to take it.

"I took the opportunity to come here, and that is why I am here now. That one opportunity changed my life. We are living in the world where so many things happen, very diverse, and where borders between countries are becoming less meaningful. The world is globalized. We can go anywhere in the world, and we can do anything we want to.

"I believe that each one of us has the potential to be the one who changes the world. Take a chance as I have done by coming to River Falls, and take any opportunity you can get and do not be afraid to try anything.

"Today is one of our goals, but also today is also a new starting line to our real life," he concluded.


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