May 19, 1997
528 Commence at Spring Ceremony
While 528 bachelor's and master's candidates celebrated their commencement Sunday, they also were reminded not to allow their ambitions to overcome their future accomplishments.
That consideration was raised in the commencement address delivered by Julie A. Zaloudek, a political science and music double major from Spooner.
A resident of River Falls, Zaloudek was chosen to deliver the address through a selection process among graduating seniors that was coordinated by the Faculty Senate Public Relations Committee.
Zaloudek told the gathering of graduates and their families that too often the day will be commemorated by questions asking not what the graduates have learned, but rather what they will do now that they've graduated.
"Commencement is intended to be a time for recognizing accomplishments," Zaloudek agreed. "Why is it then, that your grandmother does not come up to you and say, 'I'm so proud of you. Tell grandma what you've learned in college.' Has anyone inquired about what things you accomplished within your student organizations while here at UW-River Falls? Probably not.
"I've been a women's choir member for several years, but if I inform a person that we sang a gorgeous high A-flat at a double piano in our last concert, the person says, 'That's nice dear-What do you do with a music degree?' " 'Enjoy my high double piano A-flat, of course, and try for a B-sharp next time is what I want to say,' but I don't. Instead I try to convert my experiences into dollars and cents for their benefits."
Zaloudek noted that priorities of graduates have changed dramatically over the last three decades. For example, she noted that the graduates of 1967 overwhelmingly said it was essential or very important to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. Today that objective ranks sixth. Thirty years ago, less than half of all freshmen said it was important to be well-off financially; today it is the top goal.
"It is not my intention to reproach our culture's emphasis on the tangible, quantifiable things, only to point out that this emphasis may be at the expense of considering some of those other issues-those which are less tangible," Zaloudek said.
She reminded students that they have already gone through the "identity crisis" of defining who they are when they were younger. Lying ahead, she said, was the 'mid-life crisis" in which they will ask themselves whether the ambitions they set and achieved have real meaning.
"We may be pushed to achieve accomplishment after accomplishment-earn a degree, embark on a notable career, receive distinguished honors, acquire material possessions-without ever defining our ambition. It is possible that we may eventually find that our accomplishments, however worthy, stand in isolation of our ambition because we never took the time to address and understand what the ambition of our life really is."
Zaloudek remarked that her caution to her fellow graduates is to "encourage you to understand your ambition, and then to make your accomplishments components of that ambition. For I am certain that at the end of my lifetime even I will not brandish my life's to-do list and cross off those items which I dutifully accomplished. Rather I will consider the ambition of my life and whether my accomplishments-from the smallest to the most significant-are components of that ambition."
Zaloudek has been active in campus activities including the Student Academic Success Center Advisory Board, the Leadership Training and Development Board, the African-American Alliance, and as treasurer of the political science honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha. She has been a Model United Nations delegate, and a soloist with the UW-RF Women's Chorus.
After graduation, Zaloudek hopes to use her "abilities, education, and energy to promote positive change within the inner city." She has completed an internship with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and this summer will direct a musical composed of inner city children through the Boys and Girls Club of St. Paul, Minn. She also works with inmates at the Stillwater (Minn.) Correctional Facility.
A 1992 graduate of Spooner High School, she is the daughter of the Rev. Dennis and Kathy Witkus.