Last Lecture by Dr. Katie Ruggieri

Congratulations, class of 2018! You have no idea how excited and, moreover, honored I am to be able to say a few words to you on your graduation day!

This is my absolute favorite day of the year. This is actually the first time ever that I haven’t been sitting out there with my partner in crime, Prof. Kelli Hiller, screaming and cheering and taking photos of all of our students, like a proud mom. And I have five kids at home, so you know I must really like you guys if I still get that excited.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been racking my brain for something that I felt confident in telling you, something that I have experienced, without boring you to tears. I ultimately figured that I should probably speak about something with which I have much experience: worry.  

I began teaching full-time at BCC in the Fall of 2011. I was so nervous to leave my previous job that I actually turned the job down not once but twice before finally deciding to take it. Why, you might ask, would I apply for a job and then, once offered it, turn it down twice? Because I was worried. Worried about how my boss would go on without me; worried about having to start all over and make new friends in a new place; worried that, as much as I thought I loved teaching, the negative people in my life were correct and that I would come to hate it sooner than later. Well you know what, it’s been 7 years and I have not looked back since. I absolutely love what I do.  

There are many of you sitting out there in the crowd who had children young or are raising children on your own and who get to sit here today, look at your son or daughter and say, you know what? We DID IT. There are others of you who came to this country and to this college not knowing a word of English and where are you today?  Sitting here, minutes away from receiving your college diploma. Others of you have struggled with addiction, struggled with domestic violence, struggled with poverty, homelessness, you name it. But you’re here!   

Katie R Speech ImageI know first-hand from speaking with many of you throughout your time at BCC that you worry about all of the different factors that come into play. You stress about passing that one last nursing exam by the 3 percentage points required; you worry that you won’t be as skilled in the lab as your classmate; you worry about how you will be able to pay for books or purchase that much needed computer. But nevertheless, you persisted and you will continue to persist.

‌As the late, great newspaper columnist and author, Erma Bombeck. She said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.” She is right. Worrying doesn’t actually accomplish anything. It simply takes up time that we could be using to do something positive. Folks who have had me in class know that I am just a TAD obsessed with the Stanford professor, Robert Sapolsky, and his book entitled, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.” In his research, he focuses largely on psychological stress versus physical stress, like running for your life so you don’t get eaten by a lion.  

I guess today, to the best of my ability and as something I am striving to do more myself every day, be more like the zebra.  There are enough lions that will come along in this crazy game of life that will challenge us more than we could ever imagine. We need all of our fight and our energy for those trying times; we really should try to, as they say, not sweat the small stuff (easier said than done).

It is all of you sitting in the audience here today and those that have come before you that have helped me to come to this conclusion and have served as a source of inspiration in my life. I have watched as you have done everything in your power to help your mom survive cancer; I have watched as you had your spouse walk out the door, leaving you and your child behind with no explanation; I have watched as you struggled to work 70 hours a week overnight and on weekends, just so you could send money to your family back home. I have also watched you emerge from all of these things stronger and more determined than you were before. That is an incredible thing to watch. You have all shown me what is worth worrying about and what is not. 

For many of you, your worries now have transitioned from “oh man, how will I ever pass all of these classes and graduate?” to “oh man, I’m never going to get a job!” or, “how will I do at my new school or in my new job?” Here’s my advice, for what it’s worth: Fake it till you make it.  Please don’t take this the wrong way. Do not apply for a nursing position if you are graduating today with a degree in criminal justice! What I mean is, bring just a tad more confidence to the table than you really have. I promise—it will serve you well. Before you know it, you WILL be doing it—you just have to allow yourself the room to try and to fall and to get back up again. Don’t always just play it safe. As they say, “No risk, no reward."

Thank you to each and every one of you out there, for being a contributing member of our society. I know that you will all do great things. Congratulations, BCC class of 2018, you make us all so proud!