The speakers at Dickinson State University's spring commencement, Saturday, urged graduates to be open to opportunities in their future careers.
Carmen Wilson, provost and vice president of academic and student affairs, told graduates about the journey to her current position.
"If you had told me (in college) that I would be the provost and vice president of academic and student affairs, I would have said, 'What is a provost?' But seriously, I had plans of what I was going to do. In seventh grade, in fact, I started my plans. I was going to be a surgeon," she said.
Wilson decided against surgery while in college when, in a psychology class, people came in to find volunteers for a crisis line.
"I thought that sounded kind of interesting, so I did that. I enjoyed it a great deal, so I said I'm going to be a therapist, and I'm going to go to graduate school in counseling psychology," she said.
Wilson worked with troubled youth and families and thought she'd teach a little on the side. When she graduated, she couldn't find any therapy jobs, but she did find teaching jobs. Wilson followed in her father's footsteps and started teaching.
She joined faculty senate then became a department chair. One by one, opportunities presented themselves to her.
"I'm getting a phone call, and the person on the other end of the phone says 'Hi, Carmen. You've been nominated to be the campus executive officer at a couple of two-year campuses in the University of Wisconsin system. Would you be interested?' I said, 'Would I be somebody that they would want?' And it turns out that I was," Wilson said.
She said if it weren't for those opportunities, she wouldn't have the position she has today.
"Don't plan your life too rigidly. Also, if someone offers you an opportunity or encourages you to do something, be very cautious about saying no, because you never know where that will take you," Wilson said.
Salena Loveland is a non-traditional DSU student. She spoke about her journey from a Jehovah's Witness to a college graduate.
"I was a former Jehovah's Witness. I was born into the faith, knocking on doors and not celebrating holidays," she said. "It was a small, protected world, and going to college was strongly discouraged. I was taught that a college degree was not important for finding a job and that sex, drugs and drinking was so prevelant that even the religiously devote would succumb."
Now, she will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English - creative writing track, and minors in graphic design and communications.
"By saying 'yes' to as much as possible, I was able to see first-hand that the DSU experience is about people," she said.
Fellow student Allisha Dworshak spoke about changing her major and future career. In her sophomore year, she changed majors. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in accounting and business and a minor in leadership. She plans to go to law school.
Over 200 students were invited to participate in DSU's 99th spring commencement. The university awarded 156 baccalaureate degrees and 37 associate degrees.