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Dr. Nancy Stevens, Fall Commencement speaker, tells graduates they can make a difference on rapidly changing planet [PHOTOS]


More than 900 students participated in Ohio University’s 2018 Fall Commencement ceremony on Dec. 15, at the Convocation Center on the Athens Campus.

The annual fall ceremony honored OHIO students earning doctoral, professional doctoral, masters or undergraduate degrees on all campuses and through eLearning programs. It is in addition to the University’s traditional spring undergraduate and graduate ceremonies.

President M. Duane Nellis told the fall graduates that they have the power to be the change agents we need in the country and world. 

“Because the world doesn’t stop evolving, neither should you,” Dr. Nellis said. “Your professions will continue to evolve and in order to remain relevant and employed, you must evolve too. Never stop learning.”

He also challenged them to take their lessons and new skills and use them for good.

“Employers will be looking for critical thinkers, good communicators, collaborators, problem solvers and leaders – skills you acquired here at Ohio University,” Dr. Nellis added.

Dr. Chaden Djalali, Ohio University’s executive vice president and provost, took a moment to thank the University’s faculty for their great work. 

“Your contributions have created a transformative learning experience for the graduates we celebrate today,” Dr. Djalali said. “The time and energy you have invested in these graduates is an investment in their personal development and future success.” 

Dr. Nancy Stevens, an award-winning professor in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, delivered the commencement speech. She told the audience that, as an anthropologist and paleobiologist, she spends a lot of her time thinking about time.  

“I’d like to start by taking a step back and placing time into perspective before we cast an eye to the future,” Dr. Stevens said.

She said the world’s human population has increased from 1 billion to more than 7.5 billion during the past 200 years; such expansion provides a vast array of opportunities because there are so many vibrant minds advancing technology, creativity and complexity at an ever-increasing pace.

“It’s an exciting time to be a graduate of Ohio University and in the context of human innovation and discovery, 200 years, if brief, has been a very significant time in earth’s history,” Dr. Stevens said.

Dr. Stevens said earth is currently experiencing a mass extinction for the first time since humans have been around to measure it, with dozens of species becoming extinct every day. She added that although mass extinction has happened on earth at least five times before, this time humans are capable of complex decision-making and offering a wealth of potential solutions.

“We stand at the doorstep of a rapidly changing planet and we are armed with significant tools and strategies to take us into a more promising future …” Dr. Stevens said. “Put simply, our ability to share ideas enables us to make cutting-edge discoveries that transform lives and even the planet.”

In closing, Dr. Stevens told the graduates to use their time wisely, seek inspiration and take time to cultivate their connections.

“Remain connected with this environment and help shape its future,” she said. “Let those who inspired you know they matter. Each day going forward, make an effort to see with fresh perspectives, the world that is around you. Try to leave it a little better than you found it. That is the hallmark of the Ohio University community.”

Nancy Stevens

Dr. Nancy Stevens (center), Ohio University professor of functional morphology and vertebrate paleontology, delivered the keynote speech at 2018 Fall Commencement. She told the graduates to go out and make a difference on this rapidly changing planet.

Nylah Mustafa

Graduate Nylah Mustafa calls out to her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members as she walks across the stage at Fall Commencement.

Kristine N. Pollard (left) and Carly Joy Pavey (center) move their tassels from right to left at Fall Commencement.

Kristine N. Pollard (left) and Carly Joy Pavey (center) move their tassels from right to left at Fall Commencement. 

President Nellis

Ohio University President Dr. M. Duane Nellis speaks at the Fall Commencement ceremony. He challenged the students to take their lessons and new skills and use them for good.

Olivia Jeffers

Olivia Jeffers (center) poses for a photo with her family after receiving a master's degree in nursing.

Elyssia the dog

Elyssia, an ADA service dog, relaxes during 2018 Fall Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 15 in the Convocation Center.

Rohrer and McCarthy

Katherine L. Rohrer (left) participates in Fall Commencement with Associate Professor Dr. John McCarthy (center). Rohrer is a graduate of the University's Individual Interdisplinary Program.

Raisa Ray

Graduate Raisa Ray (center) is hooded by Professor Dr. Steve Evans and Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Joe Shields (left) during Fall Commencement.

Jen McDaniel

Graduate Casey J. McDaniel acknowledges her family and supporters in the crowd.

Ian Laver

Graduate Ian Laver waves to all of his supporters at Fall Commencement.