Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Graduation Its Game On You Go Now

On December 11, 2010, I officially graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Marketing and a collateral in International Business. To be honest, I can't believe it. I can't believe my time as an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee is over. I can't believe I've had so many amazing opportunities over the past four (and a half) years. Honestly, I can't believe I am smart enough to be considered somewhat of an expert in all things business, in particular marketing and international business. And above all of that, I can't believe all of the valuable lifelong lessons I've learned both in and out of the classroom.

Our Fall 2010 Graduation Class was lucky enough to have Governor-Elect Bill Haslam speak at our Commencement. Governor Haslam joked about being a disappointment in relation to past Commencement speakers Dolly Parton and Al Gore. To be honest, Governor Haslam was absolutely perfect and really summed up perfectly a lot of what I've learned during my time as a Volunteer. Governor Haslam shared six things with the audience that I would like to share with you (a lot of this is taken directly from Governor Haslam's Commencement speech that I received via e-mail, thanks to my dad, from the Haslam Team - yes, I'm THAT nerdy that I will save it forever).

1. Be a Great Listener: Learn how to ask great questions and then listen for what you can learn. 

2. Commit Yourself to Being a Lifelong Learner: The most interesting people, the most challenging people, are people who truly do love learning.  
3. Be a Person of Grace: Unfortunately, much of the world seems to spend most of their time trying to find what it is that makes other people limp. In a world that is too often cynical, mean and hard, you can change that by becoming a person of grace. It starts by realizing that you have your own limp so you don't need to spend quite so much time focusing on what it is that makes other people limp.
4. Be a Person of Humility
5. Learn to Deal with Disappointment in Your Life Without Bitterness: Bad stuff is going to happen to you. You are not going to be treated fairly all the time. Your dreams will be broken as many times as they will be achieved - that's not what is is about. It's about getting back up.
6. Work Hard. Work really, really hard.

Governor Haslam closed up his six key points with a quote that I will remember forever:

"I'm sure it is really tempting to think - well I deserve a break now. But the truth is...it's game on. So many people have helped all of us be able to stand where we are standing now. Parents who sacrificed...faculty members who came along side you... All of them did that in order to hand us a baton and say - 'You go now.'"

- Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee

Governor Haslam is right. While one chapter of my life has come to a close, a huge door has been opened. My degree from the University of Tennessee should only be a platform onto bigger and better things. Governor Haslam challenged all graduates by saying, "be a great ambassador for this university across the state and the nation. We need you."

Along with what I have learned in the classroom at the University of Tennessee, I want to continue to listen, continue to learn, be a person of grace and humility, always respond with determination in the face of inevitable disappointment and always work really, really hard. I've accepted Governor Haslam's challenge to be an ambassador for myself, my university, and my state and I hope all 1,500 Fall 2010 graduates did as well. 

Governor Haslam said, "you go now." Well, here goes nothing!

Watch out world! I'm a GRADUATE!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Alpha Omicron Pi Journey

This past week, I ended my journey as a collegiate member of Alpha Omicron Pi. Words cannot do justice to what AOII has grown to mean to me over the past three and a half years, but I would like to do my best to share a snapshot of my experience with you.

Four and a half years ago, I began my undergraduate career at the University of Tennessee. Coming from a small school, I was very nervous and anxious about what awaited me in Big Orange Country. Little did I know then that I was about to truly live the best years of my life.

I got off to a "rocky" start on Rocky Top to say the least. Going into college, I decided to focus all of my efforts and attention on my school work. I excelled academically, made some amazing friends that I still have to this day, and had fun, but something was still missing. I was missing a sense of belonging and purpose and didn't know exactly where to find it. 

After my freshman year, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. That decision was to go through Sorority Recruitment. Looking back, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I went into Recruitment extremely apprehensive as no one from my family had ever been Greek. The week was a whirlwind. On preference night I attended preference parties for Alpha Omicron Pi, Kappa Delta, and Phi Mu. Choosing between those three amazing sororities was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I know most people say, "you'll just know," when it comes time to make your choice. Well, I didn't know, and I was one of those Potential New Members who took forever to fill out her preference card. I will never forget the words that my Gamma Chi (Recruitment Counselor) said to me as I struggled to make my decision. She said, "Micah, where do you feel you can have the biggest impact and make the biggest difference." I have no idea why I thought I could make a difference or impact in AOII, I just knew that I had felt comfortable in the AOII Suite all week and when Catherine said those words, my heart told me to choose AOII.

Luckily, AOII chose me too. I had a rough first semester in AOII. I couldn't find my niche. However, after I was elected to serve on Leader's Council as Vice President of Academic Development during my second semester, I began to find my niche within the chapter. A year later, I was elected to serve Omicron Chapter (AOII's oldest existing chapter) as Chapter President. What an honor! My term as Chapter President was a year of ups and downs. I grew as a person more than I ever have during that year and learned so many life lessons. I would also like to think that I had a positive impact on the chapter as well! :) After my term as Chapter President, I was elected to serve AOII as Vice President of Administration, a position that I just completed this past week!

Throughout this time, many other doors across campus were opened for me to get involved. I owe these opportunities in large part to my membership in AOII as well as the life lessons AOII taught me! AOII prepared me to be a leader on campus in organizations such as Student Alumni Associates, the Panhellenic Council, and the College of Business Administration to name a few.

Even more valuable and meaningful than the leadership skills I have gained, awards I have won, and positions I have held, are the relationships with my sisters that I have formed. I cannot even begin to put into words how much my AOII sisters mean to me. Both younger and older than me. They are some of my very best friends in the world. They are my role models. They have all taught me so much by being my biggest critics but at the same time my hands down biggest fans! To my sisters who are reading this, I could never tell you how much each and every one of you mean to me. I truly look up to all of you and am so thankful to have all of you in my life.

Without AOII, I do not know where I would be. AOII has brought me lifelong friends, has taught me lifelong lessons, and has provided me with memories that will last a lifetime. My hope is that I have had a small impact on my sisters during my collegiate years as an AOII. My hope is that others will be able to have even half the experience I have had as an AOII. I am a firm believer that during college, there is so much more to be learned than inside the classroom. For me, AOII has taught me more as a person than any college professor could. AOII has brought me a true joy that I would never be able to perfectly express. 

Simply put, AOII has by far exceeded my expectation of what my collegiate experience at the University of Tennessee could ever be and has allowed me to grow into the person I have always wanted to be and always knew I was. AOII was my avenue to get there!

Thank you to all of my AOII sisters who have made the past three and half years the best three and a half years of my life. I love you all so much and am so lucky to have you as sisters for a lifetime!

"There's Health, There's Wealth, There's Life, There's Love, in Alpha Omicron Pi."

Health, Wealth, Life, and Love to All! God Bless!
2007 PC!
On Bid Day 2008! My Panda Pals, Sarah Beth and Brooke.
At AOII International Convention while I was Chapter President. One of the best experiences!
With Julie McWhorter (CA when I was CP) and Mary Jane Sharp.
With Past International President (PIP) Ginger Banks!
Mary Jane Sharp receiving her Founder's Award at International Convention! One of the most memorable and special evenings of my life as an AOII. I will never forget this!
Grand Little Becca, me, and Little Sarah Beth.
With my New Members on Big Sis Reveal!
Sisters at The Hill!
AOIIs at ATO Pumpkin Carve.
Emily, Sarah, and me on Halloween!
Jillian and I at a fraternity Founder's Day.
Sisters on my 21st Birthday.
Gifts for My Little!
AOIIs on Gameday!
Elena and I on Gameday!
AOIIs Front Row at Auburn!
Pref Party at the Laurel House
Western Date Party with Christina and Caitlin
Rockstar Mixer with Staci and Amy
Two of my very best friends! Staci and Coty
After Alissa's Candlelight!
48th Annual AOII BBQ with Jo Beth and Brittnie
Blackout Game vs. South Carolina (I think) with Taylor!
Blackout Gameday at the ATO House!
AOII SAAs working the Circle Park Homecoming Tailgate
Two of my favorite sisters, Staci and Lindsey, before Formal
Coty and I before Formal
Before Formal with Amy
Before another Formal with My Roomie of two years, Staci!
UF AOII CP Lene and me at HQ!
Cait and I at Headquarters
With Susan Danko, PIP!
Mardi Gras Mixer with Caitlin!
AOIIs at the UT Baseball Game "Light the Day" Event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Lizzie, Courtney, Morgan, and I before Carnicus!
With Kaitlin and her New Member Committee before Parent's Day
Kaitlin and I before Formal!
AOIIs Courtside at a UT Men's Basketball Game
Panhellenic Pandas! Alissa, Allie, me, and Carrie
One of my biggest role models and life influences. Life coach, best friend and AOII sister, Carrie.
One of my other biggest role models and life influences. Life coach, best friend and AOII sister, Alissa.
One of my best friends, Coty and I at the 50th Annual AOII BBQ.
2007 PC. Love You ALL!
With sisters at the 2010 Homecoming Game!