06/05/2012 09:59 am ET Updated Aug 05, 2012

To the Class of 2012

As I approach my twentieth year working in public higher education, there are two times of the year that remain my absolute favorite: the excitement that surrounds the start of each academic year in the fall, and the collective sense of accomplishment -- and relief! -- that accompanies graduation in the spring. Congratulations to the Class of 2012 as you leave your respective colleges and universities throughout the world. And best of luck as you enter the world with a diploma that signifies your representing a very select sliver of the world's population who has enjoyed the privilege of accessing higher education.

Yours has been the opportunity to study, develop, and grow during an incredibly intense period of focusing on yourself and on the prospects of your life's work. However, if today's workforce requires anything, it is the ability to think clearly, to reason objectively, and to communicate effectively. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor reveal that, on average, a worker changes careers -- and not just jobs -- 3 to 5 times in a lifetime. At Southern Utah University, our institutional motto, Learning Lives Forever, applies to all of us, as we must be good thinkers, nimble and adroit enough to adapt to the change that daily engulfs us.

Not a day goes by that does not witness another crisis or world event revealing the myriad challenges we face. And yet the world outside is brimming with opportunity for those willing to take risk and leave a mark on the world, regardless of one's field of endeavor. It is interesting to note that the Chinese character for "crisis" ("Wei" and "Ji") actually translate into danger and opportunity. As President Teddy Roosevelt lauded that person "in the arena" who valiantly fights for a cause and tries to make a difference, our 26th president had little patience for criticism directed at the combatants from "those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

To the Class of 2012, you will undoubtedly get tons of advice in the coming days and weeks -- some of it wanted, other unsolicited. If I might add my two cents worth, it is very simple. Put your new-found knowledge and your recently acquired skill set to good use. Make a difference. Take a stand. Adopt a cause. Leave your mark. DO something.

What an amazing opportunity lies before you. At this pivot point in your life, commit to showing the world what a product of the Class of 2012 has accomplished and is ready to contribute to today's society. To be sure, this is singular accomplishment in your life but, just as the word suggests, your participation in "commencement" exercises means the real world of opportunity and hard work lies at your feet. Congratulations!