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Student address: One act, one voice, one person can create extraordinary change

Photo of Alzebeth Roman, Poole College student commencement speaker

Alzebeth Roman, who received her bachelor’s degree in accounting at the December 18, 2014, ceremony in the PNC Arena, presented the college’s traditional student commencement speech. Following are her remarks.

"Welcome friends, family, distinguished faculty, staff and of course, graduates.

"Before I start, take a moment, close your eyes, and think of your first NC State experience.

"Maybe it was as a kid going to family tailgates, or maybe it was a campus tour in high school. For me, I remember my mom and I doing a self-guided tour of campus in February of 2010. It was cold, like really, really cold and there were these huge piles of ice all along the sidewalk and streets. Now, I’m from Florida and in my 18 years of life, I’d never seen snow. The closest thing I got to “snow” was the ice in my freezer, so coming here bundled up, wearing closed-toed shoes and a scarf was not my idea of a great time. Nevertheless, I went on this tour and the most vivid memory I have is standing behind Talley on a giant block S that was laid in brick and I threw up my first Wolf Pack sign.

"The pride I felt when I did this and the connection I had with this university was instant, even if I had some issues with the way the weather worked around here. But it really was that moment that began to fuel my decision to come here.

"The reason I tell this story is because if we look back at that moment, we realize that everything in it has changed. Talley no longer looks the same and I know that I don’t either, but it isn’t just me. It isn’t just what’s on the outside. All of us have changed during our time here and as our university has grown, so have we.

"One of the things I love about NC State is that there is a lot to do. And in the Poole College of Management there are a lot of things to get involved in. You’ve got your Peer Leaders and Ambassadors, but also clubs like the American Marketing Association, the National Association of Black Accountants, and my personal favorite, the Poole Council. 

"Before I get into why the Poole Council has a special place in my heart, let me ask you all this. How many of you remember how cold Nelson 3400 was as a freshman?

"Between M100 and our core business classes, Nelson Auditorium became home, but for me and for a lot of you sitting here, it probably felt more like an igloo. Well, this is where the Poole Council came in. 

"As a freshman, I had laid the groundwork with another Poole College of management student to start an organization which would change the game of student involvement within our college. It took our existing student organizations which so many of you were a part of and combined it with independent student voices. 

"From there, it was our goal to connect everyone, including the administration. The Council gave students and the organizations a unified voice and one of the first suggestions the students of our college made was to change the temperature of Nelson 3400. In about a month and a half, we had received an update that the temperature had been moved up TWO degrees, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it made a huge difference back then. 

"Now, this isn’t the only thing the Poole Council has done, BUT it is a small glimpse into how the Council works FOR students and WITH students to make our experience here better.

"So why do I say this? Why does this matter? 

"Again, think about your time here. Maybe you started a new club too or participated in an event that was the first of its kind, or maybe YOU were here when our own college was renamed thanks to the generosity of Lonnie C. Poole. 

"Whatever it may be, the reason I mention this is because we are game changers. One person CAN make a difference and as NC State students WE have found new ways of doing things, WE challenge the norm, and we don’t stop until we’re satisfied. 

"One of the most relate-able experiences we’ve all had during our time here involves making a difference and creating change within our communities. 

"Most, if not all, of us have engaged in service or some kind of volunteer event during our time here. Whether it was Shack-a-Thon or questioning our life choices as we ran down Hillsborough Street with our stomachs full of Krispy Kreme donuts, the work we have done here has made an impact not just in our communities, but also within ourselves. And these things shouldn’t stop when we graduate. In the corporate world, while volunteering may go by another name, the reason and motivation for doing it should remain the same. 

"Our experiences have taught us that corporate social responsibility shouldn’t just be words or a check. It is ACTION. We learn that businesses have the physical and financial resources available to them to create great positive change, BUT the only way to create these changes is to ensure that employees are also engaged in the issues present within their communities. This is where we step in. As graduates of NC State and the Poole College of Management, we need to take our experiences and apply them forward. Our work doesn’t end here. You can use your voice to change the world around you and make a difference in the lives of others.

"Now, let’s look at the bigger picture. Not only is NC State changing, but the world is changing. Whether it was by moving to Raleigh or studying abroad, we’ve all had the unique opportunity to interact with people who have grown up, worked and thrived in a place different from our own. We know it is an experience that cannot be put into words, but what did your experience teach you?

"In today’s world, the lines drawn between countries are blurred. The jobs of tomorrow won’t just work within America and tomorrow’s business leaders, us, need to be culturally competent, diverse, and respectful of everyone’s differences. It’s not just about the color of our skin; it’s about our experience, our perspective and our culture. And only when we learn to appreciate and accept the things that make us different will we truly be able to work together and succeed in the global market.

"So, here we all are on December 18, 2014. Families, friends, distinguished faculty and staff, and most importantly – my fellow graduates – who, I think, deserve a round of applause.

"Our time here at NC State has challenged us to grow as we’ve embraced new opportunities, experienced change, and gained a new perspective. But I know so many of us are asking ourselves what happens next? What happens tomorrow?

"Even though the Poole College of Management provides opportunities for students to succeed, we must also remember that when we leave the halls of Nelson we take with us ONE perspective of many. We have to remember that keeping an open mind to the diverse experiences of others is what will make or break our success because the world is evolving and our future is one in which there are No limits. No restrictions. No borders. We have to be game changers and socially responsible individuals.

"We will be the leaders of tomorrow. We have to keep an open mind, speak out about the things that matter and make a difference in the lives of those around us. One act, one voice, one person can create extraordinary change. 

"Let that person be you. Congratulations, Class of 2014!