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Commencement Address 2018

Commencement Address 2018

After nine years, my time as dean is ending. Next year, in the role of interim provost, I will help our new president. I appreciate your indulgence as I thank a few people.

I want to first thank Susan, my wife of nearly forty-six years. Sometimes ahead of me, sometimes behind me, but always next to me, thank you for being my best friend and supporter. I could not have had this career were it not for your help and encouragement.

I want to thank the faculty for welcoming me here in June 2009. Since then, virtually all of our conversations have centered on issues related to student success and quality education, work begun by senior faculty long before I arrived. I also want to thank the new faculty who joined us and will help shape our future.

As everyone at TCNJ knows, the School of Business has a terrific staff. Whatever the request, our staff consistently and effectively supports students, faculty, each other, and me—always helpful and always positive. Thank you for that. A special thank you to Tammy Dieterich, my Assistant Dean for nine years. Tammy has a passion for what we do, an overflowing “To Do” list, and has supported even my craziest ideas.

I want to thank you, our students and your families—for trusting us, choosing to spend your time and money with us, and for celebrating your and our successes.

I have just a few words for our graduates before we move to awards and degrees.

Careers are long and unpredictable, but the one constant is the need to work well with others. Whether you are an extravert or introvert, talkative or quiet; whether you prefer sitting at the computer with spreadsheets and data or making a pitch to a client; how others view what you do will shape your success.

As dean I never tried to please everyone, but I presented ideas that I could defend, regularly solicited input from others, including those who might disagree, and always put our shared goals first. Your interpersonal skills, analytical thinking, writing, work ethic, attitude, and integrity will all play a role in what happens next.

Appreciate that you present ideas in a context that you may not fully understand. A few years ago I raised an issue with the provost for the third time and she said, “I know how you feel. Don’t bring it up again.” She knew the change that I was promoting would not play well with a broader group of constituents. We then continued our positive and productive relationship. Your best ideas will not always be obvious to others. If your idea gets adopted—great! If not, then back off and continue to do good work. Another opportunity will come along.

Over these past four years our shared goal was for you to know more about a wider range of topics, think more deeply, improve your problem solving, and help you present strong arguments. In other words, to help further develop your intellectual capacity. But it will be good to remember that research shows a weak correlation between intelligence and success (such as income, wealth, and career advancements). In other words, simply being smart is not enough. Having an intelligence about people will pay off in multiple ways.

We used to say that a skillful communicator could “read between the lines.” But Instagrams, Tweets, and Facebook “likes” have few lines and even less space in between. But as our sales students know, people often say only a portion of what they really think. Sometimes that is intentional, other times not. Being able to “read” what does not actually get said remains a very valuable skill.

And do not be afraid to push the envelope or even bend a rule if for the good of the organization. For example, the School of Business was the first at TCNJ to develop a Peer Mentor program and now other schools are trying to copy our success.

Similarly, at the request of students, the School of Business was the first to adopt a robust advising survey. In 2015 we administered the survey, and shared the results with faculty and students. In 2017 I learned that a College committee was discussing a much more limited approach. Before they could stop us, we quickly sent our survey out for a second time. Do not be afraid to selectively push.

And learn from people different from you. I found differences in backgrounds, culture, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, and skills professionally and personally enriching. I became a better problem solver and a more generous person. Along the way I learned that, like me, others also make mistakes. If we focus on differences and each other’s mistakes we limit our thinking and miss opportunities. So my final piece of advice is to be generous to others and always try to maintain a sense of humor. Thank you.

–William W. Keep, PhD, Dean
May 18,2018

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