Graduates at Bentley University Commencement Urged to Act Like a CEO, Stay Authentic, and Be a Hero Who Builds
Keynote speaker Karen Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Hill Holliday advertising agency, challenged graduates at Bentley’s 97th annual undergraduate ceremony to be the CEO of every job they hold — no matter the position. Approximately 8, 000 people attended the ceremony held on May 21, 2016.
Recalling her first job at Hill Holliday as receptionist, “the face and voice” of the national ad agency, Kaplan said: “I remember thinking … that sounds like something the CEO should be responsible for. And at that moment, I decided I would consider myself the CEO of the reception desk.
“ … I considered myself the CEO of every job I ever had, every account I ever ran, and every department I ever managed,” she said of the various positions she held before ultimately landing as chair and CEO.
Emphasizing the importance of staying authentic, she offered nine strategies to “get where you want by being who you are.” Among them:
- Originality requires attention. “Digital natives — you guys — check their phones more than 150 times a day. Yet, we live in a world where there is a premium placed on the creation of original ideas … generating original thought is virtually impossible while you’re busy transacting with your head down. So just make sure you pull up every once in a while and pay attention to what’s going on around you that can inspire you and fuel your creativity, because the ability to create something original out of absolutely nothing will serve you well in whatever career you choose.
- Embrace what makes you different. “ … Personal differences can be our competitive advantage in life. If you know who you are and you’re comfortable with who you are, you can very easily turn perceived liabilities into assets.”
- No coasting. Working a few extra hours, for example, will help you pass by more experienced people. “… it’s all about deliberate practice and a hunger to succeed … Successful people never coast because they know you only coast one way, and that’s downhill.”
- Keep your eyes wide open. “My mother taught me to be a lifelong learner, to retain the natural curiosity that we all have as children. Successful people are inspired not by how much they know, but by how much they don’t know … They know they can always be better and do better … I hire people based on their perspective, not their pedigree … “
- Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated. Find the right environment to succeed. “I tell people not to be afraid to make a change if they feel their unique talents and contributions aren’t being appreciated or acknowledged.”
- Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster. “Truly successful people don’t take themselves too seriously and they remain humble. When they get to the top, they don’t forget where they came from.”
- You’ve got to believe. “Successful people believe. They believe they don’t have to become someone because they already are someone … They wake up in the morning believing they can, and will, make a difference. And you know what? They do.”
Kaplan received an honorary doctor of commercial science degree at the ceremony.
Corey Thomas, president and CEO of Rapid7 security software firm, delivered the keynote address at the McCallum Graduate School of Business 41st commencement ceremony.
“Who are your heroes, and why?” Thomas asked graduates, and then shared how his ideal heroes shifted from “rebels and disrupters” to builders and connectors.
“My heroes … changed the way the world worked, they challenged established powers, and they brought new innovations to life … But what I learned is that true innovation comes from your ability to notice and see things in the world and imagine new ways to be in the world … it’s a struggle against yourself to learn to grow and expand.”
Thomas challenged graduates to take learning beyond book smarts to create authentic connections. “ … learning is about more than facts and science, it’s also about people: their motivations, their behaviors, their beliefs, their biases and even their desires … the best innovators are those who expand their knowledge, but also their perspective, their senses and their connections.”
Teamwork, he said, is necessary for success. “Bringing the vision to life is not a solitary journey. It's about the power and impact of teams, organizations and even societies.”
He urged graduates to make positive impact by being builders of society. “… These times require a different type of hero who is able to build, bind and bring together the best in people … build and create the jobs and industries that we need to transform ourselves into a better future … negotiate and engage with one another and the world to create a stronger, more united place. So I ask you today to be the new expansionary heroes we need and invent a better world.”
Thomas received an honorary doctor of commercial science degree at the ceremony.
ABOUT THE GRADUATES
At the undergraduate ceremony, 1039 bachelor of science degrees and 18 bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to 1057 students. (Figures above include degrees and certificates conferred October 30, 2015, February 26, 2016, and May 21, 2016.)
At the McCallum Graduate School of Business ceremony, six doctoral degrees, 463 master of science degrees, 148 master of business administration degrees, eight dual MS/MBA degrees, and 117 certificates were granted to 742 graduate students. (Figures above include degrees and certificates conferred October 30, 2015, February 26, 2016, and May 21, 2016. Students may earn multiple degrees and certificates so may be counted more than once.)
FACULTY AND STUDENT AWARDS
The Gregory H. Adamian Award for Excellence in Teaching for full-time faculty was presented to Trustee Professor Charles R. Hadlock, from the Department of Mathematical Sciences. The recipient of the Excellence in Scholarship Award was Gibbons Research Professor of Accounting Rani Hoitash. The Joseph M. Cronin Award for Excellence in Academic Advising was given to Christian Rubio, associate professor in the department of modern languages.
Student honoree Maria Clarice Chua was winner of the Professor Robert J. Weafer Award for Undergraduate Academic Excellence.