Student Speaker - Kenna Sullivan, BA Dance


Dean Liz Kowalchuck, Faculty of the School of the Arts, distinguished guests, friends, family, and most importantly, the future underemployed of America, thank you for making the mistake of allowing me to speak, because I can talk a lot. It is an honor to be up here on this stage in the presence of so much love, support, and talent.

One way that School of the Arts stands out to me is that it provided a continuation of a life- long pursuit. I personally have never met a 5 yr old that says “ I want to grow up and be a business person”, and I hope I never do. As children, we are told to dream big. Yet somewhere along the way that changes for most people; the soccer players quit kicking, the batters quit swinging, the ballers quit dribbling, and the tyranny of the (air quotes) “Real World” settled in. So first and foremost, I would like to congratulate everyone in this room on not being “most people”. The famous philosopher, Kanga from Winnie the Pooh, once said, “Don't grow up too fast, too soon. Save some time for dreaming”. Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of Christopher Robin’s friends all knew, as do we, it is important to always dream no matter what our age is, because the moment we are concerned with being “realistic” or “practical” we have lost the passion for the dream.

We are so blessed to have a passion that drives us in our field, and constantly inspires the people around us. Unfortunately, we get so caught up in “achieving our dream” we sometimes forget to enjoy the journey.  The stress of finding the finish line can be a heavy weight to carry around. Whenever we tell people our major, all we hear back is “may the odds be ever in your favor”. I am here to tell you to breathe and enjoy the journey, and with hard work and a little luck, you, like Katniss, can survive the kill-or-be-killed world out there. The journey helps us grow as people and artists. It matures us. And it makes the finish line that much more satisfying. Life will throw you curve balls, and as we grow our idea of “the dream” or “success” will change. So let us live in the present, enjoy each step, turn and spin, and let our pure passion for the arts and life be the success we see in ourselves along the way.

Do not sell yourself short, to someone out there your talent and hard work is exactly what they are looking for. To someone you are the perfect one. Even if the Companies do not find you right away, dance through your life’s path no matter up or down. Inspire and be inspired, because that is how we grow. Once we land that perfect job,…….. and then find 4 supporting jobs, so that we may be able to afford dinner……., we will then be living the dream we have worked so hard to achieve.

Moving on to item number three of my 28 point list....when life gives you lemons, look to Timon and Pumba for the answer, “Hakuna Matata”. The arts can be a portrayal of emotion. Send your stress to your art. According to Albert Einstein we are insane, because we do the same thing every day constantly hoping for a different outcome. Yet if you google “Albert Einstein” the first five links are allegations that he failed math, so I am not sure we should really listen to anything he did to be quite frank. The point is, there will always be ups and downs, but we learn and grow so much more from failure than success. Embrace the failure, let it fuel your fire, and bring you closer to where you want to go. Forget Einstein. Be Timon and Pumba. I think our 5 year old selves would thoroughly agree.

Let's give ourselves credit, because attending a large University can be overwhelming: the constant fear of being “a fish lost at sea”. I'm not being shellfish, but this school is filled with the coolest fish I know.  Thought I would tell you, just for the halibut. That was a personal shout out to Dance Faculty members Jerel Hilding and Willie Lenoir for incorporating puns into daily conversations. Allowing yourself to learn from your peers and mentors is a life lesson that will bring you far.

In each form of art, everyone has a unique strength that can be respected and studied. Focused observation is one of the greatest skills we have, because it has the ability to transform our weaknesses into strengths. Although the dance department may be small, I think we can all learn something from the amazing seniors we have been blessed with. I am honored to say the person and dancer I have become is because of the women I am graduating with. Kristin Moore is the inspiration of our senior class, and as far as trend setting goes, Madonna has got nothing on her. For being 5 foot 1 she can lift spirits higher than Jeff Withey's blocks. Remember to engage others in your art along the way, because you never know what will stand out.  Thank you Kristi Moore for teaching me that. Jen Silvey is the humor of our department, we all have better abs because of her jokes, and she can instantly bring a smile to anyones face. Oh and by the way her dance technique is flawless. Thanks to Jen Silvey, we know never to take life to seriously, and to find the joy even in the stressful parts of life. Lucy Shopen is the mother of the senior class, we would all still have swine flu from freshman year if it was not for her. Offering up medicine when we are sick and massages when we are sore, and creating some of the most beautiful solos I have seen. Always be self-less, because at all times there is someone out there in need. Knowing that you could be the person who changes that is the difference needed to be seen in the world.    Thank you Lucy Shopen. Emily Atchison is the rock of the dance department, being a chair and officer since sophomore year, we would not be functioning without her. As a double major in business, no one is quite sure how she did it while still having the time of her life. Work hard in all you are involved in. Each experience is a learning experience, and if you give it 100% you will learn more than you know what to do with. Thank you Emily Atchison for keeping us running as a department in general. Juliet Remmers is the heart of our senior class, a passion for life, dance, and relationships. Constantly inquiring in everyone's day-to-day lives, she spread her joy through her ability to listen and laugh at every joke. Thank you Juliet Remmers for showing us the importance of being genuinely invested in our peers lives. Last but certainly not least thank you to our faculty for shaping us as people and artists. James Moreno and Michelle Heffner-Hayes, you have pushed us towards our dreams in the real world, and showed us the sky is our limit. Krystyna Hilding for being the motherly figure, always keeping us up to date on the weather and dancing with the stars. Patrick Suzeau and Muriel Cohan for changing us drastically as modern dancers from the beginning, and keeping the fountain of youth just a secret between you too. Once again, Jerel Hilding and Willie Lenoir for keeping us laughing. Knowing that this support system changed me, challenged me, and guarded me throughout my college career. Please expect me to stalk everyone one of you, because I truly cannot imagine my life without you.

We are still kids with big dreams, and we should not lose that children’s faith. Find the element of the art that brought pure joy to your 5 yr old self, ……that is where success lies. It is not about landing one job, or making a certain amount of money. Even though I suppose everyone has already made peace with the money predicament. It is about living out our art, our passion, and letting our childhood self find uninhibited joy in life.

Thank you.