Winter commencement: ‘Enjoy this moment’

Commencement is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. NDSU students spend years learning, studying, connecting with classmates and working toward their degree, which creates and full, rich and unique experience.

We asked some of our students to write a letter to their freshman selves to reflect on their NDSU experience. Each illustrates the personal growth, sense of accomplishment and pride many of our students feel as they meet the goal of earning an NDSU degree.

NDSU’s winter commencement ceremony is scheduled for Friday, December 17 at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

2 p.m. - College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Engineering; College of Human Sciences and Education; and College of Interdisciplinary Studies.

5 p.m. - College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources; College of Business; College of Health Professions; and College of Science and Mathematics.




MAJOR: Nursing
HOMETOWN: Bismarck, North Dakota

Dear Emily,

I need to tell you a few things, and really try to listen when I do.

The phrase, “you meet your best friends in college,” doesn’t mean that you will meet them the very first day.

Get out of that dorm room and go do something you enjoy. I promise the homework will still be there tomorrow.

There are students on this campus who do not shudder at the thought of math. Find them.

There is a reason you have unlimited access to both the dinning center and the gym.

And this last one is important.

It is okay to change your mind.

Your life is going to look very different four years from now. Different in the sense that things will finally feel like they’re making sense and you will be happy with the choices you’ve made along the way.

It’s easy for me to tell you this now, but the process of learning who you are will occur slowly. It will come in waves. There will be highs and lows. There is going to be stress, frustration, sadness and failure. But it will be a lot of fun, too. You need to hold on to the fact that, in the end, the good will outweigh the bad. That I can promise you.

You will have so many opportunities and new experiences. All I ask is that you don’t wait to get comfortable before getting involved. Time goes too fast. I know that sounds cliché, but it has never felt more real than it does right now. When the day comes that you have the opportunity to compete in the Wii Olympics, don’t hold back. You just might be destined for a medal after all, podium or not.

You will meet people who you feel as though you have known all your life. The kind of people who make the discovery of a hidden campus bathroom memorable. The kind of people who will stand beside you on the good days and behind you on the days when you need a little extra help. So, talk to everyone. Regardless of their age or major. Talk to them. Learn from them. And grow with them.

You will learn how to read better, write better and become an all-around better student. You also will learn that there is still so much learning left to do. You will discover the difference between leading with your voice and leading in a way that allows others to find theirs. You will develop a refined set of core values that will shape your heart into that of a nurse, opening a completely new avenue to your future self. Because even if you thought otherwise, that’s what you were always meant to be. And believe it or not, that truth is about to become reality.

So, sit back, relax, take a breath and enjoy these moments.


Someone you are proud to be




MAJORS: Music, mathematics
HOMETOWN: Edmore, North Dakota

Dear Lauren,

You made it. At the beginning it’ll feel like this day keeps moving further away, but now it seems like I’m sprinting to the end.

You will have some of the best experiences of your life at NDSU. You’ll finally get to Europe, not once, but twice, because of your love for band. Ireland is as gorgeous as the photos and you’ll find a new dream place to live in a little village outside of Prague. You’ll get to run through the streets of Vienna while it rains and you’ll get to perform in one of the most gorgeous and prestigious halls as part of the first American group to perform in the Spanish Hall of the Prague Castle. You won’t want to come back and it will just fuel your wanderlust even more.

In the United States, you’ll get to perform on the fields of US Bank Stadium and Target Field. You even get to stand right in front of the Twins dugout. You’ll get to march in the Minnesota State Fair and travel to Frisco, Texas, for three national championships. All of this happens because you joined the marching band.

And you will meet one of your best friends on your very first day of band camp. You’ll even get to attend her wedding.

You will eventually figure out where your passions lie and what you want to do with your life. It’s okay to take your time on this. The journey is the most important part to self-discovery. Always listen to your heart. You’ll realize over and over that you are the only one who can make the life-changing decisions. And that’s how it should be. The person those decisions affect the most is you. That said, make sure you are trying to eat healthy and get enough sleep. You won’t achieve greatness on an empty stomach.

One more thing: please take care of your mental health. There will be times where it seems like you’ve hit rock bottom and the only option is to grab a pickaxe and keep digging. I want you to know that is untrue. Don’t fight going to counseling so much. It’s okay to admit that you need help from others. They’ll offer you a rope to climb out of the hole and that’s why NDSU has a counseling center. You are not the only one who feels like this and you’ll find comfort in finding people who understand what you’re going through. Mental illnesses do not and should not control your life. They won’t go away, but you can learn how to manage and coexist with them.

You are resilient and I am so proud of how far you’ve come. I can’t wait to see how much further you can go.




MAJOR: Civil engineering
HOMETOWN: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Dear Freshman Daria,

It is time to say goodbye to the only home you have ever known in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to embark on your new journey at North Dakota State University.

As you say goodbye, there will be excitement along with fear of the unknown and of what the next few years will bring. If only you knew what the next four and half years would entail, you would zip up that last suitcase with a little more confidence.

The car drive from Sioux Falls to Fargo would not have seemed so daunting on move-in day and the couple of hours after mom and dad pulled out of the Memorial Union parking lot would not have seemed so anxious.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be a lot of challenges along the way. But don’t let them drag you down. You will question what you want to get out of your career and what your future is going to look like. This questioning is a good thing. It will allow your curiosity to overcome your fear and switch your major to civil engineering.

You will again question your decision multiple times when classes get tough, a project goes wrong or an exam turns out unsuccessful. Through thick and thin, though, you will work hard and see your learning come to life during internships. In the end, you will know you made the right choice about civil engineering. Not because you knew everything right away, but because you worked hard to understand and allowed yourself to believe you could do it.

North Dakota State University is going to slowly turn into your home away from home. The saying goes, “the days may seem long, but the years fly by.” So, soak up all the knowledge you can in the classroom but also remember to enjoy coffee with your friends, cheer as loud as you can at Bison games, never pass up a Target trip with the girls, get competitive at game night, try new things, slow down so you are able to take it all in and take life as it comes.

It won’t all happen overnight, but eventually you are going to meet lifelong friends and make memories that will stick with you forever. A lot is going to happen over the next few years and a lot of change will occur within you. That is what you’re here for – to live, learn and grow as a person. Take the risk and follow your heart because if I know anything, it is that you can always accomplish what you set your mind to.


Your Future Self



MAJOR: Emergency management
MINORS: Political science, sociology
HOMETOWN: Plainview, Minnesota

Dear Hope,

Prepare yourself for some of the best years and hardest moments of your life. You’ll meet some of your best friends, who will grow with you over the next few years. You will spend late nights, both having fun and in the library, being kept awake solely by the sheer terror of your upcoming exam and a little caffeine. You’ll meet professors who will make you laugh and cry. But just try to remember it’s all out of love. Their guidance and advice will help you, not only in your academics, but also for the rest of your life. But most importantly, you’ll meet the person you’re about to become.

You are going to face challenges that you can’t even imagine. You’re going to miss home, friends, family, familiar faces and, most importantly, your mom’s cooking. You’ll break down crying on your way home from your first day at a job and question all your life decisions. You’re going to lose friends, fail some tests and be really cold. But remember that you’re going to be OK.

You’ll make friends that become your second family. They’ll be there for you when you need them and you’ll be there for them when they need you. They’re going to teach you many things, including how to be a good friend in this crazy adventure you’re about to begin.

Your professors are going to push you, challenge you and maybe sometimes make you question your mental sanity. They’ll also give you amazing opportunities and inevitably make you a stronger person.

So here we go, I think you should know a few things.

Explore Fargo. There are so many adventures to be had here. You just need to look a little bit harder to find them.

Remember that, like you, other students also are going through some of their hardest moments. So have grace with them and have grace with yourself.

Remember to slow down and take a breath every once in a while. Even with the challenges, these next few years are going to be some of the best years of your life. Time will fly.

Finally, remember that above all else you are worthy of love and happiness.

Regardless of the good and the bad ahead of you, just try. Whatever it is, give it everything you have. If it doesn’t work out, so what? You’re going to be happy at the end of these next few years when you look back and know that, even if you failed, it’s better than wondering what could have been.

I am so proud of you and the challenges you’re going to overcome, victories you’ll celebrate and memories you’ll laugh about when you look back. I am so proud of who you have become and for what is ahead of you.


Hope xoxo




MAJOR: Crop and weed science
HOMETOWN: Lexington, Kentucky

Dear Morgan,

Nothing is going to go as you plan. Nothing will be perfect. When you read this, you haven’t even been to North Dakota. Now you’re a few moments away from your graduation ceremony at North Dakota State University. You decided to follow your dream of studying agronomy and moving away from your hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.

I know it sounds crazy, but you will accomplish so much. For starters, you will transfer to NDSU in the middle of a spring semester blizzard.

Let’s just say things were off to an icy start.

But you didn’t let that keep you from joining every club and organization you could find during the next three years at NDSU. You will even take on a research position in the plant pathology department. Your research program in wheat rust will allow you to work in a greenhouse surrounded by crops from North Dakota and the region. The hands-on experience will open the door to work with top plant breeders and inspire you to apply for graduate school.

From working on campus, interning in Africa, working on campus research, holding club leadership positions to so much more, you will stay very busy. But it gets better. Turns out, you’ll even find someone at NDSU to spend the rest of your life with. And those friends from first semester? Well, they’re your bridesmaids now.

This is just the beginning. Along with your last name, you’ll change your address and follow your dreams of graduate school on the West Coast. You will not slow down. But don’t worry, there’s time for that soon.

For now, keep chasing your dream. You’re so close.

With love,

Older you