If students who received their diplomas in Des Moines Area Community College commencement Monday evening at the Carroll High School gym are itching for success, there's apparently good reason for that.
Graduation featured speaker John Pea, who's taught speech communication and English at Carroll DMACC since the fall of 2008, focused on "Imagining the Creative Itch."
For him, Pea said, his wife, Kim Fara, a DMACC math and science instructor, has been his greatest itch.
"By just being who she is in the world, she challenges me to be the best John Pea I can be," he said. "In short, she causes me to itch. She encourages me to think anew, to love anew, to imagine anew, to create anew and to live anew."
For graduates to make their world a better place, Pea said, they must have itch and be willing to critique, imagine and create.
Pea said the value of critiquing, imagining and creating were exemplified in a recent CBS "Sunday Morning" story on an 89-year-old World War II veteran, Ed Bray, of Cookson, Okla., who'd gone through life illiterate. He couldn't even read the words on the many medals he'd received while serving for his country. He was at Normandy on D-Day. Bray, who in his career held a civilian job at an Air Force Base refueling planes, relied on the help of his wife throughout their marriage. However, she died in 2009. Bray had covered up his illiteracy for 80 years.
After his wife died, Bray connected with a college and reading education teacher who helped him create a new world. Bray began with flash cards and progressed to books.
Now, the CBS story said, whenever Bray finishes a book he hunches over in quiet tears, deeply moved at what he has accomplished for himself.
"Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" Pea said. "Ed Bray had an itch, a critique, something he wanted to change about himself. For his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. Ed Bray, at 89, imagines a whole new world for himself, and he finds the means, the help he needs to create that better world.
"Critique, imagine and create."
Pea adds, "Graduates, did you not critique your life and desire a change? Imagine the possibilities of what you could do both here at DMACC, and after today, in the world out there, whether in a new job or in further education? Have you not planted the seeds here for creating a whole new world for yourself and for those you love? Begin a new life today, a life full of the possibilities of continuing to critique, imagine and create?"
But life isn't always about critiquing, imagining and creating, Pea concluded.
Take time to celebrate, he said.
"And this is one of those times," he added. "Congratulations and thanks to all of you for making the world just a little better."
Pea said Bray offered the best final words: "Get in there and learn, baby." It's never too late.
Responding to email questions this morning on study and career trends, DMACC academic adviser JoAnn Morlan said the campus' students are surveyed one year after graduation to see how many are employed, transferred for a higher degree, are employed in the field they studied, unemployed and average starting salary. Those response generate a placement report DMACC advisers use when talking to students about fields of study.
Nearly 60 students received diplomas Monday.
Morlan said, "Business and accounting appear to be two areas that continue to be of interest to students, although this past year, we've worked with a number of students seeking the human services degree. Unfortunately, this is a program where they will eventually have to travel to Ankeny to complete, but they are able to take at least a year's worth of classes in Carroll and online for it. We are seeing a bit less interest in office programs, unless for a specific field. We had a student graduate in medical office specialist this time and have several others coming up next year. This too is a program that requires students to take online classes and some in Ankeny.
"Medical fields and accounting are some of the top employers right now, looking at district numbers. Upcoming changes in the field of nursing will demand some changes in DMACC's nursing program down the road, but that will only make our nurses better qualified."