Student speakers express gratitude for difficult paths and look forward to promising futures
The 2018 convocation for the School of Communications took place on April 27, 2018. Here are some of the highlights of the event.
The convocation began at 2:00 p.m. in the de Jong concert hall and was conducted by Ed Adams, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. Sandra Rogers, International Vice President, served as the university representative.
The first speaker, Nastassja Krupczynski, opened by expressing gratitude for the School of Communications, particularly her instructors Joseph Ogden, Adam Durfee and Robert Walz. Her remarks centered around the idea that up until this point, she and her fellow students had spent nearly their entire lives getting an education, but now their course is uncertain. They ask themselves, “Where do I go from here?”
“Direction and stability are some things we as humans crave,” Krupczynski said, and pointed out that having a lack of direction is often seen as a weakness. However, “I see a lack of direction as a chance for opportunity and growth,” she said, “and we must create that direction for ourselves. We must step back and find joy in the journey.”
Krupczynski’s collegiate journey began with significant confusion as she attempted to find a major that matched her goals and values. She spoke with professors from various disciplines across the university before finally meeting Robert Walz, a professor in the School of Communication, who showed her how the mission of the school aligned with her own passion for digital communication and social media.
As a communications major, Krupczynski was one of the first members of Y-Digital, a student-run PR agency that gives students practical experience working for real brands. “Hard work and passion,” she said, “turned the four-student operation into a successful lab with over 30 students working for 15 local and national brands.”
“I never knew my exact path…but I always knew what I wanted to accomplish. I always made sure to complete the goals I set for myself,” she concluded. “We are not here to do something, we are here to become something. Become something you can enjoy and be proud of.”
Brittney Thomas, who is graduating as an account planner from the advertising program, spoke about her experience working for different brands as part of BYU’s AdLab. “My job,” she explained, “is to organically and authentically connect brands with consumers.”
According to Thomas, “Brands are living, breathing things.” Every brand must create a manifesto to detail the intent of the company and how it plans to live up to that intention. If a brand fails to uphold their manifesto, disaster occurs.
Thomas compared a Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner ending a “Black Lives Matter” protest with cans of soda to a Jeep ad showcasing the vehicle’s off-road ability. The Pepsi ad violated the brand’s manifesto by making an unsubstantiated claim about the company’s ability to solve a problem, while the Jeep ad clearly depicted the company’s capability.
Likewise, Thomas said, all people spend their lives developing their own personal manifesto. She asked the audience to consider, “What do you stand for? Is the manifesto you have been developing the one you want to be?”
Thomas suffered an accident in high school that caused her to question her manifesto and her entire identity. She was rear-ended by someone who was texting and driving, and lost 70% of her lower mandible. The damage to her jaw forced her to step down from her position on the debate team, a role that she believed defined her. As her jaw deteriorated and she gave up a large part of her life, she found that she began defining herself by her injury.
“I needed to restart and rediscover who I am,” she said. “My jaw continues to deteriorate, my face shape has changed three times, and I live with chronic pain, but that is not what defines me. Curiosity defines me. Passion defines me. Kindness defines me.”
Thomas credits her communications major and work with the AdLab in helping her change her frame of mind and reset her life. “It took me losing myself entirely to reset and rediscover who I am meant to be,” she said.
Piano performance major Hyrum Arneson played Transcendental Etude no. 11, Harmonies du Soir by Franz Liszt. He was followed by Ellen Huish, a communications major with a public relations emphasis.
Huish talked about “Communicating Across Generations,” opening with a story about her great-grandfather attending BYU in 1914. Despite having a successful educational experience and serving in WWI, late in his life he felt as though he had not left any real mark on the world.
Huish, a fourth-generation BYU student on her father’s side and a third-generation BYU student on her mother’s side, said that although her ancestor felt like he hadn’t accomplished much, he and paved the way for her to attend the university. However, Huish’s family legacy didn’t protect her from going through serious challenges in college, including realizing her lifelong dream of serving a mission, only to come home after two months in the field.
“I came to BYU expecting my path to be a certain way, only to be pulled off course time and time and time again,” she said.
She encouraged her fellow students to fulfill their role as “storytellers” by not shying away from the messiness of reality. Instead of telling “the sanitized stories we think we should be telling,” communications professionals should tell “the honest and genuine stories that truly matter,” even if those stories discuss painful topics like failure and loss. Those stories, she said, allow the audience to have more appreciation for the stories of earned victories and unparalleled joys.
Huish closed her remarks by quoting the musical “Hamilton”: “There are moments that the words don’t reach.” This was one of those moments, she said.
“While words fail to adequately express how I feel right now, I hope it is sufficient for me to say, thank you,” she concluded.
The ceremony ended with the presentation of the graduates.