This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to return to Dakota State University, my alma mater, in a role I never imagined when I graduated there sixteen years ago. Back then, I stood on the commencement stage as a hopeful young graduate, filled with dreams and anticipation for the future. This year, I was deeply honored to stand on that same stage again, not just as an alumnus but as the commencement speaker for this year’s graduation ceremony.

The university made the event even more memorable by awarding me an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in recognition of my contributions to the university and the greater Sioux Falls area.

Enter your email address below to receive a steady stream of tricks, tips and ideas to help you build a better and more profitable business.

This honor is not just mine but a testament to the mentors and educators at Dakota State University who have shaped my journey.

First, I owe thanks to President Griffiths, whose efforts have significantly strengthened the foundation of DSU. I also want to thank several professors who personally invested in my growth during my time as a student: Dr. Tom Halverson, Dr. Josh Pauli, Dr. Stephen Krebsbach, and the late Dr. Wayne Pauli and Dr. Steve Graham.

These remarkable educators, part of what was then the College of Business and Information Systems, dedicated countless hours beyond what was expected, connecting me with job opportunities and enriching learning experiences that broadened my horizons.

Their unwavering belief in my potential allowed me to think differently, achieve more, and truly be more. Reflecting on all of this is what led me to the basis of my speech for the students.  I shared lessons and personal stories to guide the new graduates as they begin their journeys after college. I talked about the importance of sticking with your passions and how real success often needs commitment that lasts decades, not just a few years.

Here are some key points from my commencement speech:

Sticking with It in Your Career
I opened up about my own path with MarketBeat, highlighting how my early setbacks in digital advertising eventually led to greater successes. This was to show that focusing on your chosen field, even when things don’t go as planned initially, can lead to big wins.

Making Your Own Choices
Today, we all have endless options in front of us. I urged the graduates to make life choices that truly reflect their own desires and goals. Whether it’s choosing where to live, starting a career, or deciding who to spend their life with, the power to shape their future is in their own hands.

The Importance of Mentorship
Reflecting on the support I received from DSU professors, I encouraged the graduates to look for mentors who can offer advice and help open doors in their industries.

As the graduates got ready to walk across the stage, I reminded them that graduation isn’t just the end of their college days but the start of a new chapter where they can create a meaningful and impactful life.

If you want to listen to my commencement speech, I’ve included it above. My speech begins at 17:23.