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Giving graduation advice is tricky in a changing world

Chelsea Beck

It's college graduation season and the young people matriculating school this year have spent more than half their college time in the middle of a pandemic. Commencement speakers are trying to find messages of optimism for these young people entering the working world.

Illinois Wesleyan University commencement speaker Dr. William Farrar is the chief executive officer of the James Cancer Hospital, the third-largest cancer hospital in the nation. Ferrar said as interest rates rise, the pandemic continues, international conflict moves bloodily on, and businesses struggle to redefine themselves, new graduates should keep their heads up and move forward.

"The seniors are going to really have to practice their resilience and know that what they had planned on doing two years from now; the whole market is going to be changing," said Ferrar, a 1971 IWU graduate.

Ferrar said he's optimistic about this year's graduates because they already have adapted many times over the course of the pandemic. There is great uncertainty, too.

"Companies are in the process of changing the complete way that they do business. There are many challenges that are all up in the air and a possible recession that's coming down the road," said Farrar, who spoke at Sunday's IWU commencement.

On the question of whether graduates should play it safe or dare greatly in choosing careers, Ferrar said he's not sure there are any safe options out there.

"The easy way would say, 'Oh, I can't do this and back out.' But if you're going to be successful, you need to take on the challenges. Don't put them off. Address them as soon as you realize that there are challenges," said Farrar.

All graduating college students face barriers, but Farrar said this class has more than most.

"Do what you can seek (to) help. Find mentors. Find people who have had the same challenges and listen to how they face those challenges," said Farrar.

Illinois State University, Eureka and Lincoln College graduations are this coming weekend. It will be Lincoln's last graduation before the college permanently closes.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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