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August 15, 2009

Cage urges students to A-D-A-P-T during ULM’s 2009 Summer Commencement

The University of Louisiana at Monroe held its 2009 Summer Commencement on Saturday, Aug. 15, as ULM President James E. Cofer Sr. conferred degrees to 173 ceremony participants.

Seven students graduated with Latin honors and the summer’s top graduate was Paul Orr, a criminal justice major. ULM awarded a total of 217 degrees to 215 students at summer’s end.

Dr. Bob N. Cage, professor and coordinator of ULM’s education doctoral program, served as summer commencement keynote speaker.

Cage told the students he had participated 107 times over a 41-year period in university graduations, and that the students are now a part of history, not only in their own right, but also in the history of ULM.

Quoting the statistics of those who do not complete a minimum high school education, Cage said, “The very fact that you are here today to receive a diploma makes you a member of an elite group.”

Cage also touched on the growing percentage of non-traditional students deciding to return to school after attending college for a year or two in their younger years.

“The average length of time to complete a baccalaureate degree today is six years. I applaud you non-traditional students for your perseverance,” he said.

Cage said his own educational destination took a long and circuitous route, joking that he contemplated such diverse careers as singing cowboy, baseball player and corporate salesman.

Cage added that he developed an interest in Galileo – the Italian physicist, astronomer and mathematician – during a high school science class, which was later manifested when he became a high school mathematics teacher himself in Paton, Iowa, in the early 1960s.

That early teaching job provided one of Cage’s earliest mentoring roles and one of his longest-running friendships with a student: Retired Colonel and NASA Astronaut Loren James Shriver. Shriver and his wife drove over from Houston to be with Cage for the commencement.

Following the audience’s applause for Shriver, Cage returned to the lessons that Galileo provides to today’s graduates, using the acronym A-D-A-P-T.

“The first lesson is A – Ambition. Galileo was committed to life-long learning,” said Cage. “Even though Galileo did not invent the telescope, it was through his ambition to modify and improve the device that it became known and used throughout the centuries. Perhaps one of you will create the next mode of communicating so that ‘texting’ and ‘twittering’ will be old hat in a year or two.”

Cage said the D stood for dedication, meaning that the graduates must dedicate themselves to achieving the goals they have set, just as Galileo dedicated himself to studying the universe, finding planets and defining the law of gravity.

“Today’s computers calculate; they do not think or reason. Information systems are hard and deterministic, not soft and adaptive,” said Cage. “With your commitment, your dedication to learning and excellence, you have the opportunity to change all that in the next half century.”

The second A in the A-D-A-P-T acronym is for analysis, Cage told the students.

“You learn from mistakes. You analyze the process, the outcome; you find how to improve your product, your service, yourself,” he said. “Galileo’s first telescope only magnified four times. He viewed Venus 2.5 light minutes away from Earth. The Hubble Telescope takes digital pictures of the universe 13-billion light years away.”

Cage said the next step in the A-D-A-P-T model is to plan.

“What is your plan? Can you cope with this economy? Can you scale back and live within your budget? Can you contribute to society by helping others, by thinking Green?” Cage asked the students.

Cage pointed to the last step in the A-D-A-P-T model, which is tenacity.

“There is no better time than during a recession to prove to others, and to yourself, that you can defy the odds and significantly contribute to your community, your family and even to your alma mater,” he said.

Cage summarized by saying that the fittest are those endowed with the knowledge and the qualifications for adaptation.

“Can you adapt? It takes ambition, dedication, the ability to analyze, a plan that is flexible and the tenacity to hang on when things do not go as planned,” he said.

Cage earned his Masters of Science from Drake University in Des Moines and his bachelor’s degree from Central College in Pella, Iowa. He is the co-author of a proposal that created the Louisiana Education Consortium. There have been over 85 education doctoral graduates of that program since 1997, and many are now superintendents, principals, supervisors, and teachers in schools across Louisiana. Thirty are teaching or holding administrative positions in colleges and universities in five regional states.

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