Imagine standing at a podium in the Sullivan Arena, facing a sea of Seawolves and being expected to give an uplifting speech to hundreds of spectators. For most people, this task would be so nerve-wracking that they would run screaming off the stage. But some brave souls volunteer for this position, charged with the task of presenting an inspiring and spirited speech to their fellow graduating students each year. These are the Commencement Speakers, and this year’s chosen speaker is English major Stacie Meisner. Few people know that anyone who applies for the position of Commencement Speaker actually has to have the speech pre-written when they apply. This just shows how dedicated Meisner had to be to win this prestigious position.
Meisner has been an active UAA student during her time here; she has played for the volleyball team, helped as an assistant coach, worked as the editor of UAA’s literary magazine Understory, and helped out with tutoring around campus. People who know her continuously praise her accomplishments and the kindness that she spreads to those around her.
Meisner took some time out of her busy schedule to stop by and talk to The Northern Light about herself and the upcoming big day.
TNL: What are you feeling now that you are so close to graduation?
Meisner: There’s two sides of it, I’m excited to be graduating because it’s a big deal, but at the same time I’m not done with school because I’m starting my Masters Degree in the Fall. But that doesn’t take away at all from the excitement of these weeks leading up to the day and the day itself. I think it’s a big accomplishment and one that should be celebrated by anyone that’s graduating.
TNL: What made you pick and stick with UAA?
Meisner: I transferred from a junior college in Western Nebraska to play volleyball, and finished my senior season of athletics a year before I was done with school, because I had to go to school for a fifth year. So I think it was a combination of things. I knew I’d have the opportunity to help coach the team the next year. I had already transferred once and I didn’t really want to have to do that again because I was really starting to feel like there was a sense of community here and a sense of belonging that I didn’t want to have to start over with at another school. Plus I think the biggest thing is just the people. All of the people I have met through school, and through the athletic team and just outside of UAA as well, there wasn’t a good reason for me to leave. Plus I am in Alaska I think once I leave here I probably won’t come back here to live, so I wanted to take full advantage of it while I could and that meant staying here for longer, for a few extra years.
TNL: What part of being Commencement Speaker appealed to you the most?
Meisner: That’s a tough question. I guess I just wanted to have a bigger part on that day rather than just walking across the stage. Mostly for the reason that I wanted to be able to give back to UAA in some sort of way on that day because coming here did give me so many opportunities. It helped me grow as a person especially being a part of GNAC volleyball champion team. I’m able to get my Master’s degree and be the graduate assistant for the volleyball team.
TNL: How do you deal with nerves when speaking to a large crowd?
Meisner: I’m always nervous before I give presentations and talk in front of people. But it always seems like as soon as I get up there and start talking, I feel pretty comfortable with it. I’ve done a lot of public speaking in high school, like on a speech team and that sort of thing, so it’s something I’ve gotten used to. But if I do get really nervous I guess my strategy is to always relax, take a few deep breaths and maybe try to always find people in the audience that you are familiar with and comfortable with because it grounds you.
TNL: What is your most memorable moment in college?
Meisner: Looking back through pictures on Facebook and stuff, I still get excited and emotional when I see photos from volleyball, especially from the year that we won conference. That was just a really excited three months. That season was just amazing and I couldn’t have asked for better coaches or a better team to share that experience with. So to be on such an amazing team with such great teammates and coaches and then to have that all tied up with a nice championship-ring is something I will never forget.
TNL: What type of career are you aiming towards?
Meisner: I really would like to go sort of like the scholarly and academic route. I want to teach some college level classes but do the academic. I do want to hopefully get into coaching too, my own volleyball team somewhere at some point in time. Volleyball is that thing I will always have a passion for and I will always want to be involved with it.
TNL: Would you rather be a big fish in a little pond little fish in a big pond?
Meisner: I think I’d rather be a little fish in a big pond. I think that the world has so much to offer us that we need to be constantly challenging ourselves and having new experiences. And the only way to grow is from getting yourself into that ‘big pond’ per se and getting out and seeing what’s out there. What’s the fun in staying in a small, secluded area where you are never going to learn or grow?
TNL: If you could give one piece of advice to the world what would it be?
Meisner: The biggest piece of advice that people take for granted is just to get involved in things. It sounds so simple but so many people don’t do it. Whether it’s getting involved in a club or meeting up with a group of people from your class every day to study, or just do whatever. It’s just that having that sense of community in various parts of your life and around campus is what makes college such a great experience and the only way that you can benefit from that is putting yourself out there into things that maybe you normally wouldn’t do.
TNL: Who has inspired you the most?
Meisner: As cliché as it sounds, my parents, hands down. They’ve always worked really hard. My dad farms and he’s always worked really hard and he’s instilled that same kind of determination and drive in me. My mom perhaps one of the kindest people I think I’ve ever known. She cares so much about other people and caring for them, and she’s a nurse. They are great people and I think I owe a lot to them, for supporting me in everything that I’ve done.
TNL: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Meisner: It’s a really special day and I think, for everyone involved and I hope that everyone that is graduating, whether they are walking across the stage or not, that they take a moment to congratulate themselves for what they’ve accomplished. It is a big deal and they should take that time to celebrate.