Vicky Vaughn
Monday, December 17, 2018

The following commencement address was given by our Tippie student speaker, Victoria Vaughn, at our December 2018 commencement ceremony at Hancher. 

To my fellow graduates, esteemed faculty, family, and friends: Welcome to the day we have all been looking forward to for the past 48 months, or in my case as a super-super-super senior, 76 months. It has certainly been a long, uncertain road. But pause for a moment to take it in—because many people don’t have the privilege to see this day. We are the few and fortunate.

In writing this speech, I struggled to find what would be most meaningful. I wanted to do what others had done before me— impart knowledge and inspire my fellow graduates. I even gave thought to the possibility that I could crack a few jokes, but soon realized that I’m not that funny. Instead, I decided to share how Tippie has provided me—and actually really most of us—with a second family. In order to tell that story, I have to take you back to the beginning of my college journey.

I’m an Iowa City native, which means the University of Iowa was part of my life since the day I was born. I’ve been witness to countless homecoming parades, been stuck in game day traffic, and attended University sponsored events.

So when I was deciding on college, one of my goals was to avoid going to the University of Iowa. I knew Iowa was a good school, but it wasn’t special or unique for me. I wanted something different—I wanted to get out of town. However, my parents weren’t equipped to help me pay for college. My only hope was a scholarship.

Luther College answered that need, awarding me with generous scholarships. But the experience there wasn’t what I expected—I often felt lonely, disconnected, and bogged down by financial stress. It wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t stay. I applied to Iowa as a transfer student, paying the application fee with the little money I had.

I know what you must be thinking—why return to a community I was so desperate to leave? The simple answer: it made financial sense. But part of me also knew that it was a safe, familiar choice—making it an easy place to start over. So I applied. And with that, the path that led me to this day, on this stage, was set in motion.

Like many of my classmates, my journey to and through Tippie College of Business has been joyful, surprising, and at times, excruciating. For one, I didn’t start at Iowa with the expectation that I was going to business school. I loved writing and had my sights set on Journalism.

Then, I saw Nancy Abram give a marketing lecture. Ask any Tippie student about her, and they will say she’s compelling and inspiring to listen to. Her lecture sparked my interest in business. And despite the fact that I was already playing catch-up as a transfer student and loathed the idea of doing more math—I said to myself “Eh, what’s one more degree?”

I make it sound as if it were a simple decision, but the reality is that it was a serious undertaking for me. Sure, on paper and in person, I am an accomplished student. Like many of my classmates, I made the grades and found a way to be a part of student organizations like Women in Business. And if you were to ask people what I am like, they would say I’m bubbly, driven, and sing a little too much. But even the most accomplished students suffer through hardship, which can hinder the realization of a goal.

I’ve never advertised how hard it was for me to stay at Tippie, as I am sure is true for some of the graduates who sit on this stage today. Looking at me, you would never know that I had no money during my first semester at Iowa. I was on food stamps and living paycheck to paycheck. You would never realize I worked three jobs and was enrolled in school full time. I used to ride a bike to campus, even in winter, until it was stolen. You would never know that sometimes the only meal I ate was breakfast. You would never know that I thought this day would never come.

It would be easy for me to say I did it on my own—but that wouldn’t be the whole story. There were people who put a roof over my head when I didn’t have one. There were friends who gave me rides to and from school without stipulating conditions of repayment. And then there was Tippie.

I was supported since the day I walked in. Here, faculty and staff go above and beyond to make students feel cared for. For example, if you were lucky enough to take Marketing Management with Tom Walsh, he made sure to bring breakfast bars for everyone to each class. Also, have any of my fellow graduates noticed that despite how many times our academic advisor changed, the next one always knew every detail of every meeting we ever had about our academic goals?

While these actions may not seem extraordinary, they are the moments that make Tippie impactful. Any college can educate, advise, and provide social outlets. But it takes a great one to make a student feel like they are part of a family.

Here, hallways are decorated with pictures of Tippie graduates and their endeavors. Here, faculty know if you have siblings or come from a small town. Here, the sense of family propels students into success. And it’s because of the Tippie family that I walk away with not one, but two degrees today.

Like my classmates, I am saddened my time here has ended. Tippie has been like a second home—a place to safely explore identities and dreams. And as we all know, leaving any home is difficult.

Part of that difficulty is dealing with change, in ourselves and in our priorities. But the amazing thing about college is that it allows us to grow and measure that growth on an individual level—it’s a chance to evaluate who you were, who you are, and who you can someday be.

So let’s embrace the next journey and the challenges that may follow, even if that means changing course as I did so many months ago. And let us never forget that if we’re feeling a little lost, we can always come back home.

Congratulations Tippie graduates and good luck.

Victoria Vaughn is from Iowa City, Iowa and graduated with a BBA in Marketing Management and a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication. During her time at Tippie, Victoria was part of organizations like Women in Business and Fashion Marketing, wrote for The Daily Iowan, and assisted on several marketing campaigns across campus. In her free time, she was active in the arts, performing in spaces such as The Englert and Riverside Theatre. After graduation, Victoria will continue working for Not Suspicious Media, creating podcasts and serving as the head of marketing.