Olivia Ebersole ’19 spent hours of her college life in the Convocation Center arena, practicing and performing as a feature twirler.

Walking across the stage to receive her degree was brief by comparison, but the joy of that achievement will last.

“My Cal U experience is one I will never forget,” says Ebersole, who took her bachelor’s degree in communication studies straight to Florida, where she’s participating in the Disney College Program.

She joined more than 1,000 students for Cal U’s winter Commencement ceremonies, which included the second class to graduate from the Doctor of Health Science and Exercise Leadership program.

Yukiko Suzuki ’19 returned from Japan to accept the master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling that she’d completed in August.

“I wanted to come back,” she says. “I had a wonderful on-campus experience, and it’s great to see all my classmates!”

Col. Lance D. Oskey ’93, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Cadet Command, spoke at both the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies.

“What you have accomplished today is not your destination but the first step in your journey,” said Oskey, who began his military career as an ROTC cadet and a Distinguished Military Graduate at Cal U.

“You should know by now that education is the superpower that allows you to think critically, understand complex problems and create solutions, so you can help your team, your profession and your community.”

After greeting the soon-to-be graduates, University President Geraldine M. Jones accepted a check for more than $15,000 contributed by graduating seniors and their families to provide scholarships for future students.

She led a round of applause for military veterans and acknowledged graduates Taylor Shiann Phillips and Alexander James Murphy for earning bachelor’s degrees, and Trudi Anneke Brinkmann for earning her associate degree, all with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

“I am very proud of each of you for your hard work and the sacrifices you have made to reach this point,” President Jones told the Class of 2019. “I know that you will continue to work hard as you enter this new chapter of your life.

“May you find happiness and satisfaction in the days and years ahead

Meet Col. Lance Oskey

Q: You told our graduates that education is their “superpower.” How has it been yours?
A: I’ve had the good fortune to pair my education with many and varied real-life experiences that allowed me to further my leadership journey. The formula ‘Education + Experience’ is the best way to (find out) if the various theories you’ve been taught actually hold up in the real world.

Q: Your nearly 30-year military career has been a steady climb of increased leadership duties. How has it shaped you?
A: Because I’ve been in uniform since the age of 17, the military has shaped almost every component of my life. The military has provided me a platform to grow and learn as a person, to develop leadership skills, and to play a small part in shaping world history through three combat deployments.

Q: What’s your best piece of leadership advice?
A: Always seek to build effective professional relationships – the currency on which trust is built. This trust will be critical when no-fail missions are assigned, or when lives depend on mission success. Relationships with subordinates are critical to building effective teams. … Relationships with your superiors are important as orders are often given in haste, and understanding the implied intent of your superior is just as important as understanding the assigned mission.

Q: What’s your best advice to someone recently out of college who wants to grow in their career?
A: Always be willing to learn – be “coachable” to others in your profession who know more than you. If young leaders are “coachable,” without giving up their formal authority, then members of their team will invest in their development and success. Nobody likes new college graduates who thinks they know everything and don’t need help from other members of the team.

Q: What’s your favorite book? Favorite movie?
A: I’m re-reading [All the Light We Cannot See] (by Anthony Doerr) – truly great writing and storytelling. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is another one of my favorite books. The HBO mini-series [Band of Brothers] is the story of an infantry company in World War II, based on the Stephen E. Ambrose book. It’s a great story of leadership and resilience from the Greatest Generation. I was privileged to serve as the deputy brigade commander of the same regiment in combat in Afghanistan in 2014.