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Boise State president’s advice for the Class of 2022: ‘I wish I had taken bigger risks earlier.’

Boise State University's Spring Commencement is set for Saturday, May 7.
Boise State University
Boise State University's Spring Commencement is set for Saturday, May 7.

With soon-to-be graduates in the Class of 2022, there’s an abundance of trepidation (and a healthy amount of fear). But some grads should breathe a bit easier, at least if they review the latest data from the Federal Reserve.

Simply put, the extra wealth created in the U.S. during the pandemic flowed overwhelmingly to households headed by a college graduate.

“It showed that people with college degrees captured more than eight times of the new wealth than those who didn’t have a degree,” said Boise State President Dr. Marlene Tromp, quoting analysis from Bloomberg.

With a little more than a week before Spring Commencement, when Boise State University awards degrees to its largest-ever class, Tromp visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice and shares a bit of unexpected advice that she’s been sharing with the Class of 2022.

“They will join, believe it or not, more than 100,000 living alumni.”

.Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Dr. Marlene Tromp is here… president of Boise State University. Commencement….my goodness…Spring commencement is scheduled for… how is this possible? May 7th… a big day for students and families. Dr. Trump, good morning.

DR. MARLENE TROMP: Good morning. I'm so delighted to be here.

PRENTICE: I can't help but think that these ceremonies this year - considering what this graduating class has endured in the past couple of years - I have to assume this will be particularly emotional.

TROMP: I really think so, too. We are graduating our largest class ever. And the incredible resilience and flexibility of these students… I think every day of how profoundly creative they will be in their careers going forward, because they've had to navigate challenges unlike those that have been faced by any students before them. And I think we're going to continue to see both the challenges that the pandemic has produced and all the upheaval that we've seen. I think we'll continue to see those challenges in the coming years with our future students. But our students who came into campus this year got to experience a much more typical freshman year, even though we were still managing the pandemic. We're so excited to see these students who've worked so hard and faced so many challenges get a chance to have that culminating peak moment. And they will join, believe it or not, George, more than 100,000 living alumni.

PRENTICE: There's a milestone. Amazing. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because goodness knows we talk about change every spring. But this particular graduating class - maybe more than any generation in quite some time - have an opportunity to change paradigms on the things that matter: economics, our culture, our civics.

TROMP: Yes. And the students have had an opportunity to think about how much it has forced them to think about the future and about the way that that nation's and local governments and community groups and businesses have to plan for problems and the ways in which they saw that planning, either well executed or stumbling, executed, that they saw the way people had to pick up when they did stumble and respond to those challenges. So these students, I think, who are walking away with these degrees and of course, they span the age groups. It's not just traditional students. We have many people who return to get their degrees at Boise State. Those students are going to enter the workforce with a kind of profound sense of why we plan and how they should think about the future in each moment and how the choices that you make now impact, you know, the outcomes that you have, as well as the ways in which resiliency is vital to well-being.

PRENTICE: Resiliency. Wow. It's a tool right in their toolbox. But can you talk to me about some of the conversations that you've had with these men and women… like you said of all ages? I'm guessing that there is some trepidation… certainly some fear. There's always that with change… and this crossroads that they're facing.

TROMP: When I was in college, there was a small group of us that used to talk about this regularly. But what I hear our students talk about all the time is they want to make the world a better place. They want to use their talents and their gifts to do things that make a difference in the world. And that could be that they want to be a part of wildlife management in the state. That could be that they want to be a biologist for working for our park service or they want to be a part of a thriving business community in Idaho or their social worker getting ready to go out and serve people who are who have needs in our community. So there's all this desire to contribute to making a better world, and I think that's distinctive for the younger generations of students. But I think many people who come back to get their education, so folks who have gotten some credits, studied and then not completed a degree when they make a choice to come back to college, they're choosing to make their life better, their family's lives better, and they're often choosing to give their gifts to the world.

In fact, the reason a lot of people come back, we tend to think it's always economic and certainly there are economic drivers. In fact, Bloomberg just came out with a study that showed that people with college degrees captured more than eight times of the new wealth generated during the pandemic than those who didn't. Just dramatic difference in how people fare during the pandemic. So it's certainly that economic security is something that people seek. But people who are doing working in jobs where they don't feel like they're giving of themselves and they're working with a purpose and their talents are being utilized that can be very deadening. And so many people come back because they want to be able to give back. So it's, of course, true of our traditional age students who generationally are very focused on these issues. But it's also very true of our older students who come back to complete degrees or to start ones later in life because they want their talents to be a part of making a difference in the world.

PRENTICE: Can you think of a piece of advice that you received years ago that has served you well and that you might share with someone else?

TROMP: You know, I think there are two things… I just spoke to a student organization in our College of Business and Economics the other night, and they asked me, “What's the most important thing you would tell us? “And I said, “I wish I would have taken bigger risks to do the things I really cared about earlier in my life.” And they were a little surprised to hear that. I think they expected me to tell them, “Be very cautious… measure every step.” It's not that I think that people shouldn't be financially responsible and personally responsible. Of course I do. But I think often we're so busy following some set pattern we think we should follow in our in our minds that we don't seize the opportunities that are before us and take those experiences and really try to grow. And I think often it's because we fear failure, but if we truly believe that, we can learn even when we fail and I hope that's a part of what college teaches people, because we always we humans are always going to make missteps or there's going to be information we don't have. If we can grow in those moments, then that risk is worth taking. And I think we have much more meaningful and rich lives if we're doing things that really matter to us. And so I really encourage students to take risks, take on what matters and to try to continue learning and growing their whole lives.

PRENTICE: May 7th…, plenty of smiles…probably a few tears, yes. And you'll have the best seat in the house. She is Dr. Marlene Trump, president of Boise State University. Thank you and congratulations for another school year. And it's on to the next.

TROMP: My favorite day of the year is coming and I'm so delighted. George, thank you so much for this opportunity.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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