A Commencement Story, or There Are No Small Conversations

It had been a long Sunday and I was leaving the commencement exercises and walking to my car.  I heard a voice call “Dr. Lehfeldt.” The voice belonged to a student I had advised at least five years ago. At the time he was a chemical engineering major, but wasn’t happy and wondered “what one could do” with a History major. We had talked about transferable skills and how he could do just about anything he wanted to with a History BA. I had encouraged him to take his enthusiasm for the study of history and translate it into the kinds of habits of mind and abilities that were desirable to employers–things like critical and creative thinking and cogent and clear oral and written communication.


He had graduated that day at our commencement ceremonies with his History degree and had already started a full-time job with the Cleveland Clinic as an analyst. “You were right,” he said, “and I just wanted to thank you.”

I thanked him for stopping me and letting me know.

And I haven’t stopped smiling since.


1 thought on “A Commencement Story, or There Are No Small Conversations

  1. I used to deplore the multiplication of double majors, thinking that it might prevent student from broader exploration in the liberal arts, but now I’ve changed my mind. More and more among my advisees I see students who are trying to reconcile studying something that really interests them on the one hand and on the other hand their parents’ pressure to major in something “practical.” One recent student had double-majored in Statistics and Spanish and was very happy with both majors. Another told me she had persuaded her parents that Spanish was a practical major, even though she was mostly taking courses in medieval and early modern literature and history.


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