College of Liberal Arts students
The College of Liberal Arts awarded a total of 524 undergraduate degrees this morning.
Melanie Barstad, former president of women’s health for Johnson & Johnson, delivered the commencement address.
Barstad graduated from Auburn in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in English and psychology. Since then, she has completed the senior executive development program at Columbia University.
She serves on the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council and has previously served on the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors.
She was recently awarded the Auburn University Lifetime Achievement Award, the Auburn Alumni Association’s highest honor.
In her address, Barstad shared truths and values she has learned throughout her career.
She said life is rarely neat and warned students they will often be forced to make choices in a fog, maybe not knowing what the end result of their risks will be.
“You have to embrace the fog,” Barstad said. “Don’t be afraid of something that you are not sure you can do.”
At the end of this time, Barstad said she still did not know what she wanted to do with her degree and decided to apply for a sales position at Procter & Gamble.
Barstad did not know if she was qualified for the job. She had never taken a business course, and she knew her degree did not give her a traditional business foundation.
Procter & Gamble believed she was and the company hired her.
“It’s not what your degree is in,” Barstad said. “It’s what you do with
Barstad said although she thought herself unlikely to get the job, she was prepared to accept it.
“Luck is a matter of preparedness meeting opportunity,” Barstad said.
Another of Barstad’s key truths was the idea that character shows when no one is watching. Barstad said there is no limit to what people can do when they don’t care who gets the credit. She believes the best leaders lead from the second-row.
“When much is given, much is required,” Barstad said as her final key truth.
Auburn degrees are a gift, she said, and it is the graduates’ responsibilities to use those gifts to impact the world.
“Do not waste your degree,” she said. “Do not waste your youth, do not waste your life.”
Shortly after Barstad’s speech, graduates received their diplomas and, on Aubie’s cue, threw their caps and freshly turned tassels into the air as alumni.