Seek Fresh Approaches, Take Risks,’ Moss Tells USAO Graduates

Creative Oklahoma’s Phil Moss addressed a crowd of 850-plus graduates, friends and family on Friday night at the USAO fall commencement. He challenged grads to fearlessly embrace the future and their capacity to be creative in it.

Seek Fresh Approaches, Take Risks,’ Moss Tells USAO Graduates



CHICKASHA -- Facing a challenging world ahead, college graduates need to “seek fresh approaches, learn to take risks, and be open to innovation,” said the new leader of Creative Oklahoma, Dr. Phil Moss, when he addressed 84 graduates and their families on Friday night at the University of Science and Arts.

New graduates welcomed an audience of more than 850 for the fall commencement, which was televised locally.

Moss challenged the grads to innovate, avoid isolation and never fear failure. Their degrees from USAO may have given them a “head start,” he said, in facing a world of “interconnectivity.”

“I am pleased to be here to recognize the unique history and heritage of this institution, its long impact on the lives of those who’ve attended here, and the unique impact its programs graduates have had on the state and beyond,” Moss said.

“I hope you graduates -- and those who are here to encourage and support them -- understand and appreciate the special nature of this campus and its mission,” Moss continued. “The particular interdisciplinary liberal arts experience you find here is not found anywhere else in the state. It has, I believe, given you a preparation for life and work that will prove to be invaluable as you face a future that will be marked by unprecedented change, new complex technologies, demographic shifts and a requirement for lifelong learning.

“While all institutions of higher learning have among their purposes to prepare their students for productive lives and careers, I believe that USAO provides that preparation in an exceptional way. This approach, which features an attention to interdisciplinary thinking and study, provides a way of problem solving and creative expression that I think is essential in a global, knowledge-based economy.”

In the middle of Oklahoma’s yearlong centennial celebrations, Moss urged graduates to look forward.

“While we’re all very proud of our past and the incredible accomplishments of the pioneers associated with the first hundred years, few people think that the strategies and solutions that worked in 1907 or 1957 or event 1997 will suffice in the new century,” he explained.

“We simply must begin to promote, foster and encourage our citizens wherever they are, and in whatever fields they endeavor, to be more imaginative, innovative, entrepreneurial and creative. This must be expressed not just in our poems and songs and sculptures but in our government agencies, schools, community organizations and institutions. We want Oklahoma to be The State of Creativity.

“Our interest and goal is to build on our creative past and present to help ensure our future will be prosperous,” Moss said. “We think that requires fresh approaches, a willingness to take risks and try new things, and an openness to those who innovate. Sometimes those proposed solutions aren’t welcome. Sometimes they’re disruptive. I believe these graduates from USAO have in some respects been given a head start in making interesting new connections in the various fields that may lead to better improvements in our quality of life.”

Learning to see how things connect is critical, Moss said.

“What is the connection between a naval war vessel, the telephones in your pockets and the next storm season? There’s a weather researcher at OU, Dr. Kelvin Droegemier, who leads a team from other universities using small radars first developed for use on naval ships. They placed that technology on towers across the state to pinpoint with high clarity what the storm developing in the next county looks like. One of the first installations was on a microwave tower here at USAO. This is a groundbreaking and promising project that could radically change storm predictions. But none of the people who built that tower in the 1970s had any idea it would be used in that way. So, whether you’re leaving here as a new teacher, a performer, artist, small business owner or public servant, be looking for new ways to connect ideas, and technologies in order to improve the quality of life where you are.”

Moss also urged the graduates to embrace what he called “competent failure.”

“Don’t be too worried about getting things right every time,” he said. “Be sure that your effort is grounded in the knowledge and skill of your discipline and that your plans are well developed and thoughtful. I believe the things that you’ve learned here at this institution have prepared you not only for success but for competent failure, experiences that lead to knowledge about what works and doesn’t.”

Finally, Moss called for civility.

“Be a friendly critic,” he said. “Be discerning. Be open to the coincidence that is serendipity -- something you didn’t anticipate. Don’t be so calculating and efficient and orderly that you don’t allow for those opportunities.”

Before taking the helm of Oklahoma’s leading creativity think-tank, Moss served as vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, briefly as interim chancellor. Creativity Oklahoma’s mission is to establish Oklahoma as a world-renowned center of creativity and innovation in commerce, culture and education.

Presiding over the ceremony was Dr. John Feaver, president of the college. Given USAO’s rising standards and reputation led by its current 10-year Mission Enhancement Plan, Feaver said he considers himself fortunate.

“What a profound honor, what a marvelous good fortune it is for me to be the president of this college at such a wonderful time in its history,” Feaver said.

Dr. Sanders Huguenin, vice president of academic affairs, presented the graduating class members, who have demonstrated what he called, “the hallmarks of educated people: a capacity to think clearly and creatively, the ability to express their thoughts effectively, the character necessary to live as active and responsible citizens and the intellectual curiosity to continue their own education beyond the university.”

Paulette Pogue, president of the USAO Alumni Association, presented the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate award to Pocasset senior Tasha Alexander.

An honor roll student for multiple semesters, Alexander earned a cumulative 4.0 grade point average while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in psychology. She is a member of several academic honor societies, such as Psi Chi, Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Theta Kappa.

“To quote one of her professors,” Pogue said, “she ‘holds herself to high academic and personal standards, maintains an ethical stance in all things and understands the importance of balance in school, family, personal relations and life.’”


An active participant in the Chickasha community, Alexander volunteers at the Women’s Crisis Center and coordinated a fundraising activity that raised more than $800 for Grand Avenue Elementary School. Last fall, she helped raise more than $1,000 for Chickasha’s Headstart. This spring, Alexander won fifth place in an undergraduate poster competition at the Oklahoma Psychological Society’s 25th Annual Research Conference and she was recognized in the National Dean’s List for the past two years.

As a sociology major, she received recognition by faculty when she recently was named the distinguished graduate for the business and social sciences division.

Three other seniors also received distinguished graduate awards by the USAO Faculty Association for academic divisions. Chickasha fine arts senior Jessica Irvin received distinction from the division of arts and humanities. Claremore deaf education senior Kara Siemens was named the distinguished graduate for the education and speech language pathology. Kelli Keeble, mathematics senior from Minco, was honored by the division of sciences and physical education.

The evening ceremony began with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, performed by Dr. Stephen Weber, associate professor of music. Dr. Ken Bohannon and his new student Vocal Jazz Ensemble performed “My Favorite Things” by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Joining Feaver, Moss, Pogue and Huguenin on the stage were USAO Regents Gretchen Roddy, Patti LaForge Rogstad and Molly Tolbert. Additional stage guests included Dr. Eloy Chavez, dean of students; Dr. Mike Mather, professor of biology; and Joe Evans, registrar and director of enrollment and records.

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble also led graduates and guests in singing “The College Hymn.” Dr. Jan Hanson, professor of music, served as conductor for the traditional hymn.

Dr. Dan Hanson, professor of music, performed the recessional, “Come Sail Away” as recorded by classic rock group Styx.

Copies of the ceremony are available on DVD for $15 in the USAO Media and Community Relations office or by phone at (405) 574-1318.

Feaver issued 60 bachelor of science degrees, 20 bachelor of arts degrees and four bachelor of fine arts degrees.

Receiving bachelor of science degrees were:

Alex: Jonathan Robert Drummond, Amanda Clae Williams
Amber: Trey Thomas Adams, Kelli Nicole McComas
Anadarko: Lenden B. Allen, Donna Marie Jay, Nicole Renee Rodriguez, Dustin Wayne Wells
Blanchard: Karen Denise Boyd, Zarabeth Ann Butler, Chelsee Michele Dawson, Jason Christapher Ellis, Jeri Suzanne Hearon, Keena Lashea Wayland (magna cum laude)
Chickasha: Suzanne Elena Badillo, Whitney Dee Butler, Jessica Danya Couch, Glena Diann Cullins, Chanda Denise Fuller, Bethany Janelle Goble, David Austin Jones, Candice Ann Knowles, Cody Donald Weeks, Nathan Chase Widener
Claremore: Kara Ashley Siemens (summa cum laude)
Dibble: Karen Jewel Yarbrough
Duncan: Lacey Ann Edwards, Matthew Aaron Jasper, Lara Kathryn Morgan (cum laude)
El Reno: Sarah Gene Mehan (magna cum laude)
Fletcher: Pat C. Bridges
Frederick: Summer Ashlynn Oxford Harrison
Guymon: Cory Drew Hogan
Lawton: Daena Marie Koehn, Connie Diane Perez
Lexington: Stephanie Nicole Jessup
Lindsay: Shawna Rae Smith, Daniel Lee Somers
Marlow: Tara Kay Davies, Amanda Renee' Sparks
Minco: Kelli Sue Keeble (summa cum laude)
Moore: Brooke Amanda Walley, Ashlie Dawn Williford
Newcastle: Tanner Eric Tipton
Ninnekah: Hether Denise Ryans (magna cum laude)
Noble: Jessica Lee Anthony (cum laude)
Norman: Jeffrey Charles Davis
Oklahoma City: Renee Catherine Hollier, Daniel Tyler Kraham, September Dawn Rowlett, Christina Maria Terry
Shawnee: Sheena Marie Drain
Tuttle: Justin Cole Ferguson, Amber Michelle Walsh (cum laude)
Vian: Meagan Elizabeth King
Yukon: Sharon Denee' Stucks 

Burkburnett, Texas: Tony Wilson Bland
Flushing, N.Y.: Fleans Dervishi
San Jose, Calif.: John Robert Dillon
Savannah, Ga.: Diana Elizabeth Steinhauser 

Receiving bachelor of arts degrees were:

Apache: Tiffany Dionne Upton
Blanchard: Laura Elizabeth Lamb (cum laude), Brian R. Steele
Chickasha: Kyle Jeffrey Davis, Kyle Allen Geheb, Hayley Michelle Massucci, Tessa Kaye Tate, Gina Beth Taylor, Elizabeth Nicole Trout
Comanche: Burl Heath Dunn
Frederick: Vanessa Yvonne Scott
Marlow: Tammy Deelynn Field
Minco: Cassie May Larman
Norman: Daniel Aaron Lemons (cum laude), Christopher A. Price
Oologah: Brianne Jobeth Bewley
Pocasset: Tasha Bo Alexander (summa cum laude)
Velma: Kendra Brooke Smith
Vian: Loretta Dawn Seay (summa cum laude)

Nairobi, Kenya: Fredrick O. Oballa

Receiving bachelor of fine arts degrees were:           

Chickasha: Amanda D. Bailey, Jessica N. Irvin (magna cum laude)
Norman: Lorijayne Stephens (cum laude)
Oklahoma City: Courtney Renee Kegans



Alumni President Paulette Pogue of Tulsa, left, presented the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate award to Pocasset senior Tasha Alexander, who distinguished herself in campus and community achievement and service.