April 18, 2019  

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Paul to Graduates: Go Out, Be Proactive In Finding Passion, Opportunities

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Southern Miss Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul served as keynote speaker at the University's 2015 spring commencement. (Photo by Kelly Dunn)

University of Southern Mississippi Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul did in his May commencement address what he’s done best in a 39-year career at his alma mater – give sound advice and guidance to students.

Paul, a Bay St. Louis, Miss. native shared life lessons from experiences and observations gained from working in the private sector and in student affairs administration at Southern Miss in two addresses Friday, May 8 at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus. He will also give a commencement address Saturday, May 9 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for Southern Miss Gulf Coast graduates.

Often exhorting Southern Miss students to leave the University better than they found it, Paul, who will retire from USM in June, challenged the graduates to channel a similar energy in shaping their way toward a rewarding career and life well spent.

“I know many of you hold strong spiritual beliefs, as do I,” Paul said. “I have heard many a graduating student through the years say ‘God will provide,’ or, ‘when one door closes another opens,’ or ‘God has a plan for me.’

“I believe all of that, but I do think you need to get off the couch and check the door knob to see if a door is opening. I think your plan will be revealed through your proactive experiences, not by sitting back and passively waiting.”

While also urging the graduates to “stay alert” for opportunities, Paul also advised they not worry too much at the moment about finding their life’s calling, but instead decide what kind of a person to be.

“You need to decide and begin acting upon how you want to live your life,” he said. “If you can envision and act consciously upon the kind of person you want to be and begin living your life that way starting now, my guess is that you will be richly successful in finding your passion, your purpose and your career.”

Cynthia Jordan of Waynesboro, Miss. and Lindsey Pellittieri of New Orleans received their bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and education, respectively, at the May commencement. Jordan, whose parents are both Southern Miss alums, said it meant a lot to follow in her parents’ footsteps and be a Golden Eagle. She plans to pursue a nursing degree after graduation.

“My professors were always accessible and supportive, and I made great friends from across the country and around the world at USM,” said Jordan, who was a member of the Southern Miss rugby team and a College of Science and Technology student ambassador. “I’m going to miss all of them.”   

Pellittieri, whose dual degree is in special and elementary education, just completed her teaching practicum in Belgium at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) American School. She plans to move to Uganda in June to teach children with disabilities in community centers and orphanages.

“I can't thank the people, the believers, the local baristas, the teachers and the dreamers enough for investing their time and hearts in me to hold steadfast to my dreams and do the impossible,” she said. “As I say goodbye to my Southern Miss family, I know that I will always have a place to call home here.”