Tag: Tijen Petersen

“You are a Gift”- Spring 2018 Graduation Speech

“Hello everyone. For those of you that don’t know me: ”  

  1. I am a lover of all things beautiful, I like surprising people with baked goods, and I am the person that genuinely gets excited when I hear the words “we’re going to do an icebreaker!” in group meetings.
  2. I pride myself in my planning abilities and find comfort in having plans made, and I am having a hard time deciding what I will be doing three months from now.
  3. I believe that our friends and family should always be prioritized in our lives, but am still learning how to take care of myself.
  4. I understand the work that needs to be done in this world to create an alternative future, but I have learned how to find joy in simplicity and use that to fuel my life.

“I have also found that it is much better when we do this work together, so I am so grateful that we are here today. To honor what we have learned and to celebrate with each other the joy of graduation. But I also believe that we are here to remember that we all hold contradicting truths about ourselves. Turns out graduating isn’t synonymous with figuring everything out. And that is okay. Because we have learned how to use our complex identities as the foundation of our leadership narratives. And we can use that to navigate through the ambiguities of the next steps we will take.”


“With my time today, I would like to share with you three lessons that I have learned that will help us all with our transitions.”


“The first lesson is that leadership is hard. And I’m not talking about back in the 3000-level course when we had the overlap between complexity paper and one community project hard. I’m talking about the push-back or skepticism we will face from future coworkers, bosses, and community members when we attempt to implement what we have learned and explain its potential for positive change. When we enter new environments and things aren’t running how we’d like we have two choices. We can tell ourselves “what the minor believes and what I have experienced must not be true.” OR we can say “Maybe they haven’t felt what I have felt and done what I have done, and I can be the one to show them.” And we know that being the one to create change is harder than adapting to the new system. But if you are choosing to take on the identity of leader, then you have to remember that leaders commit to taking on that work. You have to be willing to giving your time, energy, and intention to the places that need it most. Yes, leadership is hard. But thankfully, leadership isn’t too hard. And the good news is we have learned many skills to help us achieve change.”


“I was once told, “when you start see yourself as a gift, everything changes.” If you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, that is vague, poetic, and sounds like David Hellstrom said it” you are right. After trying to make meaning of this, I decided that a gift was two things: something unique and something that is given freely with asking of nothing in return. Once you see your strengths, skills, and knowledge as a gift, your confidence to take action becomes simplified. By doing this you give yourself permission to offer everything you have without fear of rejection. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” This is the second lesson: you are a gift.”


“I have one more lesson to share with you that will make leadership more possible. My favorite reading from the four courses was “Sacred Heart.” It beautifully articulates the abundance of opportunities for leadership in our everyday lives. And how we can choose to embrace these possibilities as we wish, knowing that the work is difficult. They conclude with, “May you enjoy with a full heart the fruits of your labor. The world needs you.” And it does. It needs your intention. Your time. Your care. Your passion. But it doesn’t need only you.”


“Which brings me to the third lesson: We must remember the importance of each other. And that everyone else is also a gift. We each bring a new light to the world. So go out and find the other people that care about the change that needs to happen. Margaret Wheatley’s book is not called turning to your textbook or turning to research. It is turning to one another. We have each other. The people in this space. Our fellow leadership nerds, our mentors, instructors, family, and friends. The people who love us and would do anything for us. And we will have many more people in our lives that we don’t know yet. Future coworkers, neighbors, and friends. But that’s only if we stay open to the possibility that they may care just as much as we do.”


“My hope is that you trust your intuition, knowledge and abilities to create a world you want to live in. And that you trust in people around you. That you remember you are a gift. You can be the sun that lights up the sky by being generous and kind. That you remember to find each other in moments of uncertainty and in moments of celebration. And perhaps above all, I hope that in your future endeavors, you remember to follow the joy.”




Tijen Petersen graduated in the Fall of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Leadership.

She danced for the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Competition team for five years. She loves being a part of the Leadership Minor community and hopes to stay involved for years to come.