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Spring commencement student respondent aims to “meet the moment”

Being the student responder for Purdue’s Division One spring commencement certainly isn’t Grace Hasler’s first rodeo when it comes to public speaking.

“The first speech I ever gave was when I was eight-years-old running for Rodeo Princess, and I won,” she said. “I don’t even remember what the speech was about, really, but I just remember the pride I felt while I got to ride my horse, Hustler, around the ring while holding the American flag as Rodeo Queen.”

Portrait of a young woman, Purdue campus outdoors Photo provided by Grace Hasler

Hasler, a senior double majoring in agricultural sales and marketing and agricultural communications, said growing up on a farm with a horse boarding facility offered many public speaking opportunities at rodeos and 4-H competitions.

Hasler was approached by LeeAnn Williams, director of undergraduate advising and student services in agricultural economics, and Mark Russell, department head of agricultural sciences, education and communication, who wanted to submit her name as a candidate to be a student responder. Hasler worked closely with the pair throughout her academic career as a member of the Agriculture Future of America’s student advisory team.

When she received a simple email from Zenephia Evans, associate dean of student, education and advocacy, requesting an urgent next-day meeting, Hasler said she almost ignored it assuming it was spam.

“When I got into her office the next day, she was literally clapping and jumping up and down saying how excited she was for me, but I didn’t really know why I was there or why she was excited for me,” Hasler said. “That’s when she broke the news to me that I would be commencement responder, and I was clapping and jumping up and down right there with her.”

Leaning on her training with the Agriculture Future of America organization, along with guidance from advisors, Hasler said she hopes she reaches her classmates with her comments.

“It’s not always about what I want to write, but rather what people want to hear and remembering why I was chosen to do this,” Hasler said. “Before I even turned in my final draft of my speech, I called my mom, my best friend and two of my roommates to have them read this, and all of them gave me great feedback, so it has really felt like my village has helped me write this.

Grace Hasler (right) with her cousin Madi Hasler (left), a graduating senior in Turf Management and Science.  Grace Hasler (right) with her cousin Madi Hasler (left), a graduating senior in Turf Management and Science. 

After graduation, Hasler will join BASF, a multinational chemical company headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany, as part of their rotational program spending eight months in North Carolina working in marketing, eight months working with their state regulatory affairs department and then eight months in Washington, D.C. working with their federal regulatory affairs department.

With her undergraduate career ending, Hasler said she can see now how fleeting time truly can be. Feeling “tired” throughout most of her time at Purdue, she said, was a good thing in her opinion.

“Taking care of yourself is important, but when you’re so worn out and don’t think you can go any further, that’s when I feel the most energized, and I’ve managed to surround myself with some of the most passionate people I have ever met,” Hasler said. “I have this quote hanging on my wall, ‘You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.’”

Preparing for her commencement speech has been humbling for Hasler as she reflected on everyone who made her academic career successful. She’s spent a lot of time thinking about the eight-year-old decked out in a cowgirl and skirt, and how she worked hard to trade that in for a cap and gown.

“This entire experience is not something I have taken lightly; it really makes me want to return on that investment. That’s how I feel about Purdue as well, that people have decided to invest in me in my time here,” Hasler said. “I'll be back, I'll make sure that they realize the impact that they've had on me because it is it is so profound. I started writing thank you letters, and as I do, there aren’t words I can put on a paper that can express the kindness that they've showed me and the listening ear that they have offered and the things that they've taught me that I didn't know about myself and didn't understand about the world.”

Speaking in front of thousands of graduates and their loved ones on May 13 on the Elliot Hall of Music stage isn’t her first rodeo, and certainly won’t be her last.

Grace Hasler speaking as Student respondent in Elliot Hall of Music

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