Guskiewicz to Graduates: Formulate a Strategic Plan
Posted on December 10, 2017 by Alice Jackson
Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, a nationally recognized expert on sport-related concussions, challenged University of South Alabama graduates during Fall Commencement on Saturday to strive for excellence, learn from their failures and surround themselves with trustworthy people who will challenge them.
More than 1,500 graduates receiving bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees were recognized during the ceremony held at the Mitchell Center on South’s campus.
The graduates included 84-year-old Mobile resident Murdoch Newton Campbell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies – Applied Sciences concentration. Campbell is believed to be the oldest graduate in South’s 54-year history.
Guskiewicz, a neuroscientist, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and recipient of a prestigious MacArthur fellowship, was one of the first researchers to identify the long-term effects of multiple concussions, including cognitive impairment and depression in later life, through large-scale epidemiological studies of retired professional football players.
“It was the last thing the NFL wanted to hear, and the league’s own medical committee dismissed our findings,” Guskiewicz said. “We didn’t back down. We expanded our research program and eventually corroborated our findings … to find interventions to protect players from concussion and the long-term effects.”
Guskiewicz added: “The most rewarding aspect of this has been that our research has had a trickle-down effect to youth sports, and there is now a heightened awareness about concussions in sport that is likely saving lives. Our research led to a 45 percent reduction in concussions sustained on kickoff play alone over the past five years in the NFL and NCAA.”
The researcher shared advice he often gives his four children, saying it is “tattooed on their brains.”
“You will only be as good as you practice to be,” he said. “If something is truly important to you, devote yourself to it and make sacrifices for it.”
“You will only be as good as you practice to be.”
Guskiewicz advised each graduate to formulate their own strategic plan, using it as a road map for the future, and to remain focused and positive when roadblocks appear. He said “deferred gratification” can often change that road map, creating a brighter future.
He described how as he neared completion of studies for his master’s degree, a faculty mentor advised him to stay in school and complete his doctorate rather than accepting one of three job offers, including one from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he had an assistantship. Finally, he opted to stay in school to earn his doctorate, calling it “the best career decision of my life.”
“Your road map will no doubt take unexpected twists and turns,” Guskiewicz said, “But, through deferred gratification, staying focused on what is important to you and surrounding yourself with good people who challenge you, you will get to where you need to go.”
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