During her Commencement address, faculty speaker Susan Dentel reminded Washtenaw Community College graduates that they are already grizzled veterans when it comes to surmounting adversity.
“You are a unique group of students,” she told the Class of 2022 and their assembled guests at the May 21 ceremony. “You know this, right?”
Dentel opened her remarks with a story about her father, who spent time in gangs as part of a troubled youth. During a trip to a summer camp in northern Michigan, her father at first refused to participate, but joined in as time went by. Dentel said he wound up having a great time and often used those experiences to help him get through difficult times later in life.
She compares that experience to the one WCC students had during the COVID-19 pandemic, when faculty was forced to quickly move instruction online and students were forced to adjust to new learning methods.
“You had a different educational experience, a different educational path than students before you,” Dentel told the graduates. “We were all dealing with strange and unusual circumstances. … You overcame it, and we are here today celebrating this milestone. And there will be plenty more. You’ve already overcome this adversity, so you already know how to overcome adversity (in the future).”
And Dentel, who received Distinguished Faculty designation from the American Association of Community Colleges in 2019, understands what it means to take on ambitious challenges.
The Life Sciences faculty member also commits a great deal of her energy to her role as coordinator of the WCC STEM Scholars Program that she started in 2018 when the college was part of a group of Michigan colleges and universities to receive a pair of National Science Foundation grants.
“Susan saw that program as an opportunity to not only make WCC a premier STEM college, but also to provide an option for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to study in a STEM field and continue their studies at a four-year university,” WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca said in her introduction of Dentel.