Montana State University Billings



  Three Tools: A Faculty Address
College of Technology Convocation 2009                                                 



Thank you, Dean Cech. Good morning, everyone. What a privilege this is for me, one of COT’s new faculty members, to address this convocation!

Seeing all you graduates today (I see the familiar faces) brings me back to a moment twenty years ago when I was just starting my Air Force career. I first trained as a jet engine mechanic—one of the two and a half jobs I had as a graduate student. On the last day of technical training, my instructor pulled me aside. He was going to let me in on a trade secret—something about what was waiting out there for me as a newbie in an engine shop. He said, “You’ll most probably be a gofer for your first couple of years.”

Now, I understood perfectly where he was coming from. I was not the most mechanically-inclined student in class. Okay, so I always thought Reed & Prince was a brand of fancy silverware. He was looking out for me. So he sits me down in front of the tool boxes in the tool crib, opens metal drawers one by one, and asks me to identify each tool: first, the ratchets; then the wrenches, needle-nose pliers and safety-wire pliers; and finally, the special tools—torque wrenches, micrometers, multimeters, rigid borescopes and flex borescopes.

I know that all you graduates are a lot savvier now than I was when I first ventured into that totally new career field, so I won’t do as my instructor did 20 years ago. No, we won't go through the whole tool box. Let’s settle for just three—three very important tools that you have to make sure you have under your belt when you pick up your diploma tomorrow.

1) The first tool is called the Be on Time tool. A poet once said, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and I know that by now you graduates are really ready to say goodbye to that hard line instructor who said to you, “A deadline is a deadline is a deadline.” But remember that what you carry away from that experience also goes by another name.

The Be on Time tool is also called punctuality or reliability. Among true pros, the Be on Time tool is also called time management. So let me let you in on a trade secret: you don’t get a syllabus on your first day at the new job. You are now true professionals; use the Be on Time tool every day.

2) The second is a two-pronged tool. It is called the Respect Yourself/Respect Others tool. You picked up this tool from that chapter in your textbook. Remember? It was called “Ethics.” This is a powerful tool! It’s usually when you don’t use this tool that things blow up in your face.

The Respect Yourself/ Respect Others tool helps you do the right thing, and that’s because you know that other people’s safety, their livelihood and their wellbeing are in your hands. It’s easy to let those little things like rules and codes and standards slide. Remember that at the end of each work day, you want to come home and still like yourself. So carry your Respect Yourself/ Respect Others tool wherever you go.

3) The third tool is a multitool. It works like a Swiss Army knife.  It will slice, dice, cut up and open anything for you. It is called the Be Willing to Learn tool. Actually, we all assumed that you already knew about this tool when you started taking courses here at COT. But you sharpened your Be Willing to Learn tool when you took more courses and learned how to analyze, evaluate and question things around you—when you learned about something called “critical thinking.”

Sometimes, you need humility and flexibility to operate the Be Willing to Learn tool, but it is guaranteed to open doors for you. It will help you advance in your career. It will help you keep an open mind. The Be Willing to Learn tool makes you open to all possibilities.

Be on Time, Respect Yourself, Respect Others and Be Willing to Learn. Hold on to these tools; they are very special tools. They don’t break, and they never grow old. They don’t go out of style. Don’t ever trade them in. Let them serve you well.                                 

By now some of you are sitting there quietly using your Respect Yourself/Respect Others tool while saying to yourself, “Well, she really didn’t say anything that I didn’t know already…” So let me let you in on another trade secret.

When we say that a teacher’s job is to create a learning environment, we mean that teachers are learners too. We also carry that tool belt! For example, we use our Be Willing to Learn tool every day. You may not know it, but by contributing to class discussions, interacting with us and other students, communicating your needs, and sharing your expectations, hopes, dreams with us in and outside the classroom—we have learned from you. We have learned how you learn. You have made us better teachers.

So today, we thank you for the time you’ve spent at COT. We wish you well. We hope you keep in touch. You might want to come back to COT to learn something new or to upgrade your skills. Who knows, you might find yourself teaching the next generation of professionals in your career field! Tell them about the three tools.

Oh, one more thing. That Respect Yourself/Respect Others tool, it comes with an extension. It’s called gratitude. So again, graduates, thank you and congratulations! And parents, partners, family and friends—congratulations! We also thank you. You own this day too!  May you all have many more days like this one to come.

Thank you, everyone!




Elizabeth Fullon
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Cape Cod, MA '93