On Saturday, December 15, 2018, PSECU Vice President of Marketing and Membership Development Barb Bowker served as the guest speaker at Shippensburg University’s Winter 2018 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony. We sat down with her to learn more about the experience.
How did it make you feel to be asked to be the guest speaker at Shippensburg University’s Winter 2018 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony?
Commencement ceremonies at any institution are very special and meaningful for not only the graduating students, but also their families and those who care about them. To be asked to contribute to this occasion, especially my alma mater that I admire so much, was a true honor.
To be honest, I was a bit shocked when I first got the request to speak because the privilege was so great. I was extremely grateful, of course, and immediately accepted. I couldn’t be more pleased to have been offered the opportunity and to have served as this Winter’s Shippensburg University Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony guest speaker.
How did you feel before your address?
I think most people get at least a little nervous before speaking in public – it’s human nature. I’d be lying if I said my palms weren’t sweating a bit when I went up to the podium for the commencement address.
Thankfully though, through my role at PSECU and my involvement with community organizations, I get to practice public speaking quite frequently, and I keep those skills pretty sharp. But practice makes perfect, right? So, I also made sure I did plenty of rehearsing in front of family, friends, and colleagues beforehand, too.
Knowing that I had done my best to prepare, coupled with the feeling that I had an important message to share with the students, gave me the confidence I needed to push forward despite any nerves that crept up.
You mentioned an important message for the students. What was your address about?
That’s right. I took my role as the commencement guest speaker very seriously, and I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to make sure the words I shared with the students had value and could help them as they set out to start their careers.
My main message was about finding your passion and making sure you maximize the fulfillment it brings.
How did you find your passion, and what is it?
Even though my major was Behavioral Management, which for those of you who don’t know is kind of like Human Resources, I had taken marketing courses in my junior and senior years that I really enjoyed. At the time of my own Shippensburg University undergraduate graduation in 1982, I thought I’d surely find success at a modern, fast-paced advertising and marketing agency.
I got off to a good start, too – my first job was working at a local firm in the Harrisburg area. That job was nice enough. I gained experience and got my foot in the door, but I didn’t stay long. I wanted more. So, I tried again, this time working in marketing for an association. Again, that was fine and dandy, but there was something burning inside me that it just didn’t fuel. I didn’t know why at the time, but now I do. I hadn’t found my passion!
Next, I started working for PSECU, and that’s when things clicked. I’ve been working there ever since – over thirty years.
What’s great about PSECU, and why I found that special something there that turned out to be my career passion – is the credit union “people helping people” philosophy. Unlike banks, credit unions are member-owned financial cooperatives. This means that everything they do, they do to best serve their members.
PSECU takes that concept even further by giving back to the community in ways that many other financial institutions just don’t. Scholarships, financial education seminars and resources, sponsorships, and charitable giving to nonprofit organizations – these are all things that PSECU does to make sure that where we live is healthy, happy, and vibrant for everyone – members and non-members alike.
When I graduated, I thought I’d work in marketing. I was right about that. I knew what I liked. What I didn’t know was how to turn something I enjoyed doing into something that would fulfill me on a deeper level. I needed to find my passion.
At PSECU, I immediately took to the concept of giving back, and ever since, it has been the underlying driver in my work. It’s the passion I had been searching for.
I have to say, finding one’s passion is easier said than done, and it takes a bit of trial and error – at least that’s how it was for me.
What kind of advice did you provide the graduating students?
Some of the Shippensburg graduates might already know what their passion is. If they do, great, and I’m happy for them. Some of them might think they know what their passion is, but later find out that what they wanted to do with their career isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Others might have no clue, or worse, not think that passion is important to success. I really hope I was able to help influence that last group otherwise.
To support the message of finding your passion and making sure it’s as fulfilling as it possibly can be, I shared some of the important lessons from my own career experience focused on four qualities that hold a lot of value – servant-leadership, honesty, integrity, and perseverance – S.H.I.P.
I asked them to think S.H.I.P., because our alma mater is something that will always be a part of us. It is simple, and hopefully easy for them to remember.
You dedicated your address to someone. Can you tell us who that is and why?
In the S.H.I.P. mnemonic device I presented, “P” stands for perseverance. My sister, Kathy, is also a Shippensburg University alumna, and while she embodies all of the S.H.I.P. qualities of servant-leadership, honesty, integrity, and perseverance, she has persevered more than anyone else I know.
You see, Kathy has recently faced some serious health issues, but she has held strong and persevered through them. She is an excellent example for the graduating students, and for that reason I dedicated my address to her. The students gave Kathy a round of applause, too, which I really appreciated. It was very touching.
What makes Shippensburg University so great?
Shippensburg University means a lot to me. It is where I studied and prepared for my career. I have so many fond memories of the campus, my professors, and my learning experiences there. Some of my siblings and close friends went to Shippensburg University, too, and I know that the value the university brought to their life is just as significant for them as it is for me.
What makes Shippensburg University so great? Well, the university’s mission is to develop students’ utmost intellectual, personal, and social capabilities. For me, that’s at the heart of what makes it such a great place of learning. It’s also something from which all Shippensburg University students benefit.
Near the end of my speech, I welcomed the graduates into their new role as Shippensburg alumni. I asked that they wear that badge with honor and make their peers and those who’ve walked the halls of Old Main before them proud, and to do it as an example for those who will follow them, too. Basically, I asked that my fellow Raiders shine as graduates of Shippensburg University, because we all have one commonality – a great alma mater.
Barb is a 1982 graduate of Shippensburg University, holding a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. As PSECU’s Vice President of Marketing and Membership Development, she oversees the marketing and communication efforts for the state’s largest credit union and devises strategies to position it strongly in the marketplace. In addition, she leads PSECU’s Membership Development efforts, which include both University Development and Business Development components. Follow her on Twitter @barbbowker.