By Chase Conrad Maszle on May 4, 2017
Over the past several days, I’ve been reflecting about my time at JMU, and my overall college experience as I move towards graduation weekend at the second “happiest place on Earth,” James Madison University. I feel as if, up to this point, my life has been full of luck. Full of interesting experiences, places, hobbies, and most importantly—people.
In one of last classes here, my professor asked me, "What makes you cry?"
What makes me cry is wondering, "Why I am so lucky? Why am I so lucky to have people who love, support, and invest in me the way that they do? Why am I so lucky to have my good health? Why am I so lucky to have had the opportunity to attend school, and live with freedom? Why me?"
So, this is my thank you to everyone who has made an impact on my life over the past four years.
If you’re not mentioned here, I didn’t forget about you. You make a difference, and covering all of the ground would be nearly impossible.
To my professors:
When I came into school, I was a computer information systems and a media arts and design major. One of the two ended up being a mistake. But often, as college students of great integrity, we’re cynical about a major that we could not survive through or thrive within. But, today, one of my professors asked, “Did you enjoy your time in that major?” My answer was yes. During my time in the College of Business at JMU, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I wanted to, one day, be an entrepreneur. I learned that my pipe dream was to convene everyone—friends, family, and coworkers—who I have identified as the hardest-working people that I know, and bring them together to form a business. I’m not sure what that business is quite yet, but… baby steps. I learned that I when I own that business, no one will be underpaid. Talent and good work should be recognized and rewarded. And most importantly, it reassured me that I am business-oriented, but fundamentally creative.
A heartfelt thank you to the place that adopted me as their own—the School of Media Arts and Design.
You have gone out of your way to help me thrive. You all know who you are, and there are a few of you who have been exceedingly outstanding advocates for me. You deserve respect. You deserve more. I hope I have modeled my gratitude, but know, I'll never be able to repay you for all that you've done for me. You were not there to make my life hard—you were there to push me beyond what I believed my capabilities were. You make a huge sacrifice to see students like me succeed. Many of you sacrifice a more comfortable lifestyle to watch us understand and thrive.
You went the extra mile for me, and for that, I am thankful.
To my friends:
Meaningful relationships and life-witnesses are key to security.
To my friends, thank you for catching me when I fell. Throughout life, I’ve urged myself to find someone who I can reach out to, read my life to, and rely on to help me remember that I’m important. Thank you for listening, for staying up all night, for dragging me out of my house when I felt "tired," for going on that spontaneous hike, for asking for my help, and for supporting our friendship.
To my favorite travel companion:
“Book it… I’m in.”
To my family:
Especially my mom. You have been instrumental in helping me improve myself, and consistently operate from a position of strength. You have created an environment where I feel safe, helped me to live beyond my boundaries, and taught me to continue challenging myself. You have made me into a master of transitions. Any time that life is in transition (most of the time), adapt quickly. I’m thankful for you.
Aunt Carol, too. You have always been there. You are someone who I look up to. You stay modest, know how to have a good time, and never back away from an adventure. You've arguably taught me how-to adventure, how to maintain my life, my assets, and my integrity. And, you are like a second mother to me. I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything else.
My grandmother is one of my favorite people in the world. She always helps me laugh, appreciate family, trust in God, and remember that I am capable. Her and I are two peas in a pod when we’re together. We find a way to make fun of any situation, and laugh at each other’s quirks. She'll never read this on the internet because she's too stubborn to get herself an iPhone, which is why it's not written directly to her here. But don't worry, I'll read it in person this weekend. I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks, Me'ma.
To the lady I sat next to on the plane to California:
As a nervous junior in college, I flew to California to work an eight-month contract with The Walt Disney Company, working as a photographer within their “Disney College Program.”
I was terrified. I felt like I was escaping reality. And truthfully, my biggest fear was making friends.
After a mistake that the airline made, I was upgraded to business class on the flight there, where I was seated next to a woman named Mary Ann. Mary Ann and I were peacefully enjoying our flight when the flight attendant “accidentally” dropped a few extra snacks onto the seat in between us. Mary Ann and I began talking over the prospect of an extra bag of Oreos. We reflected on the places that we came from, and why we were travelling to Orange County, California.
Mary Ann, a successful technology talent acquisition consultant and proprietor, recognized my abilities and my talent right then and there. I read her in on my fears about moving cross-country and starting at a job where nearly the entire future was an unknown. I mentioned that I was fearful that I would not make friends, and that I would not achieve a position where I could gain real professional development.
Her headlining advice to me: “Make it happen.”
To this day, if I ever feel discouraged about opportunities in any aspect of my life, I always look back at my conversation with Mary Ann, and remember her advice. It is invaluable.
To my beloved Madison mag team:
I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a team that has been as married together as you are. You are all a dream team. You’ve each changed my life for the better. You all epitomize servant-leadership. You empathize, and you always keep things in perspective. You—Jan, Jim, Bill, and Janet—are such talented writers and artists.
Yesterday, you presented me with a card, hugs, smiles, and ice cream. It was very bittersweet. And I told you this: thank you for trusting in me to elevate our university brand. Thank for for empowering me like I’ve never been empowered. And thank you for allowing me to learn from you. Together, we accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed of.
It has been my pleasure having the opportunity to work with you, and across the entire communications and marketing staff.
To my peers:
Holy Toledo. There are so many people to throw under this umbrella, but again, you know who you are.
Thank you for making me laugh, pulling an all-nighter, and creating—together. I am so excited to see how far you travel in your career and life adventures.
Now, let’s go write a positive story for the future’s history books… and do so without Comic Sans.
To my mentor and mentee:
Let’s never underestimate the power of this dynamic. I have learned more from you two than anyone else. Period.
You’ve made an impact on how I view the world, and given my life more purpose.
To my Disney family:
From my five revolving park-side trainers, to my leaders who tripped over themselves to help me achieve my goals, to my entire WDPR family…
You’ve helped me discover that work and fun can be synonymous. You are so incredibly different than anyone else. You are forward-thinking, and prideful in your work. You are safe for change, and embrace differences.
To my close-knit team of fellow-producers in Shared Services and Internal—you guys are all the real "incredibles."
I’ll never forget how excited I was to learn from you, and become adopted into your family.
Finally, to JMU:
Oh, Shenandoah how I love you. As we travelled to “The Valley” for the first time, my mom told me that we were about to enter a totally different place. It’s true.
Your vistas are incredible, your hiking is amazing, and you never run out of adventures. I've never seen such beautiful shades of blue until I met you. *Tells myself, "Calm down, Dr. Seuss"*
Time travels a little slower, books are analyzed a little deeper, sweet tea is a little sweeter, and people feel a little more like family.
I’ll never understand you. How are you so happy? Where does your energy come from? Why does everyone smile as they walk your grounds? Why is everyone so intentional? Why do people within your walls care so much?
Whatever it is, don’t grow up too fast. Don’t lose your 16:1 faculty-to-student ratio—it’s what made me love you. Don’t become a “sports-centered” institution, become an "athletically-enthusiastic" institution. Also, don’t forget about the band—appreciate that they are your most die-hard fans, and that they will give you twice the return on your investment.
I’m fascinated by your growth. But continue advocating yourself as the intentional, challenging, and beautiful place to call home.
That will attract the type of undergraduate student who wants to be here… to be “in.”
It brings me excitement to announce my post-grad plans.
In early February, I accepted an opportunity with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts – Creative Services.
I appreciate my leaders for giving me the opportunity so early on—it has made my senior year significantly less stressful.
I’m excited to invest and grow my skills in an organization that I believe in—Disney.
It's all thanks to...
As I wrap up these last few days in school, I want you all to know that you I appreciate each and every one of you that has made an impact on my life. For helping me reach for the stars.
It's all thanks to you. And I am eternally grateful.
With love and magic,
P.S. — We're just getting started. ;)