Personal Writing

Reflecting on my past and sharing some important advice

Yesterday, I had the absolute privilege of giving the commencement address at the December graduation ceremony of my first Alma Mater, Minnesota State University Moorhead.

When President Anne Blackhurst called me in November to ask if I would be willing to speak, I jumped at the opportunity. This has secretly been on my bucket list for quite awhile now, so I was thrilled to be invited.

With President Blackhurst at the rehearsal.

With 500 graduates and a packed house of around 2,000 people, I was anxious, but I also felt pretty good about my talk since it was inspired by and adapted from the LadyBoss talk I gave earlier this year.

I was so proud to deliver this talk with Dr Marry in the third row of faculty. In fact, watch to the very end, and you can see him beaming. I wish everyone had a constant cheerleader in their lives like he is in mine!

Dr Marry opted out of his “Strawberry Shortcake” graduation hat for the photo.

And my dad drove up to be in the audience, supporting my “performance” like he has done for most of my life. That meant so much to me.

At one point, during one of my rehearsal runs, I got a little emotional, and I was worried that the moment might kind of take me away, but instead, what I found was that my actor’s training kicked in (phew!), and I was cool, calm and collected. I was also able to absolutely enjoy every moment of it. It didn’t go by in a blurry flash; instead, I was present for all of it.

I did do something kind of risky for me as a challenge and because I am so sincere about wanting to do much more public speaking and to larger audiences: normally, I write out every word of my talks, but this time, I made bullet points and small notes for myself throughout so that I would have to rely on my ability to speak in the moment (something I am almost always comfortable doing in my day to day life but have been reluctant to do in my presentations). I bolded the sections I wanted to be sure and get to exactly the way I had written them, but it was freeing and exhilarating to switch back and forth from off the cuff to written text. I was proud of myself for trying it and for it working. Only one time did I completely lose my place–did you spot it in the video?

Yesterday will long live in my memory as a professional and personal highlight. To be able to speak to the newest bunch of Dragons, to share my own graduation story and some of the lessons I learned, both in my time at college and since, was truly an honor.

Go Dragons!

Some fun tweets and pictures from yesterday. I absolutely felt like a celebrity, which you can imagine I didn’t hate! 😄

With Tim Flakoll, Provost of the Tri-College System.

Thanks to Provost Flakoll for shooting the featured image. See how Dr Marry and I are both in it? ❤️


Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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