Western Connecticut State University in Danbury awarded about 165 graduate degrees Friday night, giving people a special reason to celebrate the end of the week.
For some students, the degree took more than six years to earn. Degrees were awarded in nursing, education, counseling, teaching, writing, arts, justice, health, and business.
Keynote speaker Stephen F. Angel, chairman, president and CEO of Praxair Inc., headquartered in Danbury, gave students dozens of things to consider as they prepare to leave school and start working. Among them, he said, “Prepare, prepare, prepare.”
He said when he looks for an employee, he wants to see a record of accomplishment, the ability to overcome obstacles, a modest upbringing, an edge and intellectual curiosity.
“Don’t press that send button on your computer,” Angel said. “Walk on down the hall. Call them up. You’ll have a far richer and greater exchange face to face.”
Angel joined Praxair in 2001, and prior to that he worked as general manager of GE's power equipment business, managing eight business units and six joint ventures in four countries. He is a member of the Business Roundtable and of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum.
Angel said in a jobs candidate, he is looking for a combination of self-confidence and humility. That balance is hard to find. He said he was told many times during his career about good employees, and in some cases he responded, “I wouldn’t know,” because the worker in question never spoke up for themselves. They were too quiet and not confident enough to speak.
Sometimes the hardest boss a person has is the one who teaches the most, Angel said.
“Work with people who will push you out of your comfort zone,” Angel said. He said ask for and give feedback. He said learning this skill takes years to develop. “It’s a vital skill.”
Stacey Miller, 29, of Danbury, earned her master’s in business administration in 3- and-a-half-years.
“We suffered, and we had a good time,” said Miller, who was standing with her friend Jacqui Margres, 30, of Danbury. “I enjoyed most of the professors.”
Margres said her favorite class involved creating a business plan. She said that involved taking the class into New York City to study a bar.
“We built a business from the ground up,” Margres said.
Miller’s favorite class was negotiation and conflict resolution with Professor Gene Buccini, PH.D.
Also receiving his business degree was Jim Geraci, 24, of Wolcott, who also earned an MBA. Geraci said what he learned in graduate school was strategy, rather than the nuts and bolts of a job.
He studied technology, but his hands-on training with computers came as an undergraduate. The MBA taught him to think strategically.
Margres explained that by saying, “It’s the overall picture.”
President James Schmotter, Ph.D., said to the students as the ceremony closed, “You will be looked at for leadership. Provide it.”