When Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty stepped foot onto Ohio State’s campus in 2008 for the first time as senior vice president of outreach and engagement, she said she felt like an incoming student on the first day of class.
“The Ohio State University is so big, so overwhelming not only for students,” Beatty said. “I was overwhelmed, overly-excited and I knew I wanted to graduate.”
But the graduation she had in mind was quite different than the Ohio State Summer Commencement she will be speaking at on Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
“For me, graduating meant I wanted to make a difference for the students, the professors, and the university because I wanted to be able to look back and remember there was a legacy that I left,” Beatty said. “Whether that was expanding a program, developing a new program, or exposing women and African Americans to the university.”
Throughout her four years at Ohio State, she said she worked to support programs and federal grants that cover the educational expenses of low-income students such as the Pell Grant.
Beatty was the first female and first person of color to take on the outreach and engagement role at Ohio State, but that wasn’t the only ceiling she would break in her career endeavors. While Beatty was in the Ohio House, she became the state’s first female Democratic House leader in 2006.
I never thought I would be the Ohio State commencement speaker, nor did I ever think I would fly on Air Force One, but if you put all of your experience together and work hard there is no challenge you can’t beat. – Joyce Beatty
She said her hard work and success came paired with a mantra: “You always have to be in the room.”
“It doesn’t matter if you are sitting on the sidelines. What’s important is for you to actually be in the room, so I always tried to strategically place myself so I could actually be in the room. And every room got bigger and every challenge became a little easier. Step by step the courage will come.”
Though the future of some summer graduates might be unclear, Beatty said students should not let uncertainties deter them from dreaming big.
“(Graduates) have to be realistic and know that often times in the country and in life there are crossroads that you come to,” Beatty said. “You take a deep breath and you take it one step at a time, but you’re always hoping that you’ll get to the end of the road.”
Beatty said as a first-generation college student during a time where women were not getting big jobs or board appointments, the confidence and prowess she exerts in politics today was not present when she graduated.
“I share my story so others could benefit now knowing what I didn’t know when I was 19 or 20 years old,” Beatty said. “I never thought I would be the Ohio State commencement speaker, nor did I ever think I would fly on Air Force One, but if you put all of your experience together and work hard there is no challenge you can’t beat.”