Cook is Student Commencement Speaker

Grace Cook

Elementary education major Grace Cook of Memphis, Mich. will appropriately reference the premise of a popular children's book when she delivers the student commencement address at Northern Michigan University on Saturday, May 4. She said author Patrice Karst's story about The Invisible String that permanently connects every person to the hearts of those they love has impacted her, and seems relevant as graduates leave their college friends to embark on their careers.

“When I started student teaching kindergarten at Cherry Creek in Marquette, I heard about this book; it was used to comfort a student who had a parent pass away,” Cook said. “The book also made me think about family members I've lost, and my best friend and roommate my freshman year at Northern, who moved to Australia after graduation. The message is relevant to both kids and adults, so I will talk about the connections we've formed during our time at Northern, and how those will continue even if we're far away from each other because of the invisible string that binds us. I will also share some of my experiences at Northern, which I think a lot of graduates will find relatable.”

Cook is not the first in her family with a Northern connection. Her older sister is an alumna and her grandparents Gwendolyn Hetler and Jim Livingston are retired NMU professors of mathematics and English, respectively. Cook developed an affinity for the area when she visited them.

One of the Northern achievements she reflects on with the most pride was starting a new Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Awareness student organization and serving as its president.

“The support we received from Northern in creating this student group was amazing,” she said. “Vice President Kathleen Salo and I had a meeting this past week with President [Brock] Tessman and Jeff Korpi, [associate vice president of the Northern Student Experience]. We brought up some heavy topics and things we'd like to see changed that are not minor things. Both of them were very receptive. It's rewarding that the administration and professors welcome new ideas.”

Cook and Salo gave a presentation in early April at the 2024 Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) Quality Assurance Symposium in Orlando. They were among only three undergraduate students who attended the conference. Their presentation was titled “Fostering Community with High School Students: Future Educator Summer Camps as a Recruitment Tool.” With their adviser, Professor Kristen White, the students helped to run the first Future Educators Camp at Northern in the summer of 2023

“High school students spent a week in the dorms and experienced teaching younger students through the Seaborg Center on campus,” Cook said. “We mentored them on what goes into teaching, how they can become teachers and other topics. It was similar to the ‘see one, do one, teach one' phrase from Grey's Anatomy that's typically used by medical personnel. Surgical students observe a procedure, perform it on their own, and then teach another trainee how to perform it. By observing professional teachers, engaging in student teaching ourselves and then teaching high schoolers to apply what we've learned, we can further our own understanding and skills.”

Cook's other involvement on campus has included working as a student photographer in the NMU Marketing and Communications Office and organizing student volunteer photographers for the UP 200 Sled Dog Race powered by NMU.

Spring commencement will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 4, in the Superior Dome. The ceremony can be streamed online at or watched regionally on WNMU-TV.

“I'm comfortable in front of a classroom and enjoy public speaking,” Cook added. “I feel like any moment I have a chance to inspire people, I'm going to try to take advantage of it.”

Kathleen Salo and Grace Cook in Orlando, where they delivered their presentation.
Kathleen Salo and Grace Cook in Orlando, where they delivered their presentation.
Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Around NMU