Success Story: NMC alumna addresses University of Michigan commencement

April 20, 2016

Kathryn BertodattoMost college students accumulate credits to earn their degree. NMC alumna Kathryn Bertodatto also accumulated miles — 30,000, in fact.

Photo credit: Michigan Photography, Scott Soderberg

On Saturday, Bertodatto, a 2014 graduate of NMC, spoke to an audience of 50,000 as the University of Michigan’s student commencement speaker. She told the Michigan Stadium spectators, including university president Mark Schlissel and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, that she had commuted from Traverse City so as not to disrupt her young children’s education. That meant racking up some 30,000 miles in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in English.

“The crowd erupted, and I had to compose myself,” said Bertodatto, who sometimes left Traverse City at 3 or 4 a.m. to make an 8:30 a.m. class in Ann Arbor. She packed her classes into three and a half days so she could return to Traverse City in time to pick up her sons from elementary school Thursday afternoons.

Recalling “crying in the stairwell,” Bertodatto, 31, said the transfer was difficult at first, when she felt intimidated by the intellect of her peers at the prestigious university. But by having courage — the title of her speech — she gradually gained confidence. It was all worth it, she said.

“If I’m going to work this hard to get a degree, I’m going to have it be from one of the best universities in the nation,” she said.

She credited NMC for preparing her well. During her NMC years she traveled to Brazil to teach English for a month, and also worked in what is now the office of International Services and Service Learning.

“I’m so proud of how far I’ve come, and NMC has been such a huge part of that journey,” she said, adding that President Schlissel sent her a personal email after the ceremony. “It’s amazing to have people who have such influence know my name.”

The commencement ceremony itself was a blur, both literally and figuratively, Bertodatto said, noting that it was a very windy day.

“I was trying to get my message across and not eat my hair,” she said.

A writer, Bertodatto has completed a children’s book manuscript that she plans to submit for publication. A novel is next on her to-do list. And with the odometer approaching 200,000 miles, she’s looking forward to keeping her 2004 Honda Pilot parked more.

“I need a new car, but we’re going to see how the writing pans out, first,” she said.

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