When you ask Mark Troemel, GC’13, why he chose the University of Richmond for his graduate education, his answer is one that would put a smile on the face of many college administrators: he wanted a school that matched the excellence of his undergraduate alma mater, Brown University.

He found that match in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

“U of R exceeded all of my expectations,” he declared in his commencement speech on May 11, 2013, “by providing first-rate instruction and offering a strong network of student services.” And in a video interview that debuted at SPCS Night a few days earlier, Troemel expanded on that match.

“I wanted to choose a school that was equal, if not superior, in terms of the quality of education and the instruction I received,” explained Troemel. “ And I will definitely say that U of R has met all of my expectations.”

Troemel was invited, as a graduating student with one of the highest grade point averages in the School (and the highest GPA in the Master of Human Resource Management program), to address the student body as its representative during the School’s 51st Commencement Exercises in the Robins Center. When Dean Narduzzi asked faculty members about Troemel prior to his selection, the response was simple: “Mark represents the best of the best.”

Troemel’s work as a student has been exemplary. His Directed Research paper was recently accepted at the 3rd International Conference on Human and Social Sciences, to be held in Rome in the fall.

Troemel works for the Virginia Department of Social Services. His passion is helping individuals with disabilities enter the workforce.

“Passion” served as the subject of his Commencement address.

“The most important life lesson that I learned over the course of my graduate experience [was] how pursuing passion rather than competence or money or prestige will result in greater self-fulfillment,” Troemel stated as he opened his address.

Troemel continued by reflecting on how passion looks and feels. He identified three core attributes of passion that are solution-oriented rather than utopian: Passion is practical, pervasive and patient. A focus on pragmatism shaped his personal reflection on the cherished gift of “the flame of passion” that has been ignited in him as a result of his studies at Richmond.

“I entered the program just hoping to launch a new career, only wishing to be ‘super competent’ in a fresh role. [Now] I feel this irrepressible passion smoldering inside,” he continued, “[but] I have not yet found the right cause or idea to which to harness it.”

Troemel concluded his remarks—and his experience as a Richmond student—with an exhortation to fellow graduates to nurture passion.

“My words this morning cannot be construed as sage advice based on time-tested experience,” he said. “They reflect only a strong intuition that we should invite passion to perform its magic in our lives.”

And then he acknowledged that we may not yet know where the flame of passion will take us in the future.

“Although I am anxious to walk today, I am more eager to meet you again at our five-year reunion to ask: To what unimaginable heights has passion taken you and what remarkable works have you accomplished along the way?” asked Troemel.

What does it look like to follow your passion?

It looks like Mark Troemel who, having reached the pinnacle of his career as a paralegal, earned a Master of Human Resource Management degree as a step toward inviting “passion to perform its magic” in his life.