Speech to the graduates of the class of 2012 1/2
Read the speech our Chair, Kiran Coleman, gave to the newly graduated class of 2012 and a half at UCU’s December graduation ceremony on December 21st, at the Academiegebouw in Utrecht.
Dear graduates of the class of 2012 and a half, family, friends, teachers, tutors, staff, other people who just really enjoy attending graduations for some reason,
I wanted to acknowledge and address you all at the top here, but I’m mostly going to be talking to the new graduates right now. (The rest of you are allowed to listen as well, just know that maybe not all of it will apply as much to you as it will to them.)
Graduates: congratulations on making it through all your courses, papers and finals and on becoming UCU alumni. I sat where you are sitting when I graduated from UCU seven and a half years ago already now. (I wasn’t actually sitting exactly where you are sitting, I was in the Stadsschouwburg, where they hold the summer graduation ceremony, but this room is much nicer and I never got a personalized speech from my tutor, so I think you got the better deal.)
In those years since then I’ve experienced what it’s like to go from class rooms of 20 people to ones with 200 people, what the whole 9 to 5, going to an office everyday thing is like and how it feels to be that graduate who’s back in the UCSA bar every now and then, while the current students are all wondering why anyone would want to be that guy after they’ve graduated. And while those subsequent experiences all have had their pros and cons (receiving a steady pay check can be much more fun than seeing your student loan debts go up), my main take away that I wanted to impart onto you is that being an alumnus, and being an alumnus from UCU in particular, is a pretty special thing (I don’t even have to lie to tell you this, it really is).
And that’s because, whether you liked it or not, living on a campus and being in such close proximity to each other all the time, it gives you a shared connection between all of you. After graduating I’ve ran into a number of people, in different cities, and asked them how they were doing and what they were up to then, even though I had really never talked to them before and I just recognized their face from sharing the same campus and going to the same Dining Hall.
I’ve also ran into people who I’d never seen before but who were wearing a UCU sweater and, if I wasn’t in too anti-social a mode, I’d go up to them as well and say “hey, you went to UCU? Cool! Me too!” And, on the whole, a lot of people that wear that sweater are proud to wear that sweater. And I believe they should be.
Because even though more Liberal Arts & Sciences colleges seem to be popping out of the ground every year, UCU really is still quite a unique place. Just in my immediate group of friends that I made while I was at UCU, some have gone on to become lawyers, teachers, researchers, scientists and people that have started their own companies. And I think there are very few places where that’s the case. And it also makes for much more interesting dinner party conversations than most other university programs.
And that’s also something I’ve found very satisfying in the other work that I’ve been doing since graduating that I didn’t mention before, and that’s being a board member of the University College Alumni Association, first as Secretary, and now as Chair. I’ve been a part of this board and attending these graduations for almost two and a half years now and in that time I’ve heard a huge number of stories and the great thing is that almost all of those have been different.
The friends you made here at UCU will most likely be your friends for a long time to come (I mean, I’m assuming. Maybe some of you have friends who are happy to be rid of you now that you’ve graduated, I don’t know, I don’t know most of you very well), but, what I’m trying to say is, though you’re all different, you also all share that bond. Not just with those that are beside you and on the same graduation stage with you right now, but with all those that came before you as well.
And keeping that connection alive is what we’ve been trying to do as an association, and, assuming the world doesn’t actually end today, it’s what we’ll continue to do going forward. It’s not something my board and I are able to impose from the top down though, we can only help it along. Because, in the end, having a vibrant alumni community is largely up to you as alumni. And to that end, I am glad to see our community growing with each graduating class and am very glad to see all of you joining our ranks.
So, I’d like to finish by saying: welcome. You are part of a really great group now. Let’s work together to make that group even greater.