Student Commencement Speech
May 11, 2019
As a communication studies and politics and international affairs double major, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to take classes outside of my disciplines. But this last semester of college, I was finally able to. While looking through our course catalog, I had a brilliant epiphany. I am a human who is developing, I should take human development. I know, it’s like so insightful.
There were many aspects of this course that struck me. For example, I liked that we started the semester discussing the act of aging. Before I knew it, I was searching for gray hairs while reading the magic school bus to 3rd graders for my required fieldwork.
However, in my opinion, the most thought-provoking element of the class was its simple definition. Human development is defined as the study of how humans both change and remain the same over time. And if we think about it, that is reflected in our journey here at Furman. There are things about us now that are the same as when we were freshman, but there are also aspects about us that are profoundly different as graduating seniors. I think our families, friends, coaches, and professors can attest to this change. In the course, we discussed domains of development and I would like to reflect on three areas where we have grown while at Furman.
The first is physical. We learned, usually the hard way, that we cannot eat Einstein’s Pizza bagels at 1 a.m., and wonder why we are sluggish and tired the next day for our 8:30 a.m. class. Or in my case, I learned that just because I hang out with student-athletes does not mean I should eat like I, too, was in a three-hour practice. Or all the plans to go to the Furman gym and you never did, and your idea of physical fitness was running to class in hopes of not being late. This does not apply to our valiant student athletes who had to face the unnerving choice of either eating, sleeping, or studying—but could not pick all three. But then we took the mandatory health and wellness class and had an existential crisis about our unhealthy habits. We then developed a normal sleep schedule, ate foods that were naturally green, and valued the idea of exercise and self-care.
The second domain is emotional. As underclassman—or every year at Furman—we cried in the basement of the library from stress. I must admit, we kinda resented our professors because we were sure there was a conspiracy among them. How else can you explain papers, projects and tests all in the same week?
But as we grew we managed stress differently, like with a walk around the Furman lake, or driving around the Milford mall with music, or simply with a tub of ice cream and a good friend. We found out that professors, too are actually human. They became our mentors and confidantes and guided us as we developed our narratives of self. We’ve gotten so close with some our professors…. that we are genuinely considering adding each other on Facebook.
But most importantly, we found our people. We now found people we trust and love so much, that if we were asked: if your friend jumps off a bridge would you? We ask…. well how high is the bridge? We developed a network to support and encourage us during times of sheer joy and endless laughter as well as times of unforeseen hardship and pain. We developed emotional bonds through our teams, organizations and classes and met groups of people that if we had not met them, our lives would be radically different.
The last domain is cognitive. The past four years our minds have been stretching and expanding through rigor and intensive thinking. We now know the difference between information and knowledge. Here at Furman we have mastered the game: who can out complain their neighbor about how much work you have or have not done. We discovered that engaged learning outside the classroom is amazing. We’ve had unforgettable study away experiences in New Zealand, Ghana, Japan, and Brussels. We’ve enjoyed the immersive research and internships in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., that the Furman Advantage promised us. There are people in this graduating class who conducted research with NASA—and I find that hard to wrap my head around. We have developed intellectually and culturally during our time here and are so positively changed from it.
Furman, you have sparked in us a curiosity about the world. We, class of 2019, have encouraged each other, challenged each other, and we learned and grew together. I want to thank all of you for your support and extend a thank you to everyone who supported us through this beautiful journey. Grandparents, parents, siblings, coaches, faculty and staff and of course, my fellow classmates. I would like to close with the best piece of advice I’ve ever received from a Furman professor, who just so happens to be my mom. Dr. Cynthia King once said: “always be kind, always be curious, and always believe that you have the power to be extraordinary.”
Congrats, class of 2019.