Congratulations to the class of 2012! Your hard work and sustained efforts over the past few years have paved the way for your success, and are the reason that you are currently sitting here today. You have undoubtedly overcome many obstacles in front of you, and have succeeded in this chapter of your academic goals. I am proud and honored to stand in front of such a talented group of individuals. Many times in our graduate career, we have heard memorable quotes from our mentors, peers, friends, and family. I hope to provide you with a speech that each of you is able to relate to. My speech for you will focus on three facets of UMass Dartmouth, and graduate school in general: unyielding support, overcoming obstacles, and the most important thing that UMass Dartmouth has taught us.
My graduate career was full of twists and turns, and unexpected surprises, as I'm sure yours was too. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, good times and bad times. However, I was always able to count on my mentors and peers for both academic support and emotional support. One of the best features about UMass Dartmouth is the sense of community that I feel each and every day when I drive onto campus. In fact, we just added to our community with the addition of the UMass School of Law. As our community gets larger, we also get closer. As graduate students, we spend a lot of time here at UMass Dartmouth. We have spent long nights, side by side with our peers, working on difficult assignments. Our peers are individuals that we have both leaned on during hard times, and also celebrated with during great times. Many of you have seen the Disney movie, "Lilo and Stitch". Throughout the movie we hear that, "Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten". The relationship that we have built with our peers is similar to "Ohana", in that we never let each other fall behind and were always there for one another during both good times and bad. This support is invaluable. Many of us also gained support from our family and close friends outside of our own major at UMass Dartmouth. I know in my own case, I had friendships with students in many different majors, and they truly helped me to see my research from unique angles that I would not have thought of with my psychology background. I'm sure that you can think of some examples in your own career, when having a fresh, eager pair of ears to listen to you think through your thesis not only made you feel good, but was beneficial to your learning and understanding. Let's use this moment in our lives to thank our peers and our families for all of the support that enabled us to reach our goals.
As graduate students, we have to overcome many obstacles. Although sometimes we feel as if we live in an "academic bubble", we often have "life" happen around us. Certainly, these have been some of the most challenging years of my life. Grad school is tough, and as Steve Jobs once said, "sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick". My fellow graduate students, you as a whole, can relate to this quote in many ways. Perhaps your research didn't find significant results, or your long hours at an internship wore on you. Maybe you had a difficult time recruiting research participants, or perhaps your fish just wouldn't eat the crabs, or maybe you injected hundreds of chicken eggs and still didn't get the results that you wanted. We deal with unique issues to graduate school, but also issues that individuals who are not in graduate school face, as well. Perhaps you experienced financial problems, or maybe you had to say goodbye to one of your best friends who chose a different career path than your own. Throughout the time that we have spent at UMass Dartmouth, we have been thrown many unique obstacles. Luckily, our strong sense of community and incomparable graduate student bond has gotten us through it. My words to you to get through hard times are similar to Steve Jobs, "You have to trust in something- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever; Just don't lose faith." Your fellow graduate students, mentors, family, and friends will never lose faith in you, so never lose faith in yourself.
At UMass Dartmouth, I learned a lot about research in psychology. I learned both how difficult and how rewarding it is to conduct psychological research and see results that may one day make a difference in students' lives. I am sure that your educational career also followed the same rewarding pattern. However, what I learned about the most during my career at UMass Dartmouth was very important. I learned a lot about myself. I learned both academic characteristics about myself, but also about who I am. I am sure that over these few years, you also learned new characteristics about yourself. Whether you determined which unique area of research you are interested in, or found a new passion for badminton, these have been years of self-exploration. Mark Twain once said "Don't let school get in the way of your education." We certainly experienced a large amount of education academically, but also personally. About a month ago, after learning we were in gradate school, an older woman at a small town restaurant said to my friends and I, "your education is something that no one can take away from you". Value everything you have learned here at UMass Dartmouth and take it with you in your future endeavors. UMass Dartmouth will forever be part of your identity, to quote country singer Jason Aldean, "it's where we lived and learned real life stuff, and it's everything we're made of." As emerging adults, we have been fortunate enough to spend time finding ourselves, exploring ourselves, and following the path in life that we have dreamed of.
I hope that you have learned that you are able to achieve many goals, and that you take pride in all that you have accomplished. You certainly earned it. Congratulations once again. Graduate student life isn't easy, it takes a lot of work that your other friends and family sometimes may not understand. To paraphrase Robert Frost's infamous words, we "took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference". To the class of 2012, you stuck to your goals and made it through some of the most challenging years of your life. Congratulations to all of you. I am proud to be standing here before you today and speaking on your behalf. As a new fork comes into the road, some of you will continue graduate school and others of you will enter the workforce. Whichever path you now choose, I hope that you always cherish your years at UMass Dartmouth and take all the lessons you have learned here with you on your journey. These past 2 years have been full of exploration, challenges, losses, and victories. In sum, I would say it was an irreplaceable experience. I hope you had the time of your life at UMass Dartmouth, because I know I certainly did. As my final words to you, tomorrow you may start your new career or education path, but for tonight we are young, so let's set the world on fire, and we can burn brighter than the sun.