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365体育投注_365体育备用网址@ 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@ recognizes the Class of 2024

On Saturday, 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@ 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@ recognized 498 candidates for graduation at the 164th commencement ceremony.

The commencement address was given by Dr. Lisa Durant-Jones, who served as 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@'s interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion during the 2023-2024 academic year. Viet Bui '24, an engineering physics and computer science double major from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, was the featured student speaker.

President Andrea Talentino: "You will be faced constantly with the need to determine what you believe and why. Do not shy away from that."

Andrea Talentino
President Andrea Talentino

President Talentino's message to the Class of 2024 focused on the history and future of democracy — and the role of these graduates as they progress to the next stage of their journeys.

"Today is a day of great celebration," President Talentino said. "Today is also a day to think soberly about the world you are meeting as a full-fledged adult. It's a world of unrest, division and confrontation. It's also a world in which democracy, what many of us think is the bedrock of this nation and a beneficial trend for the world, is increasingly in decline."

"Freedom House defined 2023 as the 18th consecutive year of decline in global freedom," she cited, "and estimates that only 20% of the world lives in what is now classified as 'free countries.'"

She discussed Harvard professor Dr. Samuel Huntington's research on the three waves of democracy, noting, "the wave concept is important because it means that democratic transitions tend to be clustered in space and time, rather than occurring randomly. Unfortunately, based on Huntington's findings, reverse waves are similar."

She added, "The topic of how democracy rises and falls, not only around the globe but in the United States, should interest you, because this is the primary question that your adult lives are likely to engage in one way or another."

Yet President Talentino expressed her unwavering faith in the graduates to face the challenges presented by a changing world.

"You have shown over the last four years not only the traits that we always expect from 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@ Vikings — a willingness to think deeply and carefully about issues, the curiosity to look beyond the easy answers, a sensitivity to those whose experience is different than your own and a desire to embrace different perspectives to build better solutions," she explained, "but you have also shown, repeatedly, a commitment to work with and for others."

"Your parents will be happy to know that these are exactly the skills that employers seek," she continued, "which is why I have faith in our future."

President Talentino urged the Class of 2024 to express bravery and curiosity in their lives, especially as they are called upon to shape the future.

"You will be faced constantly with the need to determine what you believe and why," she said. "Do not shy away from that. If the basic questions of democratic governance were easy, we would not have needed to debate them over thousands of years."

"As you leave campus, remember this: 18 years of declining democracy is enough," she concluded. "Use your freedom wisely. The fourth wave of democratization is yours, as long as you stand to be counted."

Viet Bui: "We went beyond and created the best out of the worst."

Viet Bui
Viet Bui

Bui's address discussed the challenges he faced and the growth he experienced during his time at 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@ — a story many of this year's graduates can relate to.

"We all know [our first year] is the critical moment to make new friends in a new environment," he began. "However, our class didn't have it easy."

Despite the social restrictions brought on by the pandemic, Bui notes that he made lifelong friends. ("One of them I made while at the back of the class, who I talked to so much that our dear, lovely professor had to stop us — sorry, Professor Mueller!")

He even made close friends during his J-term experience in Holden Village, a trip he says "truly changed my life."

"I originally went on the trip with a friend, with no intention of getting attached to anyone," he remembers. "I just wanted to be alone and hike in the mountains. But the community — and the gorgeous wildlife — taught me so much about the value of connection."

All told, Bui believes the early experiences of the Class of 2024 only enriched their learning journey.

"This class may not have had the ideal college experience, but at which benchmark?" he asked. "We went beyond and created the best out of the worst, and that best is the human-to-human connection."

In closing, Bui thanked his parents for "letting me fly far (literally) and live and study in a whole different world."

He turned his final remarks to the institution that supported him and his classmates during his college journey.

"Augie, you will always have a place in my heart," he said. "Class of 2024, I want the best for all of you. Remember to do good deeds in the world, and know that you have a place in it."

Dr. Lisa Durant-Jones: "Not only did you lift yourselves up, you lifted those around you."

Dr. Lisa Durant-Jones
Dr. Lisa Durant-Jones

In addressing the graduates, Dr. Durant-Jones recalled the unique challenges faced by the Class of 2024; for many graduating seniors, their first year of college was affected by the onset of the pandemic.

"Unlike any other graduating class in recent memory, you ended your senior year of high school at the height of the pandemic and were denied some of the very traditions that create lifelong memories," she noted. "For many of us, the goal was to simply to make it through — and, in your case, graduate. But the very fact you are here is a testament to your resilience."

Resilience was the theme of Dr. Durant-Jones' message, and she drew upon personal stories of resilience, such as the sudden death of two of her siblings several years ago.

"Some of you experienced the same unbearable loss during the pandemic," she said. "During that time, you needed the resolve to forge ahead when the natural tendency may have been to allow the grief to consume you. […] That, my friends, is resilience!"

Because this group's college journey was uniquely defined by the pandemic, many articles and commentaries have dubbed the Class of 2024 "the pandemic graduates," a term Dr. Durant-Jones rejects. However, quoting R. Bruce Anderson, a journalist and associate professor in political science at Florida Southern 365体育投注_365体育备用网址@, she found a positive spin on the term.

"[Anderson] believes that you graduates are 'tough, tested and ready for a new world.' I like that characterization," Dr. Durant-Jones said. "[He also] asserts that when you entered college, it became 'havens of learning, of shared responsibility and collaboration.' Not only did you lift yourselves up, you lifted those around you!"

In closing, Dr. Durant-Jones urged the graduates to not forget the challenges they surmounted, but to use those memories as inspiration for the next stage of their lives.

"As you move forward to the next phase of your journey, whether it's graduate school, work or other adventures, you are in a unique position to look at these past four or five years, sit with your experiences and reflect on what you tapped into during the challenges of the pandemic," she said.

"You were ultimately responsible for your success. Please don't underestimate the grit it took to be here today."

Honoring graduates and faculty

Dr. Lisa Durant Jones receives an honorary doctor of humane letters
An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters was conferred on Dr. Lisa Durant-Jones

An Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters was conferred on Dr. Lisa Durant-Jones. The degree was conferred by America D. Colmenares, associate professor of Spanish.

Two retiring professors were recognized at the ceremony: Imran Farooqi, professional faculty in business administration and economics, and Dr. Susan Stone, professor of music.

A total of 54 international students from the Class of 2024 graduated, including students from Cameroon, Canada, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, India, Iran, Japan, Liberia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam and Zambia.

365体育投注_365体育备用网址@'s Class of 2024 includes students from 20 countries and 19 U.S. states, representing 68 majors.

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