Hundreds of family members crowded into the Smith Center Saturday to watch students from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ most popular majors obtain their bachelor’s degrees.
Speakers at the college’s first of two ceremonies – in which students majoring in fields like political science and journalism crossed the stage – encouraged students to keep pursuing their curiosity after graduation and to embrace new opportunities.
Here are some key points from the speeches:
1. Value friendship and intellectual stimulation
Sarah Shomstein, a professor of psychology, encouraged students to nurture friendships forged at GW because they will be the ones to “help you endure adulting” in following years.
But Shomstein said although social media makes keeping up with long-distance friends seem easy, the quality of the interactions outweighs the frequency.
“Nothing is easy, and building friendships is no exception,” Shomstein said. “The energy you invest will repay you many times over.”
Shomstein also talked about the importance of keeping curiosity, even when students are no longer part of an institution to help facilitate their learning.
“Curiosity will give you the courage to keep asking, ‘What is it?’ and not simply be satisfied with, ‘I like it,'” she said. “It will be up to you to create learning opportunities to not only open the doors of opportunity, but to find these doors and succeed.”
2. Keep an open mind
Daniel Ling, a graduate of the Class of 2018 and recipient of a distinguished scholar award, advised his peers to keep themselves open to new opportunities and to not limit themselves to a single goal in life.
“Some of the most consequential things that will happen to you will happen by accident,” Ling said. “I hope as we move out into the world we will be able to recapture that excitement and keep ourselves open to whatever happy accidents we might find.”
3. Embrace “change maker” titles
Ben Vinson, the dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, told students to persevere at a time when the country is “polarized” because challenging times “enlighten pathways for positive change.”
“You, as newly minted graduates of Columbian College, you are the change makers, you determine what happens next,” Vinson said. “Through small acts of kindness or grand gestures, you are moving our global society forward.”
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