Students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences were told to use their power wisely and to make the most of their circumstances at the second CCAS graduation ceremony Saturday.
Ashley Atilano and Jack Hirschman – who both earned Distinguished Scholar awards – addressed their peers in the Smith Center. A faculty member and CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck also spoke to graduates during the ceremony.
Atilano, who earned degrees in English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, shared her experience as a first-generation and Latina student. She discussed her journey to higher education and her desire to inspire others to seek a college education despite difficult circumstances.
“Today, I am a proud Latina, first generation, low-income college student who has earned her place in higher education,” she said. “My journey to this self-assurance was not simple, but by virtue of being in this space, I am an example that it is possible.”
Atilano encouraged graduates to recognize the privilege of their degree and to use their influence to help others.
“I challenge you to remember your responsibility to use your power as a college graduate to empower others,” she said.
Hirschman, who earned degrees in physics and political science, said GW has prepared graduates to achieve any social or career-related goal they set.
“We have been trained, we have been given the necessary tools to succeed and we have been placed at base camp.” He said. “Now it’s up to us to make the most of the situation and see how far we can get.”
Marie Price, a professor of geography and international affairs, urged graduates to make the most of their “internal maps.” She said students should build themselves up through the places they see and the people they meet.
“Each of us are making our maps of the world, by the places we experience, by the localities we shape and influence, by the resources we consume, by policies we support, by the dreams that we have for the future,” Prince said. “May you build a map that you can reflect upon with pride.”
Wahlbeck, the CCAS dean, told graduates to continue learning and take chances throughout their careers.
“Life is about change, about evolving, making mistakes and learning from them, about navigating through every experience and building upon every success,” he said. “So don’t get too comfortable – when you stop taking chances you stop learning, achieving and making an impact.”
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