Yesterday over 1000 students graduated from the Faculty of Science. Between the morning and afternoon ceremonies, the new grads were invited to attend a celebratory convocation event to hear from Vice Dean of Science John Beamish and fellow grad Shez Kassam, who shared the following from his own experience as a student:
Faculty members, staff, parents, loved ones, and students; welcome and congratulations! I cannot believe it’s over; these four years just flew by. It feels like just yesterday when we first entered these lecture halls, amazed by how big they are. Or when we understood that Cameron main was never meant to get any work done. Or even all the times when we realized that our lab reports were due in 10 minutes and we still hadn’t started. Regardless, we were able to overcome such challenges and get to where we are today.
Being a graduate myself, I had a very difficult time deciding what to share with you all today. What wisdom do I have that I can impart unto you all today? Unlike past speech givers at other universities, I am not a celebrity like Conan O’Brien or Steve Carell and not a successful entrepreneur like Steve Jobs. And I am neither a politician nor a renowned researcher with years of expertise behind me. I’m just a regular guy with a few experiences, and very simple humour (as you will see shortly). So in writing this speech, I thought I’d see if there was even any one thing that we all have in common? That we live in Edmonton? Go to the UofA? That we’re all post-secondary students or graduating from the Faculty of Science? I really couldn’t think of much else.
But that’s when it hit me - Science! Finally, there is a cheesy connection between school and our lives that I can talk about today. We’ve all spent years learning about its different disciplines and “enjoyed” the many assignments, labs, and final exams that it so graciously presented us with. Science. It’s this overarching concept that relates to trial-and-error, discovery, advancement, reflection and much more. But with that, it is also a symbol of our journey through university. We’ll all undergone trial-and-errors and learned from our mistakes. And we’ve made discoveries and advanced academically but also as people. Believe it or not, life is one long scientific experiment. It is symbolic in that we must continue to refine and refocus our efforts, time after time, to understand ourselves.
And that is where I feel like one aspect that we often overlook but is crucial for us at this end of one journey: reflection. This time, we’re not surveying geographic regions of sedimentary rock; we’re surveying our living conditions and social environments. We’re not titrating acidic and basic chemicals into Erlenmeyer flasks; we’re titrating small adventures and experiences into each day. And we’re not examining specimens and their behaviours under a microscope; we’re examining ourselves because WE are the specimens of this larger society and we must find our place within it.
By now, I’m sure you’re tired of the awful science jokes and analogies, but what I’m trying to get across to you today is that each one of us has something, a reason, a purpose that brought us to this point. That something that will catapult us towards our future and also bring us meaning each and every day. Take the time, reflect upon this stage in your life and find out what that something is for you. Venture down paths that you never thought of before, consider what makes you happy and what doesn’t, and continue to ask profound questions. Find your cause, whatever it may be. Who knows, among us may be the person who implements major policies for climate change or who 3D prints the most biocompatible organ or who takes humanity to the next planet.
If that is what keeps you up at night or makes you lose hours reading about, then just go for it! There is no limit to what you can achieve and there is nothing stopping you. Now is the time to develop our legacies and leave this place better than it was before. I understand that the job market is not strong right now and student loans will be crippling us for years and a chronic lack of sleep is part of graduate school, but let’s forget about all of that because today is a happy day! Only happy thoughts!
You have all come to this point because of your determination, drive, and hard work. All-nighters in the library, endless pages of notes, slaving over huge textbooks, and having enough Tim Horton’s and Starbucks to last you a lifetime have brought you here on this day. Do not lose that fire within you as you begin the next chapters of your lives and continue to search and fight for your cause, and never let that go. But until then, take the time to celebrate this huge achievement and milestone. I’ve seen us flourish over the years and I’m proud to call you all my peers, my colleagues and my friends. Congratulations Class of 2015! May you find your way through life much easier than finding your way through the Bio-Sci. building. Thank you.