Monday, June 17, 2013

The reason we are here

As the sun drenched the west field this weekend, thousands of friends and families smiled, cried, cheered, held up signs, and rejoiced in the momentous occasion known as commencement.  I had the honor of participating in four of the services (College 8, Oakes, College 9, and College 10) held on the west field.  Many years ago, when I purchased my regalia after completing my PhD at Florida State University, I wondered if I would ever wear it after graduation.  Fast forward to today, and I have donned my FSU cap and gown dozens of times and have participated in numerous graduation ceremonies.  No matter how tired, hot, or stressed I feel heading to the ceremony, I always leave feeling refreshed and remembering why I decided to spend my life working in higher education.

The Oakes College Class of 2013 marches in!

As I sat on stage this weekend, I looked out at the audience and knew that beyond the smiles were countless untold stories of sacrifice, struggle, and heartbreak that brought each family to that moment. This student cohort undertook their higher education during a time of recession, decreasing public dollars allocated to higher education, and increasing worries about the future.  However, I am optimistic about the future because I know that the cohort known as the class of 2013 has shaped and been shaped by this amazing campus. They have not only learned the particulars of their field of study, but they have learned how to think critically, advocate effectively, and tackle (through small actions and large passions) the challenges facing our world.

One moment during the College 8 ceremony exemplified for me why we are here.  Jaclyn, one of the student speakers, hails from a part of Los Angeles where completing a four-year degree is a rarity.  Jaclyn eloquently spoke about her journey to UCSC, the impact her college experience has had on her, and the road that lies ahead.  As she stood at the podium, I looked at her family who sat in the front row.  Each of them sat forward in their chair and hung on every word Jaclyn spoke.  Her mother wiped away tears and her pride was palpable as I sat several yards away.  I do not know all of the sacrifices that Jaclyn's family faced during the last four years, but based on her speech I know the sacrifices have been great. To her family, that one moment in time...the conferring of her degree....was worth all of the sacrifice.  That one moment in time represented not only a critical moment in the trajectory of Jaclyn's life, but it also represented hope for her family and hope for her community.  As I have said before, it is critical that the BAS division holds stewardship as a core value and guiding principle.  As I sat and watched Jaclyn's family, I thought about how much I wanted the entire BAS team to sit with me and watch the tears and the pride.  That moment is why we are here.  Students and their families sacrifice beyond comprehension in order to be here and engage in the life changing experience of a UCSC education.  These students are not simply receivers of information, but they are the beneficiaries of a transformative student experience. When much of the work in our division can be transactional in nature or process-driven by necessity, it can be easy to lose site of why we serve.  It is vital to remember that BAS is part of the means and not the end of why our families sacrifice.  We all play a role in ensuring we keep the dream of a UC education attainable.

There are countless stories of sacrifice that fill this audience.

Thank you to each member of the BAS team who plays a role in delivering the transformative experience on a UCSC education.  I want to offer specific praise for the hard work of those whose efforts made the activities of this past weekend a reality.  Whether you processed the checks that paid for the event logistics, or you physically helped set up the event, or you helped to plan the ceremonies, or you directed traffic, or you drove a shuttle, or you simply were there with a smile to welcome the thousands of visitors who could not wait to see their graduate walk across the made a difference.

A slug I am,

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