Stephens College May Commencement 2009
Stephens College conferred 165 bachelor’s
and 39 master’s degrees upon its graduates during two Commencement
ceremonies on Saturday, May 9, 2009. A total of 178 graduates participated.
Graduates of the Division of Graduate, Online & Non-Credit Programs received their degrees at 10 a.m. in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall.
Traditional undergraduate students received their diplomas at 2 p.m. in the John and Mary Silverthorne Arena.
Read this year's commencement speeches:
Graduate, Online & Non-Credit Programs ceremony
Traditional Undergraduate ceremony
Graduate, Online & Non-Credit Programs ceremony
10 a.m., Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall
Jeanne Fernandes :: Jacqueline Hubbard
Jeanne Fernandes, undergraduate representative
Jeanne Fernandes of Acushnet, Mass., graduated with a Certificate in Health Information Administration. Fernandes, who works as a data systems manager at Essex Group Management Corporation, plans to become certified as a Registered Health Information Administrator. She previously earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
Good morning President Libby, Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, members of the 2009 graduating class, families and friends.
I am honored to have the opportunity to address you today.
Having completed my course of study via the online Health Information Administration program, I had limited interaction with my fellow students. While I would see the same names again and again on my class rosters, there was little opportunity to become acquainted with each other.
During a wintry week in January, our class was required to travel to the Stephens campus to begin our final research project, the capstone. When the Health Information students gathered for breakfast on the first day we were familiar strangers from across the country. While we had never met face-to-face, we knew a bit about each other from our introductions and blackboard discussions, so it was not long before the ice melted and we became friends.
We shared stories of our most difficult semesters or courses. We shared our gratitude for our family’s support and the sacrifices they made to allow us to see this through. One thing we all agreed on was the excitement and anticipation about this day. We were just one course away from graduation. We talked about how much easier our lives would be once we were done and how we would spend our free time.
On the second day of our Capstone, some time was set aside for the Director of Admissions to speak to our class about the MBA program here at Stephens. We offered our polite attention as the director described the unique program. As details emerged, our interest heightened. We discovered we would be able to complete our MBA almost entirely online in about two years. Best of all, there was a significant discount if we began the program soon after our graduation. What began as polite attention, for many of us turned into sincere interest in the program.
Our Class, That same group of students who, just the day before, whole heartedly agreed that the end was near and couldn't come soon enough, began to entertain the idea of pursuing an MBA immediately following this endeavor. It is that drive to continuously reach higher and seize life’s opportunities that has brought us here today. It is the climb.
As adult students, our college education is complex. We hold many roles, handle multiple priorities, and have made many sacrifices to be here today. While this has required our commitment and dedication, many of us would not have met with success without the help and support of our families and friends. This celebration is far more meaningful for us than for most traditional students.
As our spouse, you most likely assumed more than your share of household duties and endured periodic episodes of inattention while we worked on projects and assignments.
As our children, you competed with us for computer time and found it difficult to gain our undivided attention.
As our Parents, you have offered words of encouragement and support for our efforts.
As our siblings, you re-assured us that our efforts were worthwhile and success was near.
As our instructor, you have made an extra effort to provide individual instruction to struggling students.
As Stephens staff, you have guided us through the application process, course selection, and preparation for graduation.
To all of you here today, we thank you for the important role you played in our success.
To those of you who will receive their MBA today, we applaud you.
To my undergraduate classmates, congratulations to you. I will watch for your posts on Blackboard in the MBA program.
back to top
Hubbard, graduate representative
Jacqueline Hubbard of Columbia, Mo., earned an M.Ed. in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling. Jacqueline previously earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland–College Park. She plans to work as an elementary or middle school counselor.
Good Morning. I’m so honored to be speaking on behalf of all the outstanding and accomplished graduates here today. Thank you President Libby, honored Trustees, faculty and staff. I can hardly believe this day is here. When I first began this journey two years ago, May 2009 seemed very far away. But time is like that. Time is both free and priceless and its passing bestows a certain perspective that can only be attained by living through time. My time at Stephens College has taught me a lot. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the people I have met along the way. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend such a fine institution and to be taking part in one of the last commencement ceremonies with Dr. Libby, who to me personifies the traits I deem most important in life: enthusiasm, optimism, and confidence.
I want to start this morning by talking about enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Enthusiasm is what will fuel us to remain passionate about what we do. It is the catalyst for continuing to learn more about our chosen specialties long after we leave Stephens. Enthusiasm is contagious; it will spread through our homes and our workplaces. Our enthusiasm will touch the lives of all of those around us and motivate them to make positive change. I see this happen all the time. As a school-counselor-in-training in the Columbia Public Schools, I’m required to attend a monthly department meeting with all of the elementary school counselors. The meetings are at the end of the day and most of us have to juggle are overloaded schedules and rush just to get there. You’d think the room would be full of tired, annoyed people…but it’s not. There are a handful of extraordinary individuals, so passionate about school counseling and brimming with enthusiasm, who get everyone in the meeting talking and laughing and sharing ideas. It is those people who spark the fire in the rest of us; their enthusiasm encouraging motivation and growth.
The philosopher William James wrote that “Pessimism leads to weakness; optimism leads to power.” In recent months we have seen many people in our country face severe loss and uncertainty. Simply watching the nightly news can leave us feeling hopeless and discouraged. Now more than ever it is important to stay optimistic. We must believe in the best possible outcome. We must see the beauty in repulsive situations. Like enthusiasm, optimism is essential to motivating others. Every day I work with children who are neglected, abused, lied to, and forgotten about. These children have little in their lives to depend on or to look forward to. Many would look at these children’s lives and think they were destined for a life of trouble and hardship. An amazing teacher I work with taught me a valuable lesson. She said, “If you want the kids to believe things can change, you need to believe it too.” She is right. When you look at life through an optimist’s lens, you can see possibilities that weren’t visible to you before.
Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach, once said, “Believe deep down in your heart that you are destined to do great things.” Our belief in ourselves and in our dreams is what got us all here today. We all had the confidence to pursue something greater. We must carry that self-confidence into the next chapter of our lives. Our self-confidence is what will support us when all else fails. It will give us the strength and courage to try new things and to stand up for what we believe. Our self-confidence will empower us to laugh at failures and persevere. Each day we need to choose to be enthusiastic, to face all situations with optimism, and to believe in ourselves. Some may hear this and say “Easier said than done!” I say, not for anyone in this in this room today.
In closing, I want to share with you a Hebrew/Franciscan blessing someone else in the helping profession shared with me right after I began my graduate program. Just like the person who gave it to me, these words inspire me every day.
May you be blessed with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you will live deep within your heart.
May you be blessed with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May you be blessed with the tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy.
And may you be blessed with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.
It is a pleasure sharing this day with all of you. Congratulations and good luck.
back to top
Traditional Undergraduate ceremony
2 p.m., John and Mary Silverthorne Arena
Dr. Ana Langer :: Kristin Parran
Ana Langer, keynote speaker and honorary degree recipient
Ana Langer, M.D., is the president of the international reproductive health organization EngenderHealth, which works to improve the quality of health care in the world’s poorest communities. A lifelong advocate for women’s health and rights, Dr. Langer’s expertise includes reproductive health policy, programs and research with a particular focus on maternal health.
She received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Stephens College.
Good afternoon, and thank you so much for that very warm welcome. It really is such an honor for me to be here with you all today, to be able to share this milestone with the graduates and all of your families, and also to join you all as a proud degree holder from this esteemed institution.
As a mother, I can tell all of you parents that I understand how bittersweet an occasion this is. Wasn’t it yesterday that your daughter was entering kindergarten? That you were helping her with her math homework? That she had her first softball game? And now she is sitting here clad in cap and gown, a college graduate.
I still remember so clearly how I felt the day I myself held my diploma in my hand! I was enormously proud. But I was also aware that I was one of few women to have such a privilege.
I was raised at a time and in a country – Argentina – where most women expected that their entire lives would be lived as wives and then as mothers – as caregivers and household managers. Very valuable, but traditional roles. This was not just what they expected, it is what was expected of them.
Even in Argentina – one of the most progressive countries in Latin America—there were—and still are—glaring inequalities in the opportunities available to women compared to those available to men.
But my family was different. I am the daughter of two European immigrants, both physicians, and both very progressive and committed to helping right the wrongs they saw all around them. From them I learned early that I was to set my sights on a profession, ideally one that would improve people’s lives.
My parents supported me in every way they could and to this day I remain so grateful. And the fact that you are sitting here today, on this beautiful campus, surrounded by good friends and loved ones, means that your families – just like mine – have been amazing sources of support. It means that they have high hopes and aspirations for you. And I have no doubt you have them for yourselves, just as I did.
Today, in this historic space, I am aware as ever of its legacy of 30,000 inspiring graduates, which you are now part of. You are among the most powerful people in the world: Educated women!
This is special and you are very fortunate to have had the chance to learn and grow into adulthood in this beautiful environment. And I hope that you do not take this for granted, for the bright opportunities before you are very different from those facing your sisters around the world.
As educated women, you have the power to help shape your own future and the future of the world. But young women in many developing countries are not: at your age, they are already married to someone they did not choose, have 2-3 and even 4 children, have not finished primary school and spend most of their time on domestic chores and unpaid work.
And these young women face risks that would be unimaginable here. In the United States, when we hear someone start a sentence with the words “One in eight women…” we think “breast cancer.”
It’s tragic. Yet there are corners of this earth where that complete sentence is actually, “One in eight women will not survive childbirth.”
Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world, a woman dies due to pregnancy or childbirth. By the time I leave the dais, we will lose a dozen mothers around the world – ten percent of today’s Stephens graduates.
The main reason for that is that so many pregnant women in the developing world don’t have access to quality services and to the tools that have benefited their sisters in developed countries for decades. There simply are no doctors to care for them, there are no surgical rooms, and there are no drugs.
Another reason for this shocking figure is that more than 200 million women want to use contraception that would help them prevent high risk pregnancies, but they can’t – there isn’t any around, or their husbands won’t agree, or they can’t get to a health clinic.
As educated and sensitive young women, women with values, women who care, women with knowledge, you can do something to change this. This is how I felt when I was your age.
It was for these reasons that I decided to study medicine. I trained as a pediatrician and neonatologist, intent on helping children living in challenging circumstances. If children had a brighter start, I reasoned, the world could change.
But I very quickly realized that for children to be healthy, they needed healthy mothers. And for mothers to be healthy, they had to be the ones who made decisions about their bodies, their health and their lives.
It was then that I turned my attention to women’s health – and to looking at all levels to see how it could be improved, how women everywhere could live better lives.
The more I walked this path, the more involved I became with public health and public policy. And the more I became aware of the importance – the fundamental importance! – of women’s education, and of the need for women’s economic independence. These are inextricably linked to women’s health and well-being, and to the security of families, to communities, and to nations around the world.
And I became passionate about the role and responsibility of women to support one another.
There is a quote attributed to Madeleine Albright, another women’s college graduate, that says “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women,” and this is a reminder to us all that sisterhood is powerful. Sisterhood is global. And that we each have within us – as individuals, and collectively – the ability to make a difference in each others’ lives, to lift each other up.
To some this may seem like a cultural artifact – something for people in other places to sort out for themselves, in their own way, on their own time. Something that does not impact our lives. But I want to remind you that what happens to your sisters anywhere really does matter to people everywhere. Because if you look at the most troubled spots in the world today, they are places where women’s are most constricted. Women’s lives look nothing like those that you or I live – or would want to live. Rather, they are our nightmares. And these are the places that ultimately produce men who fly planes into buildings, and men who form bands of pirates and menace the seas.
But there’s more to it than that. We need not only to ensure that women everywhere can exercise their basic human rights, we need to support them, and support each other, to be leaders. Because we know from years of social and economic research that women leaders are different. They are consensus builders, they are less likely to take uncalculated risks, and they are more likely to support and promote other women!
Here in the United States, life is very good for us – but it is not perfect. Take a look at Wall Street: it wasn’t women who gambled away our individual and national prosperity.
So imagine how different the world would look if more women were in charge.
Women like you.
I proudly lead an organization, EngenderHealth, which for more than 65 years has been working to improve quality of health care in the world’s poorest communities. We do this by empowering all people to make informed choices about their reproductive health, training health professionals, promoting gender equity, and advocating for positive policy changes. We’re bringing incremental changes that improve lives for women, for families, for communities. And when women are healthy, families are much more likely to be, too. Healthy people, and especially women, are better workers, they have more opportunities, they send their children to school –their daughters in particular. Communities become more stable, strains on the environment diminish. Economies expand, and nations thrive.
I know that monumental problems can be solved. I’ve seen it happen, and I would not be standing here today if I didn’t believe it with all of my being.
I believe that each and every one of you has the power to help solve some of the world’s greatest problems – no matter where you live, no matter your chosen profession. Set your sights high – and never stop reaching to meet them. If you remember only one thing from my remarks, I want you to remember this: Your exams may be over, but your life’s work is just beginning. Your Stephens education and the ideals it embodies will be invaluable to your ability to live this one precious life with purpose, with joy, and one in a way that you make a difference in others’ lives.
Because the world needs you: Courageous, independent, intelligent, respectful, sensitive and savvy leaders. Women committed to helping other women, and to making the world a better place.
And so I am so happy to be able to join President Libby, and Stephens trustees, and your families in welcoming you to that world – to the rest of your lives.
Good luck, and may this wonderful Stephens sisterhood sustain you on your journey.
back to top
Kristin Parran, class speaker
Kristin Parran of St. Louis graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Marketing: Public Relations and Advertising. She plans to work in the marketing department of Aramark Higher Education at Stephens College while earning her M.B.A.
Thank you President Libby for that heartfelt introduction. Honored Trustees, dedicated faculty and staff, class of 2009, distinguished guests, family and friends; I am truly honored and humbled by being afforded the opportunity to speak to you all today.
As I thought about what to say, I looked to quotes for inspiration. The first quote I read was written by a comedy writer, Robert Orben, "A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells hundreds of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that 'individuality' is the key to success." As ironic as this quote may be, it is true. As I continued my search, I read a quote by renowned poet Maya Angelou, "The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart." Therefore, I plan to speak from my heart, and hopefully my words will touch yours.
As I continued to read quotes by Angelou, another quote stood out, "Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise." In our three or four years at Stephens, we have had the opportunity to invent ourselves. We have learned through our triumphs, mistakes, new experiences and fears. We have also been developed and cultivated through out roles in clubs and organizations, academics and interaction with faculty and staff. In essence, we have defined ourselves by becoming strong, savvy, smart and sassy women of distinction. As we prepare to start working in our chosen profession or further our education, we must never lose sight of who we are and whose we are.
In the world we live in today, it is so easy to lose sight of our goals, dreams and who we are. As we run our own race in life trying to accomplish our goals with integrity, people will take notice. A Stephens woman always has that something extra that others cannot put their finger on unless they are a Stephens graduate.
There will be those who try to knock us down by creating roads blocks. With the ideals we have learned at Stephens we will be able to meet any challenge, even if it means climbing the mountain, tunneling through it, or walking around it. As Bill Gates said at a graduation, life is not always fair. Thus, sticking to our morals and what we know is right will sometimes lead us the road less traveled. Remember, the most beautiful stones have been tossed by the wind, washed by the waters and polished to brilliance by life's strongest storms.
Even through those storms, we know we will always have a home and support system as Stephens. Each of us carries our own version of our Stephens family created by friends, staff, faculty and alums. Our Stephens family will always be there for us. We have a connection no one else will be able to duplicate.
One of my best friends gave me a frame with the quote that reads, "Friends are our chosen family." Stephens is the family we chose once we decided to attend the institution. Therefore we must remember those who are still at Stephens. An alum, professor or staff member has positively impacted each of us whether we know it or not. It is now our turn to help guide, mentor and continue to improve Stephens for the next generation. As Luke 12:48 says to whom much is given much is expected. Stephens has given us a lot and therefore it is time for us to return the favor.
We do not have to do this in the traditional way. We can build upon the legacy initiated by the Stephens graduates, who graduated before us. Go out and break the pattern in your industry, be the change you want to see in the world and show others that with hard work, dedication and remaining true to yourself, you can and will achieve your goals. However, remember that as you move through life and grow, your goals and who you are will continue to grow and evolve. Throughout your life, you will have experiences and learn life lessons that will help you reinvent yourself. I know that through your reinventions, you will leave very high stilettos to fill for the next generation of Stephens students. Good luck class of 2009. I know we will continue to build upon the Stephens legacy as we take our places in the world.
back to top