Commencement Address

Hello Friends! 

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last posted but in my defense, I’ve been busy. Yesterday, I had the honor of being the student speaker at my hooding ceremony. Here is a transcript of my speech! I hope you all enjoy! Congrats to all of the #SAGrad’s out there!

To the esteemed faculty, friends, family, and especially the Student Personnel26891005681_64f25a602d_z

Administration in Higher Education class of 2016, it is an honor to speak before you today, an honor that I do not take lightly. My goal for my short time before you this afternoon is that I inspire, uplift, and not cry.

Before I begin I would be remiss if I did not take the time to thank my mother and late father, Lisa and Gregory McKnight. I am thankful to have had parents that not only put me in cute dresses with matching hats but also bought me doctor kits and books that described the terrible power of Black women that cannot be contained. It was a blessing to have parents that loved me before they knew me but it is God’s grace that I have had parents that believed I could do anything I put my mind to. Thank you for never making me question, not for one second, that I am enough. This is me not crying.

Class of 2016, welcome to the day we thought would never come. Friends, I don’t have decades of hard-won wisdom to pull from to offer you advice but I do have three hopes for you all as we end our time here together.

SANKOFA

 Sankofa is a word, but also a symbol, that comes to us from the Asante people of Ghana. It is often times represented by a bird that is facing forward but looking backward. Sankofa explains to us that it is important to move forward, but to also remember where we have come from and who has helped us along the way. So I hope that you remember the folks that have been in your corner, that listened to you complain about Grad School, even though they still aren’t sure what your degree means. I hope that you remember the faculty that advised, challenged, and supported us through our two years together. That listened to our every complaint with a learned patience. But most importantly I hope that you remember the support network that we have created with one another.

We have been through a lot together. This cohort has been a team of cheerleaders in times of triumph and safe havens in times of defeat. Through APA tests, internships, papers, marriages and the births of adorable babies, we have seen it all. I hope that we not lose that spirit of camaraderie. It is expected that with the busyness of life that is soon to come our GroupMe won’t be as poppin’ as it has been in the past but I hope we are still able to say, “My cohort has my back.” 

NEVER BE SATISFIED

I hope that you never settle for the status-quo and recognize that you have no bounds in what you can do. Being never satisfied doesn’t mean that you can’t feel accomplished, it means that you understand you always have room to grow and be better. Our students are always changing and getting smarter everyday so we should do the same! Be curious, try out a new idea, whether you rise or fall, do something! The limit does not exist for you!

I hope that when you embark on a journey to your new job or bring your M.Ed. with you to your current position you are able to take the knowledge you have gained with our amazing faculty and continue to push and challenge yourself to do more for our students, who deserve us at our very best.

BE AN ADVOCATE

This last point is less of a hope but more of an expectation of you all as good and decent people in this world. Since we have been in graduate school, issues of police brutality against Black bodies, transphobic laws, sexual assault on college campuses, and the rights of undocumented students, have been at the forefront of national conversation. We have also talked about all of these issues in class. Well now is the time for us to stop talking and do something.

As people who work in higher education, at institutions that are supposed to be cultivating the future leaders of our country it is our responsibility to help them not only retain, persist, and succeed in college but also give them the tools to be civically engaged and responsible leaders.

I hope that you have the courage to advocate for the rights of students in your respective functional areas. As Student Affairs professionals we should be a part of a constant examination of what students are being left out or pushed out and why. I know that we have all seen how easy it is in our field to get into a comfort zone. But I hope for you to be the type of millennials that the rest of the world thinks you are and challenge the process. Racism, sexism, transphobia, classism, and so many other forms of oppression have the opportunity to knock our students down at every turn. I hope that you push to center the needs of the most marginalized so that they may feel uplifted. You know the world, you know who you are, now it’s time for you to show it.

Friends, My life has been shaped and inspired by the work of Black women that cannot be contained so it is fitting that I close with a quote from the powerful Dr. Maya Angelou,

“You will be surprised that these years of sleepless nights and months of uneasy days will be rolled into an altering event called “the good old days.” And you will not be able to visit them even with an invitation. Since that is so you must face your presence. You are prepared, Go out and transform the world.”

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate this thing called commencement.

Thank you and Congratulations.

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