Graduation day is one of the happiest moments in a person’s life. Students bask in the glow of this educational, life-enriching accomplishment, while wearing caps with creatively designed personal expressions and quirky decor. They’re surrounded by family, friends, classmates and roommates, wear a camera-ready smile and accept congratulatory flowers and large balloons.
It’s one big party, but still, the visible message is this: Everyone’s path here is different, but in the end, it’s about sharing a common experience.
“Together, we have changed,” said Monsignor Daniel Dillabough ’70, USD’s vice president of mission and ministry, during the Baccalaureate Mass.
Make that, together, USD graduates are ready to be Changemakers. The university’s designation last fall as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus was a validation for work entrenched in USD’s mission statement, through its schools, centers, institutes and programs. Students, through opportunities presented to them and the experiences that result, gain knowledge to contribute to the betterment of the world.
Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka, received an honorary degree at the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) commencement. Speaking to the 723 graduates there, he stressed empathy and the need to embrace the role of Changemaker.
USD’s undergraduate valedictorians, Daniel Hernandez (pictured, at left) and Will Griffin (School of Business Administration), offered encouragement. Hernandez talked about not having regrets, instead following the passion discovered through one’s college experiences. Griffin reminded his fellow classmates the value of self-perspective.
Al Carey, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, spoke to USD’s 638 business and engineering degree recipients about work-life balance and the power of staying positive while mired in adversity because that’s what’s needed to find creative solutions.
In Catholic Relief Services President/CEO Carolyn Woo’s graduate schools’ graduation address, she noted that in a competitive world, the path to success comes from the presence and power of the phrase, “All is Grace.”
“The lowercase ‘g’ in grace represents hospitality, kindness, consideration, compassion and helpfulness,” Woo said. “The capital ‘G’ for Grace (God) is the source of all of these actions.”
Indeed, students who arrive as freshmen and transfers or, for those who successfully pursue advanced knowledge in a graduate or doctoral program or a law degree, ultimately achieve something for themselves and, likely, for the good of all.
• Diana Rodriguez-Agiss (pictured, right) earned three undergraduate degrees — accounting, finance and political science — and was heavily involved with Associated Students, Honors Program, Mortar Board and MEChA to name a few. Named Student Support Services’ Most Inspirational Student this month, Rodriguez Agiss’ commitment was true on graduation day as she walked in both the CAS and School of Business Administration (SBA)/Engineering ceremonies.
• Daniel Hernandez and Will Griffin, are double majors who both plan to incorporate their USD degrees and experiences into their immediate future. Hernandez, a Theology and Religious Studies and Spanish graduate, is heading to Brooklyn, N.Y. to serve in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Griffin, armed with business economics and finance degrees, is preparing to enter Fordham University’s Master of Science in Quantitative Finance program.
• Celina Gonzalez and Anthony Pavlovic earned USD’s Alcalá Award going to a top graduating female and male who represent USD’s commitment to providing students a holistic educational experience. Both on the dean’s list academically, Gonzalez, a Liberal Studies major (math concentration), and Pavlovic, a Communications Studies major and business administration minor, exemplify what it means to be a Torero. Gonzalez was an instructor, mentor, tutor and volunteer in local schools and organizations and went on immersion trips to New Orleans and East Los Angeles. Pavlovic, Associated Students President this year, was in PRIDE, a Safe Space Ally and a Rainbow Educator. He was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, involved in USDtv and he was a freshman and sophomore senator before his presidency. He was at the forefront for student events tied to the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus initiative.
• Jonathan Kim and James Walston are two bright examples of the pre-professionals academic programs at USD. Kim earned a mathematics degree and became a Navy Ensign through the NROTC’s Seaman to Admiral (STA-21) Commissioning Program’s Medical Corps option. Kim, who enlisted in the Navy in 2002 and had two deployments to Iraq and served as a Navy SEAL medic, is off to Harvard Medical School. Walston (pictured, left), a biochemistry graduate, has been a stellar advocate of putting his interest and medical talents and leadership to provide health care for some of the world’s poorest communities. Walston, who is heading to Mayo Medical School, developed the USD Medical Brigades student organization with classmate and fellow graduate Shane Smith. Walston, Smith and other dedicated students went with professional doctors for medical service trips to Honduras and Panama.
It’s these students, and countless more, who realize the individual path they took to USD eventually blends into one common road.
“No matter where you travel, you will leave behind footprints on the university and we’re better for it,” USD President Mary E. Lyons said. “Your footprints now are the footprints of Toreros.”
— Ryan T. Blystone