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Alumna Delivers Speech at CAS Convocation

By Michelle L. Hankins, B.A. '96

Michelle L. Hankins

There is something truly wonderful about graduation. Not only does it represent completion of a goal, marking a period of great achievement, but, too, it represents a significant change in the life of each graduate. Just as it is an end, it is very much a beginning.

As you graduate today, you leave the community of students here at George Mason University. But, you become a member of a lifelong community of George Mason University alumni.

Today, this contingency of alumni totals nearly 66,000 people. That is nearly three times the size of the institution as a whole and just over 12 times the number of graduates represented before us today. These alumni span many different disciplines, work in many different fields, and live in many different parts of the world. Yet, they all have one thing in common. They were all a part of an institution that, throughout its infancy, has encouraged growth and progress.

As an alumna, it gives me great pleasure to see the change and growth that is occurring at the university. And, when I speak of growth, I am referring not only to the new buildings and expanded campuses, but I look out upon a vast number of students who are benefiting from the academic growth that this institution has experienced as well. These students have attained degrees of higher education learning from some of the nation's most respected scholars in their field, and they are moving on to successful careers or to attain even higher degrees.

Just as George Mason has grown, so too has the university encouraged its students to do the same. Where it lacks hundreds of years of tradition, it has much to offer in building new traditions. George Mason University encourages somewhat of a pioneering spirit. As a young institution, George Mason University teaches students not only to look at days past, but to look fearlessly into tomorrow. It was for me an institution that, due to its age, was willing to make change, accept new ideas, and be molded by those within its community.

As you move on from here, you should keep these virtues in mind. The world is rich in history and tradition, but as you go forth, you should always use the education you have earned here. Remember your past and those who have contributed to who you are here today, yet go into tomorrow willing and open to make change. Accept the new experiences that lie ahead of you with vigor, and continue to mold your community as you have done here. Keep in mind that the quality of an institution is measured not only by the caliber of its students, but by the achievements of its alumni.

Those who have attended this institution have had the unique opportunity of being part of the early stages of shaping the George Mason community. As students, and now, as alumni, you too will have this in common. As you search for jobs or continue your education, it is likely that you will meet many George Mason alumni and, as I have, you will come to know the value of this connection. No doubt, as students you came to view this university as a tremendous resource. As alumni, the same can be true. George Mason has given you a foundation upon which the years ahead of you can be built. Now, it is up to you to grow and change much like this institution has. This is your beginning.

I welcome you into the community of George Mason University alumni. Good luck and congratulations!

Michelle L. Hankins is news editor of SIGNAL magazine and president of the Broadside Alumni Chapter. She delivered this speech at the College of Arts and Sciences Convocation in May.

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