Graduate School Commencement

Graduate students eye future success

By Amanda M. Perez

Graduate students eye future success

By Amanda M. Perez
Commencement speaker Drew Gilpin Faust, former president of Harvard, told University of Miami graduate students that their culturally rich community has uniquely prepared them to help the world and succeed.

Miami is one of the most dynamic cities on the planet; some would say a multicultural mosaic. For University of Miami graduates, the city is a place where they had the opportunity to learn from the diversity both within and beyond the classroom.

At the morning graduate student Commencement ceremony, speaker Drew Gilpin Faust, the 28th president of Harvard University, reminded students how valuable it was for them to pursue their studies in a community diverse in race, ethnicity, religion, financial circumstances, political viewpoint, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

“You are prepared and positioned to help the world beyond this University’s walls benefit as you have from the kaleidoscope of human identities and cultures that enrich our lives,” said Faust. “Having lived in this global crossroads, you see beyond national borders; you have experienced our global interdependence.”

Tia Georgette Wong graduated with her master’s degree in industrial engineering knowing that her immediate future looks bright.

“UM and Miami have definitely opened my eyes to a larger world than I could have experienced in Michigan,” she said. “This place gave me a lot of opportunities and great exposure.”

The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native has a full-time job waiting for her at American Express in Sunrise, Florida.

For Angeliki Moutsiopoulou, who earned her doctoral degree in chemistry, UM was everything she could have hoped for, providing her the opportunity not only to immerse herself in academics but also the chance to experience several cultures.

 “The weather, the people, living close to the ocean—UM was perfect,” she said.

Moutsiopoulou, who is from Patras, Greece, said she also found time to travel to Colombia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. She plans to return to Europe and wants to work in the cosmetics industry.


Faust, the first woman to lead the nation's oldest university, noted that interdependence was forcefully illustrated for students nearly two years ago when Hurricane Irma demonstrated disregard for borders as it swept across Caribbean nations, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and South Florida. She noted that Irma left not just destruction, but some important lessons in its wake. 

“I hope you will take from your time here a deep awareness of the way humans are interdependent, not just with one another across the globe, but with our natural environment,” Faust said.

She also noted resilience. Faust, who was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, said UM’s mascot, the Ibis, is the defining symbol of what resilience represents.

“When Irma threatened, the University came together to repair and restore, supporting one another in an effort to emerge stronger,” said Faust. “Every job, every career, every life has its hurricanes. But you have weathered storms and are ready for those that inevitably lie ahead.”

UM President Julio Frenk also provided words of encouragement to those entering the world that is filled with exciting opportunities.

“You are equipped to make a difference,” said Frenk. He added that he hopes students will take with them three principles that guide the institution.

“Respectful disagreement, the pursuit of truth, and the embrace of difference,” he said. “Now more than ever, we must practice these principles not only in our minds and our hearts, but in the actions we take every day.”

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the 32nd president of Brazil, was the speaker in the afternoon graduate student ceremony, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. During his speech, Cardoso reiterated the importance of truth while sharing his views on some of the challenges and risks that he believes people are facing as members of academic communities and as citizens of democratic countries. 

“It is the concept of truth itself that is under attack,” he said. “The systematic dissemination of false or misleading information dissolves the frontiers between truth and lies, reality and ideology.”

Cardoso also shared how he thinks democracy is always a work in progress and an incomplete journey. 

“As a democrat and a humanist, I learned in my eight years as president of Brazil that political power comes from the top, but trust comes from the people,” he said.

Cardoso called on students to be active members of society and fight for what they believe in. 

“Our common challenge is to reweave the threads between truth and reality, society and politics, demos and res publica,” he said.

Writer Barbara Gutierrez contributed to this report.