by Kevin Dicciani
Yesterday more than 100 Chestnut Hill College graduate students reached a significant milestone in their lives when they received diplomas for their master’s and doctoral degrees at the School of Graduate Studies Inaugural Commencement ceremony.
The ceremony, the first commencement devoted solely to SGS, was held on May 9 in Ann Rusnack Sorgenti Arena.
Around 120 graduates processed from the Rotunda to the arena while bagpipes played throughout St. Joseph Hall. Once in the arena, they were greeted by cheers from family and friends, some of whom held signs congratulating them on their achievement.
This year’s commencement speaker was Aurora Camacho de Schmidt, Ph.D., a professor emerita from Swarthmore College and a former board member of JUNTOS, a Philadelphia-based, immigrant-led advocacy group.
Camacho de Schmidt said that if graduates could see the relationships they’ve built in the past few years with fellow students and professors, they would see “a grid more impressive than the electric nerves of New York City and equally able to give off light and power.”
“It's not only you as individuals who are beautiful, but also the collective entity that you will always be — the graduate Class of 2019,” Camacho de Schmidt said. “You overcame tensions, conquered differences, and built friendships, many of them poised to last a lifetime. You are awesome.”
Camacho de Schmidt said the future holds much promise for graduates, who, she declared, will be signs of hope wherever they go.
“It is clear that you all belong to an ethos of service that cannot be improvised but is a result of decades of hard work, reflection, and knowing how to read the signs of the times,” she said.
William “B.J.” Cunningham, the dean of the School of Graduate Studies, along with College President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., conferred upon graduates diplomas for their master’s degrees and doctorates. Graduates earned master’s degrees in administration of human services; instructional technology; clinical and counseling psychology; clinical psychology; psychology and human services; and education. Doctoral students received doctorates in clinical psychology.
Sister Carol told graduates that earning advanced degrees admits them into an elite group of individuals. She said they are now “breathing rarified air,” as she stated that only 9.3 percent of Americans have master’s degrees and fewer than 2 percent have doctoral degrees.
“You have paid for these degrees both with hard labor and constant effort over many years,” Sister Carol said.
If they view their degrees as gifts, Sister Carol said, graduates then have an obligation to help those who are vulnerable, underserved, and marginalized.
“As you leave this campus today, you take with you a special attitude of heart that welcomes the other,” Sister Carol said. “You will make a difference in our society because you have an active, inclusive love for every kind of dear neighbor, without distinction, from whom you do not separate yourselves.
“That is the indelible mark of a Chestnut Hill College education, and it is the unique brand that you carry with you wherever you go. You embody the hope the world so desperately needs.”
Graduating student Jazzmen Cuevas ’19, M.Ed., who delivered the welcome address, gave an emotional speech in which she described the adversity she had to overcome to get to where she is today. Ever since she was a child, Cuevas envisioned herself as a teacher. But, she said, she didn’t know how to actualize this dream, as her youth was marked by alienation, poverty, and, at one point, homelessness.
Despite the circumstances, Cuevas was determined to get a good education. Growing up, she said that she looked forward to a bright future where she could help children achieve their dreams. A former teacher once told her that she could accomplish anything she wanted, and Cuevas believed her. That belief, she said, changed her life.
Cuevas, who also earned her bachelor’s degree at the College, expressed gratitude to the professors who helped her along her journey. She then asked her classmates to do the same.
“The professors that have held our hands and paved the way to this very moment have been such a blessing in our lives and my life,” Cuevas said. “Each of us has those professors who have touched our lives, helped us grow in our vocation, and provided us models of the possible.”
At the end of her speech, Cuevas said that Chestnut Hill College has forever changed her life. It is a place that she will forever consider home, she said, adding, “Once a Griffin, always a Griffin.”
“With a great gift comes a great responsibility — to touch many lives, to mold many minds, to mend many hearts, to help heal a broken world,” she said. “Keep your time at Chestnut Hill College in your hearts, and now carry the mission into the world.”