Commencement 2010 - Graduating Senior Reflections
Reflections by Kate Summers '10
Today we become the first graduating class of the new decade. Students sitting in these seats 10 years ago did not live in the same world we do. They did not have Facebook status updates to proclaim “I’m graduating today,” and they did not find their country in the midst of severe economic trouble. However, even though we are facing some obstacles, Denison has provided a venue for us to learn from Professors and each other how to navigate our futures successfully. I think this lesson started before we even arrived at Denison with our first year theme of dissonance and harmony.
For just a few moments, I would like to take you back to those few weeks before we came to Denison. The e-mails to roommates to plan who would bring the TV and fridge, the boxes and piles of clothes that no dorm closet could contain lining the hallways of our parents’ house, that feeling that something was about to change but we were not sure what. Upon receiving the first year’s theme, I didn’t feel any more prepared for this transition. Dr. Laurel Kennedy provided the theme of Dissonance and Harmony and asked us “to consider the role that dissonance — social or political, interpersonal or intrapersonal, artistic or scientific — plays in helping us find harmonies” (Dr. Kennedy, 2006). In my eighteen-year-old mind, I thought this theme seemed odd. In life, we are often taught to only to look for the good, the harmony. However, Denison was asking us to be aware of the troubling and confusing parts of life and how they create harmony as well. Little did we know as we tried to fit that futon in our parent’s van and headed out to Granville, that this lesson would be a fitting theme to help us through college and as we look towards the future by providing us with a more educated and well-rounded outlook.
During our time here at Denison we have had our fair share of dissonant learning experiences. Some of these experiences were small—like writing a 20-page paper the night before it was due, or living without electricity because of winds from a hurricane. Through these smaller examples we learned that frustrating things happen but sometimes when we work against time or seek shelter in seniors’ apartments for electricity, we come together in a way that may have otherwise not been possible. We strike up conversations during these times with students that we may have otherwise never met. We all have that friend we met randomly in the Fellows computer lab at one in the morning.
We also had our fair share of larger dissonant circumstances such as during our sophomore year when we were faced with issues of racism and intolerance. Yet, it was at these moments that the lesson we learned from our first year theme came into play. These were intense dissonant times which led to hurt and anger, yet we stepped up as students and demanded a change. We saw this as an opportunity to show what we wanted Denison to represent and tried to make better changes that would bring some harmony to the future Denison students. Our class learned not to ignore the dissonance but to learn from it and even embrace it with the goal of moving toward harmony.
This kind of thinking and action, though, would not have been possible without our professors. In our classes, we were never given the answers or shown a certain path. Professors challenged us from day one forcing us to question our readings, our lectures, and our views and become strong-minded people who seek for a well-rounded education and balanced life. The professor’s methods were put to the test this year when many of us completed senior research and senior seminars. Through these experiences we struggled with having too much information and not knowing how everything fits together. However, our professors were always there to grab coffee with us in Slayter and explain that research is often more dissonance than harmony and helped us find a path that worked. Sure we sometimes found the long hours in the library exhausting, but it always seemed worth it when one random Friday night you got into an intense academic conversation about Marx with a sociology/anthropology major, an economic major, and an art major and had that feeling of “I love college.”
Now we are all leaving the hill. For the first time in four years, we did not complain about walking down those stairs because we knew we were heading to this ceremony. While our futures may not seem as set as we once thought they would, Denison has given us a broad education that has prepared us to examine things with an open mind and be prepared for anything life throws at us. Now once again our futons and clothes are packed in boxes with no way of fitting in our cars. Yet, it is a good thing we are leaving with more than we came with, including the lessons we have learned. I hope that through everything Denison has given us, we head out into the world striving to make a difference and appreciating the dissonance in our lives for what it is.
Reflections by Aleksandra Panovska '10
College is more than just an academic forum, it’s a life-learning experience, and to see how far we’ve come, let’s recall when we first met ...
It was a sunny afternoon in late August 2006. Two-by-two, we marched from Swasey down the 151 steps to the Fine Arts Quad — eager, anxious, and a little scared. We each received a red tassel that we’d carry with us to this day, and with the ring of a bell, President Knobel proclaimed the academic year had begun.
We joined Denison the year it celebrated its 175th anniversary under the theme of “Dissonance and Harmony.” We’ve certainly seen plenty of both in the past four years:
We saw gas prices reach $5 a gallon;
We were shocked by the de-throning of Pluto as a planet, we witnessed a crippling recession (or, “economic downturn” for some of you);
We fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;
We saw history with the election of the first African-American President (and the closest a woman has ever come);
We contracted swine flu;
We grew addicted to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, iPods, texting, the Wii, and reality TV;
We saw Pirates of the Caribbean and off the east coast of Somalia;
We bid farewell to celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger; and,
We saw more controversies than we’d like to remember.
Here at Denison we read books and wrote papers, but we were not immune to the impact of the world around us:
We learned to advance sustainability with the renovation and LEED Certification of Cleveland Hall and the installation of solar panels on the roof of the library;
We learned the power of unity as we cheered on dozens of championship athletic teams, and when we collectively mourned the passing of Maria Toledano. We learned the importance of tolerance when we overcame hatred sparked by our differences of race, sexual orientation, gender, and religion, in November 2007;
We learned to make a difference by consistently raising the bar fundraising for The American Cancer Society during the annual Relay for Life; by implementing the Code of Academic Integrity; and by volunteering in the aftermath of natural disasters;
We learned to follow in the footsteps of those before us through lectures by notable speakers such as F.W. de Klerk, Richard Holbrooke, and Peter Singer, as well as countless cameos by Senator Lugar. Oh, and that one guy ... what’s his name? Oh yeah, Steve Carrell. Some of us are still hoping that Jennifer Garner might pop out of the bushes at any second.
On a more personal level, we learned how to balance classes, Greek life, a campus-job, involvement in dozens of organizations, and a social life on the side. Some of us even learned how to make mac ’n cheese and do our own laundry. This year, we began looking forward. We learned how to get our work done and still have time to study for the GRE, write dozens of cover letters and resumes, meet with Career Services; and enjoy every moment we had left with our friends.
Sustainability, unity, philanthropy, and responsibility — these are all themes that will guide us through the rest of our lives. This college adventure has been about trial and error, self-actualization, and learning to be an adult. We’ve worked as teams and as individuals. We’ve learned that even the seemingly smallest act of kindness can have a lasting and meaningful impact. We’ve cultivated a community of higher learning that centers on a liberal arts education, and we’ve prepared ourselves for the endless opportunities that await us. It is with this hopeful spirit that we leave Denison ready to lead the world.
It’s time to use what we’ve learned to be the responsible leaders and innovators of tomorrow. It’s time to acknowledge that the tools we’ve amassed here at Denison are life-long instruments in our pursuit of happiness.
It’s also time to thank our parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends, for their never-ending support — emotionally and financially; to recognize and appreciate our professors and mentors for their relentless wisdom and guidance that has helped us along the way.
It’s time to take that next step — whether it’s law school, medical school, a big-girl job, or the armed services. It’s time for us to go forth with confidence, and find opportunities in the face of challenge. It’s time to hand the reins over to the next class, and trust that they’ll surpass our achievements. And it’s time to bid farewell — but not forever — to the campus on the hill that we’ve come to so lovingly admire.