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Matthew Conlin graduated from the Master’s in Disability Studies Program last night and was selected as the class of 2016’s Student Speaker. Below is his speech:

Thank you for granting me the honor to speak today. Writing this speech, I have looked to some of the most successful people in the world and their advice—their quotable wisdom. The internet has made this sort of research quite easy, you know, but rather than focusing, you end up watching Chewbacca Mom on YouTube. I thought maybe I would begin with a quote by a beloved icon: Audrey Hepburn, David Bowie, even J.K. Rowling. And then I realized that as loved as they are, I can safely say we’ve all heard those motivational quotes before. And, clearly, I am not an icon, I am a graduate. Just like you. So, instead I decided to speak today about us, and what we are going to accomplish from this point forward. Whether you’re receiving your Undergraduate or Graduate degree, you have a hopeful future. You have a chance to use your skills and your talents to make our world a better place. And who knows, maybe we will one day be as famous as the people we try to quote. But that is only if we listen to our hearts, and follow our goals all the way to the finish line. This is our time, our adventure, our journey.

Believing in oneself is the key to a better life, and to a better world. We all start somewhere. For that reason, I would like to share with you a bit of my background. When I completed my Undergraduate degree, the unemployment rate was up to about 9.4%. That was 2009. I eventually found work in the field of content marketing, and like most graduates in that year, I took whatever job I could find. As a millennial, I was lucky even to be employed. Fast forward a few years. While I still loved media, I was growing restless and knew I needed a change. I wanted my life to mean more than working to fill experience hours.

That’s where CUNY School of Professional Studies fit in. I sat in my first class, nervous because I hadn’t been a full-time student for a while. But everyone here was warm and welcoming. I was home. I found a field where I could give back to the community, and one that encouraged my dream of social justice. Here I found another family, as I would honesty call them, who supported me through every step with guidance, patience, and harsh, but useful criticism. And, yes, Professors, I am talking about you. I am also talking about my fellow students. Together we strive to be more. CUNY provides us that opportunity. It is our springboard, and we are the ones who seek to make a better future for ourselves, our loved ones, and our community.

Whether you were in Disability Studies—like me—or another, we are alike. You came here to achieve more. As a student, you have polished your knowledge and have learned about your field. Because of these new friendships, new mentors, and hard work, you are here today at this ceremony and ready for your next adventures.

And what do I mean by adventure? Well, let’s think about it. This graduation does not indicate that we know everything. Graduation signifies that we have progressed to the next level. It is about understanding that there is still more to learn. CUNY SPS has given us a strong foundation to hone our talents. No matter our age, we will learn from the world and give back to the world. What we do with our degrees from here on out is essential. Our careers, our choices, and our actions matter. Our adventures are really beginning now that we have the insight and groundwork we needed for the road ahead.

We were led here by our interest. Our pure intent and commitment paid off. We worked hard, and combatted exhaustion with tea and coffee, and an occasional nap or two. Professors and textbooks gave us the information we needed. Colleagues and friends gave us the encouragement we needed. All of these experiences were part of our academic adventures, including the frustration of setbacks and heart racing joy of accomplishments. It was our genuine devotion to our craft that got us this far and will keep us moving throughout our careers and lives.

Let’s use that motivation to enact change. Regardless of our professions and interests, we are all here to be the best versions of ourselves. Call me idealistic, but with our new degrees, we can use our talents to make an even brighter future for ourselves and our communities. So, let’s go shake things up! Congratulations, Class of 2016. Let our new adventures begin!

 

 

 

Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Julie Maury is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies and this is her speech:

I want to wish the class of 2016 the very best in their future endeavors. I know a lot of the fellow graduates have experienced endless nights of writing papers and lots of research. But, you’ve made it and have achieved your degree! Take a deep breath and enjoy this day and every day for all they are worth. Keep going forward in the directions of your goals. Don’t just follow your heart, do what resonates deeply with you and work with intention towards your dreams. May you keep or find a job or jobs that you love. Aristotle was quoted as saying: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Through those words we can realize that one really can find joy in life through doing what matters to them most.

I am sure that many of you choose your path of study, your degree path, because you want to have a greater impact in this world. I grew up as a person with a disability. I was told: “You can’t…” or, “You shouldn’t…” a number of times when it came to following my goals. What I came to realize is that there were many disability advocates and community activists who I could look upon as examples of what is possible to achieve in this life. For example, my mentor, Nadina LaSpina taught me about the power of building a strong community and being an Activist and a Scholar of Disability studies. She, herself, is an Activist, Writer, and former Professor of Disability Studies. It was through Nadina that I learned the ‘door’ of life’s possibilities was open to me. My mind started to wonder about what it would be like to be a Scholar in Disability Studies. I then found out about the CUNY School of Professional Studies Disability Studies Master’s Degree Program and felt ‘at home’ upon my first visit to the building. Nadina allowed me to be aware of what is possible to achieve in life and this school did the same for me. I learned about the Disability Rights Movement with a depth I never thought possible.

I hope that you all will “Lead On!” as Justin Dart “Father of the Disability Rights Movement” famously once said. “Lead On!” in being good examples to others of what is possible to achieve in this life…in academia and beyond. Keep pushing forward and never give up. There are times when life will get difficult but, as in your academic career, things always evolve. Keep evolving throughout life…with life. Do not allow yourselves to be stagnant. Also, do not be afraid of change. You never know what ‘beauty’ can be around the ‘corner’ at any time.

Remember to take time for yourself and do not take life to seriously. Do not allow work to overwhelm you. Find a balance in your life. And, again, keep ‘moving’ forward. Albert Einstein once said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, you must keep moving.” I hope that where ever your path takes you it’ll take you far and towards whatever your desires are.

Also, I want to say that if any one of you hit a crisis point in your life, please do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Know that you are cared for. There were a number of times, while at CUNY SPS, where I felt very stressed out with the workload and there were many times that, because of the stress, I considered leaving the program. I reached out to Professor Mariette Bates, who runs the program, and she would encourage me to keep going. Never underestimate the power of a kind word. Never underestimate the value of taking time out to talk to someone who really could use an ‘ear’ to talk to. That can have a huge impact for the better. Communication is so important. The words of encouragement, that I have received, throughout my time in this program, particularly, have meant so much.

My fellow students in the program have all been so inquisitive and thought provoking. You have really made me think critically and want to learn with you and from you. I never dreaded going to classes, no matter if they were online or in person. I valued, so much, sharing life stories and different points of view. Learning about other students’ lives was so interesting. Some were from other parts of the world, others from different states. All held such value in their views. Such a depth and passion for learning. I remember, a number of times, staying after classes ended, outside of the building, or late nights online, because I never wanted some conversations to end.

But, as in life, things do come to an end. This is the end of one path for many of you in this room today, but it is the start of a beautiful new path as well. In a way, school never ends, if we keep our minds open—we’ll keep learning for the rest of our lives.

In closing, I want to say that I wish you all the very best in whatever paths you all choose. Just never stop moving in the directions of your dreams, never compromise your character, and most of all keep your minds open to the beautiful opportunities that life has to offer/present to you. You all have great worth in this world. Never let anyone tell you any different. Margret Mead once, famously said: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” I believe she was right. And, I have great faith that you all can do just that. Again, as Justin Dart said: “Lead On!”

 

 

Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Tyrone Cumberbatch is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Media and this is his speech:

To the students and faculty of the CUNY School of Professional Studies, I want to share my utmost thanks to all I’ve had some form of communication with in these last several years. Finally completing this part of my education journey has filled me with great satisfaction and happiness. Just to share a little about myself. I come from very humble beginnings that have taught me many valuable lessons. I’ve had my shares of low points but I’ve also had many high points in my life, which I tend to focus on. I also posses the bonus of 42 years worth of life experiences that I can share with you all but I was only given 5 minutes tops if selected to give my speech as student commencement speaker. Nevertheless, I can add another experience to that long list of having this possible commencement speech spread amongst the graduate archives of the CUNY School of Professional Studies. I can truly say that hard work pays off in many different ways.

I truly know that dedication, perseverance and sticking to worthy commitments allows for endless and worthwhile possibilities. It is up to us all to continue to strive for greatness and achieve what we all deem to be the ‘better life’ we all want and deserve, that our families deserve and the communities that we all live in can also benefit from. We all have different paths that we must take on this journey we call life but with the right education, mentorships, work ethics and other positive factors, the success that anyone of us can obtain is bountiful.

My charge to the CUNY School of Professional Studies class of 2016 is that no matter where you are in life, no matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, and political affiliations always to strive for greatness, never let anyone deter you from where you want to go in life. Always Continue to learn, grow in education, (hopefully with other degrees from CUNY School of Professional Studies) always read and learn more every day, especially in the career you tend or are now currently working in. If you want better, you yourself must be better. I know this speech may have the energy and sound like a motivational seminar, but that’s the key, continue to do what ever is necessary to motivate yourself especially during the times when life becomes the hardest with harder lessons than you can imagine.

I personally know of hard lessons. Approximately five years ago I loss my younger brother who I was very close to. But I know that somewhere in the echoes of the universe he is very proud of me and he is proud of my continuous pursuit for a better life. Graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Media is another example of me trying to achieve that better life. I implore you to continue to achieve yours.

In conclusion, yes I know “don’t let it end, keep it going,” but alas I must get ready for the AFTER PARTY. Let me share with you this quote by Napolean Hill, “Patience, persistence and perspiration makes an unbeatable combination for success.” I charge you again: have patience in all that you do, allow the time necessary to obtain your goals. Continue to be persistent to strive towards your goals and add the perspiration when it is needed, sometimes we have to sweat to meet our goals.

With all three Ps combined, success is no doubt in your grasp to do with it as you will. My fellow CUNY SPS classmates, in which SPS now stands for Superb People Succeeding, continue to do just that—SUCCEED and be great in it all!!!

Each year CUNY SPS asks graduating students to apply to be the Student Speaker at Commencement. As part of their application they are asked to submit their anticipated speech. At the end of the process only one student is selected, however, numerous speeches embody the spirit of the graduating class. We are proud to share some of these speeches here.

Adesine Murray is graduating from CUNY SPS on June 6 with a Master’s Degree in Business Management and Leadership and this is his speech:

I would have never imagined my journey of pursuing a tertiary education would have led me to this point. I started my journey of pursuing higher education many years ago at the University of Guyana in South America, where I gained my Associate’s Degree in Accountancy. Upon migrating to America, I decided to continue my educational journey at City University of New York, Brooklyn College campus where I was awarded my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Finance in the spring of 2012.

During my time at Brooklyn College my initial thought process was to just pass the courses and graduate in the targeted time I had set for myself. I cannot tell you much about my campus life since I did not have much of it. I, like most of the students, worked full time and attended school full time through evening and weekend classes. So, the campus experience and being part of student clubs and other activities that other students were exposed to was not part of my experience at Brooklyn College. However, I can say that Brooklyn College has one of the most beautiful campuses in CUNY—nicely manicured lawns, a pond, mini garden, and a nice combination of old historic and modern buildings. My favorite building was the library where I visited frequently for both undergraduate and graduate studies.

I must thank Baruch College for not accepting me as that gave me the opportunity to attend Brooklyn College which was an easier commute and walking distance from home in Midwood. During my time there, I was able to forge friendships and bonds with fellow students that I still maintain today, and I know they are all equally proud of me for finally catching up with them at the graduate level. My friend Patricia is probably smiling saying, “nerd.”

I was a little hesitant to enroll at CUNY SPS to do my master’s degree because I was not very familiar with the online education process. After doing research and attending one of the information sessions, and thanks to the presenters that day and the alumni who were there to answer our questions, I was sold and here I am today. Part of my reason for doing my graduate degree, apart from increasing my knowledge and attaining qualifications, is to make myself more competitive in the job market and to achieve my life goals. I also did it to serve as an example to my nieces and nephews to show they can achieve anything they want with hard work and dedication.

The journey with CUNY SPS has been challenging at times but also rewarding. One of the professors who helped to take away the challenge of learning math online was Professor David Hauser who taught me BUS 670 Quantitative Decision Making. Starting in the fall 2015 semester with this course I was very nervous, but after my first two classes with Professor Hauser, and learning strategies to complete the work, I was very encouraged. I think Professor Hauser was one of the best professors I have had at the School of Professional Studies.

The experience at all of the CUNY campuses is not one that I can replace and will always remember it as part of my unique journey through three schools earning three degrees. I have learned and was exposed to many new ideas and business concepts that I can take with me on my continuing journey. The CUNY SPS MSBML meet-up was a good way of allowing students to meet their fellow classmates and their professors, even though I attended only the first one and missed the others due to scheduling issues.

I must thank all my professors and advisors for guiding me through this enlightening journey, my family who has supported me through all these years, and my fellow classmates for their help in our classes when I needed it.

In closing, we have all achieved a great accomplishment, so may we all go forward proudly and enrich the world with our new knowledge and experiences and most of all make CUNY SPS proud.

Congratulations!