At a time when the rollercoaster of world events can seem defeating, he urged the graduates to think back to why they came to Brown in the first place, evoking the excitement they felt as they attended their first courses, the thrill of making new research discoveries and the confidence that came with learning new skills.
“During our graduate education, we were encouraged to pursue excellence and reach for the top,” he said. “We were encouraged to find ways to solve problems, not to make excuses about why we couldn’t do something.”
As experts in their field, Shihipar argued that everyone in the crowd now has a platform, and they should use it. The same motivation they held onto as students should be harnessed after leaving the institution, because regardless of which direction their moral compass points, those who can — will.
“Those who harm do not know the meaning of the word ‘no,’” Shihipar said. “It does not exist in their vocabulary. Indeed, they have a limitless imagination. So if they can use their imaginations and platforms to harm, we can use ours to heal and repair and dream big. These degrees that have been conferred on us not only represent great potential, but they represent great responsibility.”
As the ceremony drew to a close, after each graduate’s name was called and degrees were “reconferred” in Latin, Campbell shared what everyone in the audience appeared to be thinking.
“It’s clear from the applause and excitement and the love you’ve all expressed when these names were called that two years hasn’t broken any bonds of friendship,” he said.
A campus return to celebrate
Though the opportunity to experience Commencement the way they had originally envisioned was a big motivator to return to College Hill, the procession and formal ceremony were just two events lined up for 2020 graduates. Dozens of Commencement forums, exhibitions, open houses and receptions welcomed the alumni to engage with communities old and new.
Following the ceremony, graduates and guests headed to Pembroke Green to reconnect and relax at the Graduate Class of 2020 Commencement Reception. They spoke with deans, faculty and staff, caught up with classmates, and relished the opportunity to have their accomplishments honored in-person, together as a class.
Noah Brandon, who traveled from Louisiana to celebrate the executive MBA he earned through the IE Brown program, was excited to attend Commencement and Reunion Weekend.
“Walking through the Van Wickle Gates was a lot cooler than I thought it would be,” he said. “It’s a major accomplishment for me to be able to graduate from an Ivy League school.”
Brandon, whose family joined him for the festivities, added that had an extra-special reason for returning to campus: He wanted to return home with a picture of him — in his cap and gown — with his daughter. And he did.
For Moloko McKenzie, a South Africa native who earned a master’s degree two years ago, the importance of her return to Brown wasn’t just about her achievements, but what they represented to her community back home.
“I came back because of the immenseness of the moment,” she said. “Given my journey and the fact that I don’t just represent myself — I represent a nation and a continent of people and women, specifically — I understand the weight of this.”
Walking through the Van Wickle Gates was an emotional moment for McKenzie. She remembered crying as she passed through them during Opening Convocation, when she began studies. Ending her Brown journey at Commencement, she cried again: “There’s something about the gates that makes it that much more special.”