The College of Community and Public Affairs: Commencement 2018

Education is a gift that will help graduates change the world.

College of Community and Public Affairs students process into their Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 19. Image Credit: Wayne Hanson.
College of Community and Public Affairs students process into their Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 19.
College of Community and Public Affairs students process into their Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 19. Photography: Wayne Hanson.

College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) master’s and baccalaureate candidates participated in their Commencement Saturday, May 19.

With Dean Laura Bronstein out of state attending her son’s graduation, Associate Dean Kristina Lambright delivered Bronstein’s message to nearly 300 graduates, telling them that there are many things that set CCPA as a college, and CCPA graduates, apart.

“The one thing I am most proud of,” she said, “is CCPA’s students themselves.”

Throughout the past year, Lambright said, students have raised awareness of disability accessibility, participated in the re-accreditation process for the school’s Department of Social Work, and helped put thousands of dollars into the hands of local and international nonprofits through their fundraising efforts.

These real-life experiences, combined with classroom learning, are CCPA’s hallmark as students graduate well-prepared for successful careers in fields including teaching, social work, student affairs, human rights advocacy, medicine, government and non-profit work as well as serving in the Peace Corps, she added.

“The path these students are choosing is not an easy one,” Lambright said. “At their core, CCPA students are committed to thinking outside themselves and serving others. This is messy work. This is emotionally draining work. This is absolutely essential work.”

Turkish higher education administrator and professor Ali Çarkoğlu, PhD ’94, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the Graduate School Commencement Friday, May 18, also addressed the graduates.

Çarkoğlu advised students to consider the road less traveled when contemplating their futures – an approach that has served him well. Although the academic path he followed was not the most comfortable one, Çarkoğlu said he is working with friends in a field he loves. “It’s not how long life is, but how good.”

Laila Davis Clark, a Master of Public Administration graduate, represented her peers as a student speaker. She noted that she has long known her life’s work. “I always knew I wanted to serve others and knew early on this was my life’s career.

“Someone pinch me, just to be sure I’m standing here now,” Davis Clark, the mother of six and a first-generation university graduate, said. “I used to be embarrassed to tell my story, but recently I have come to realize that my story is my journey, and one that I am proud to relate.”

Davis Clark grew up in an “under-represented African-American community with a broken educational background,” a situation she was determined to change. “At 17, I decided to take my GED, studying through a free, distance-learning program I found in an advertisement on a gas station door.”

When introducing Davis Clark, Visiting Assistant Professor Aleksey Tikhomirov, MPA ’04, EdD ’15, commended her for her research work in social equity.

“A lot of insecurity comes from being dependent on others. That insecurity can chart a course for failure for so many people,” he said. Davis Clark’s research can help change that course by inspiring others to “self-organize and self-empower.”

Today, Davis Clark credits public administration faculty and coursework for helping her gain the knowledge and skills needed to implement public administration’s motto: “Changing the world in a practical way.”

Bachelor’s degree candidate Brittany Hall spoke on behalf of the human development majors, calling herself “not your typical university student.”

“I’ve never lived in a dorm. I’ve never been to a college party. I have never seen a frat house or studied with a group of peers in a common room pulling an all-nighter,” she said, adding that she completed her baccalaureate program while working full time, often falling asleep at 8 p.m. Friday nights after watching Jeopardy.

Even as a sometimes sleepy, non-traditional student, Hall said she couldn’t wait to leave work to get to class. “This place became magical to me. There is no pressure, no unkindness. The University Downtown Center became my safe haven.”

The biggest lesson Hall learned as a non-traditional student is that education is a gift. “Sometimes when you open that gift, you find wonderful people wrapped up in the brilliant ribbons of time, professors waiting to envelop you in their worlds and take you on journeys.”

But most importantly, she said, “You begin to blossom, to morph and to become the person you were meant to be. And really, at the end of the day, isn’t the point to become the best version of yourself possible?”

A handful of CCPA students also received their doctorates at the Graduate School Commencement held Friday, May 18.

Posted in: Campus News, CCPA