May 16, 2009

‘Be a student for life,' Suarez tells graduates
CSU Monterey Bay confers 880 degrees

Aerial ShotUnder sunny skies, journalist Ray Suarez told the graduates of California State University, Monterey Bay that the world they are about to enter needs their energy and their curiosity.

Suarez, a Washington-based senior correspondent for public television's national news program, The NewsHour, was the keynote speaker at the university's May 16 commencement. With more than 880 students receiving bachelor's and master's degrees, and about 100 earning teaching credentials, it was the largest graduating class in school history.

After receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters conferred by President Dianne Harrison, Suarez commended the graduates for taking advantage of their opportunity to earn a degree.

President Harrison"Whatever road you took to get here today, the vast majority of your peers did not do it. You were not deterred by the difficulties of getting to this day . . . You had an opportunity and you built something with that opportunity - yourself," he said. And while acknowledging the challenging economy the graduates are facing, he told them, "I'm not afraid for you because of what you've already shown the people around you simply by making it to this morning."

He gave a special acknowledgment to the students who started life somewhere else, or whose parents did.

"You are a vindication of the faith your family had in coming here in the first place. You are confirmation that America is a transformative place . . . but America will also be transformed by you. So thanks for making it all the way to the finish line," Suarez said.

Then he posed the question, "Why did you finish? Why?"

He acknowledged the emphasis society places on a college education as the route to a better paycheck, but urged the graduates to think of it as more than a means to make a living.

Graduates"I hope you get your diploma today with the satisfaction that comes from something more than just anticipating money. The curriculum, the critical thinking skills . . . those things weren't just about making you more employable.

"If the place did its job as an institution, and you did your job as students, your years of school have taught you how to learn for life. And that makes the world a much better place to be."

He challenged the students to see the possibilities the world offers and to be excited by them.

"Make me a promise," he asked the graduates, "or better yet, make yourselves a promise. ‘I'm not going to be bored.' The world is way too exciting, challenging, puzzling, fascinating ever to be bored. And if you keep that promise to yourself not to be bored, you won't be boring, either.

"Continue to learn. Teach others. Be a student for life. . . .This country needs your energy and your curiosity and your soul."

HugsHe reminded the graduates that the world they are entering is one that moves at a very fast pace, where boundaries no longer exist, where communication is instantaneous.

"It really is exciting, the possibilities in this new world.

"Don't be bored, and don't be boring."

This year's President's Medal for Exemplary Student Achievement went to Richard Welshiemer, a Human Communication major who served as editor of the student newspaper, the Otter Realm, and who was a Service Learning Student Leader.

"One of the things I learned here is to take time to reflect before taking action," Welshiemer told the gathering. "What is CSUMB about if not outcomes?"

In her opening remarks, President Harrison pointed out that the graduating class "boasts an amazing array of talent. Many have overcome enormous challenges, attaining academic success, achieving as athletes, receiving prestigious honors, and sharing their gifts and abilities with fellow students and the community, as well. Their success is incredibly rewarding."

Caps in the airShe shared the stories of a few of these students:

• Richard Brumbaugh, a staff sergeant on active reserve in the U.S. Air Force. Richard is graduating in Business Administration. He spent his summers and school breaks meeting his commitment to military service, including a tour of duty last summer in Iraq - his second stint in that country. Because his deployment required him to leave school a little early, Richard actually took a final exam while deployed in the war zone. And he STILL made the dean's list. He's volunteered for another deployment, this time to Afghanistan. Today is Armed Forces Day, so it is all the more fitting that we recognize Richard's service, along with that of at least seven military veterans who are among our graduates.

• Angelica Plascencia started her American education in the eighth grade. Every morning, she crossed the border from Tijuana to attend school in San Diego County. At the time, Angelica spoke little English and had to navigate the border crossing on her own. That experience - of straddling two nations and two cultures - has shaped her research interest. Angelica is majoring in Social and Behavioral Science. She has been accepted into the anthropology program in Mexican-American Borderlands at the University of Texas, where she will pursue a Ph.D. starting in the fall.

• Martin Vargas-Garcia is graduating with a double major in Visual and Public Art and Business Administration. Martin combined his artistic skills and his agribusiness management knowledge to develop a photo novella in Spanish to teach Latino farmers about the various programs available to help them through the federal government - typically distrusted by the farmers. His work earned him the Alumni Vision Award, with what's believed to be a record EIGHT nominations from his faculty. Martin is a first-generation college student and, throughout his academic career, has held a full-time job to support his family.

• Despite growing up surrounded by gangs, drugs and violence in Southern California, Jose Sanchez was inspired by his mother to work hard and not let his environment keep him from achieving his dream. Basketball helped him do that. While majoring in Human Communication, he was a three-year member of CSUMB's team and a big contributor to the Otters' CCAA tournament victory over Division II national runner-up Cal Poly Pomona. Jose, the first in his family to finish high school, plans to play basketball in Mexico, and then wants to work with children and sports.

• As the first person in her family to earn a four-year degree, Lisette Arredondo is receiving her degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services. She is a role model for her siblings - her brother is also a CSUMB student - and for young people from her hometown of Watsonville, where her extensive community service has done much to improve the quality of life for the residents. She just completed an internship with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where she worked on a national AIDS education campaign targeted at the Spanish-speaking community.