Moment of Reflection
Speaker: Meredith Beaupre Honors Faculty Member Pre-Health Advisor
Good afternoon, graduates! We are so happy you are here today and are thrilled to share in this celebration with you. You have done the hard work of getting to this point, and have undoubtedly had tremendous support along the way from family, friends, classmates and faculty. Some of the people who have offered support are with you today, while many others are not.
Please take a quiet moment to reflect on the work that you have put in and on those who have been instrumental to your success. As you go on to do great things, I encourage you to remember your success here at UF and those who helped you along the way, and I hope you will strive to pay that support forward to others. Congratulations to you all
Student Keynote Speech
Speaker: Brian Spivak, Finance | Warrington College of Business Administration
Good afternoon everybody,
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brian Spivak. This weekend, I am graduating with degrees in Finance and Economics. For the next few minutes, I am going to tell you all about some of my experiences here at the University of Florida and how the UF honors program helped to shape me into the person I am today. When I received my acceptance into the honors program over four years ago, I knew immediately that my college decision would be very easy. UF, the best school in the state and now a top ten public university, was only a few hours away from my home and as I went to a large IB school in Tampa, I knew I would also have many friends from high school accompanying me on my journey to college.
While it seems like my adjustment to college life should’ve been relatively smooth, my first few months here were anything but easy. As I was walking out of Calc 3 discussion on just my second day of classes, I received a phone call from my mom that my grandfather had passed away; this was not the start I had imagined to what was supposed to be the best four years of my life. A few weeks down the road, when I was still very much struggling, I had the great pleasure of attending H-Camp. For anyone who is not familiar, H-Camp is a program for first-year honors students that provides the opportunity to meet many of your fellow honors students and get any questions or fears that one may have resolved by some older honors students. It was at H-camp where I realized just how supportive and loving the Honors community is here at UF. I have never really been one to talk about my feelings, if you were to ask my parents they would tell you all about how as I child I would rather just sit in the corner and cry than resolve an argument with a friend because she cheated at a board game. However, for some reason, I just felt different when I was at H-Camp. I decided to open up to the group and talk about some of the struggles that I had faced since the passing of my grandfather and the support I received from everyone in the room was incredible. Additionally, after I opened up, many other students felt comfortable doing the same and everyone was able to experience the same support that I received. From here on out, I knew the honors program was going to have a very special impact on my four years here.
Fast forward a few months to the very beginning of spring semester, I was once again going through a rough time. Coming out of high school, I, like many of you, was used to receiving pretty much any position for which I applied. Early in the spring semester, there was a span of about two weeks when I got rejected from like 5 different positions and organizations; I did not take this very well. Once again, it was H-camp that came to my rescue. I applied for a position as a SOFA, which is basically a small group leader, and for some reason, they took a chance on a kid who had basically nothing on his resume. I would say that this was a real inflection point in my college experience, things were finally starting to go right. Over the next three years, H-camp would give me the opportunity to grow as a leader and share to incoming students why the honors program is so wonderful. As I mentioned a few moments ago, my sophomore year I had the opportunity to be a small group leader at H-camp and then during my Junior and Senior years, I was a member of the executive board and then the co-director of H-camp. I learned a lot from my time in H-camp leadership and was also able to do a good bit of self-reflection every step of the way; after each successive H-camp I was able to see just how far I’d grown from the previous year. Perhaps what I learned most from my H-camp experience was that rejection is just a part of the process. As I think back to who I was as a freshman, I am so thankful that I was rejected from all of those organizations because I truly don’t think I would have enjoyed them and I definitely would not be the person I am today without H-camp. H-camp allowed me to find my home away from home and provided me the opportunity to have a tangible impact on so many of my fellow honors students.
The last of my experiences I wish to touch on is an organization in which I have only been involved in this past year. Early in the fall semester Kirsty Spear approached me about joining Luminaries, the Honors Program’s new official ambassadors. This past year, I was lucky enough to be in a position where I had a light course load and had already secured a full-time job so I was able to focus my energy into areas I hadn’t previously had time for. Serving as a Luminary really brought my college experience full circle. I had the chance to share my experiences with prospective students on a regular basis in hopes of making their college decisions just a little bit easier. Whether or not these students decided to come to UF, helping to provide some clarity to their lives has been one of my most rewarding experiences of these past few years. While this new organization is only a year old, I fully expect it to take off under the guidance of our new advisor, Lacey Hoffman, and the incredible students serving as the current Luminaries.
At this point, I would like to congratulate all of my fellow graduates in the room today. There are many of you with which I have had the pleasure of working over the past four years, as well as some who I never got the chance to meet. However, I do know one thing that we all have in common; each of us has left a lasting impact on this university in our own special way. Perhaps the best thing about the honors program is that there is no set curriculum, each and every one of us had the chance to complete this program in our own unique way. From teaching honors courses to leading various student organizations to volunteer around Gainesville and conducting some insane research projects that I couldn’t even begin to understand, UF honors has allowed each and every one of us to flourish in ways that would not have otherwise been possible.
Lastly, there are many people in the room today who I would like to thank for helping me become the person I am today. To my parents, grandma, and sister: thank you for always pushing me to try my best and supporting me for the last 21 years. To my fellow Luminaries: thank you for helping to make this past year one of the best of my life. To everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with at H-camp: thank you for allowing me to have so much fun over the past four years and a huge shout-out to Chris Battista for being the best Co-Director of H-camp that I could have ever asked for. Thank you, Dr. Johnson for putting on such a wonderful event this afternoon. Thank you, Miranda and Lacey for helping to guide me in H-camp and as a Luminary. Thank you, Dr. Law for being an amazing Director of the Honors Program. And last, but definitely not least, thank you Kristy Spear for guiding me these past four years and being a great friend to me along the way!
With all that being said, I just want to say congratulations to everyone in the room one more time and best of luck in all of your future endeavors.
Faculty Keynote Speech
Speaker: Dr. Clay Calvert
Thank you, Meryl, and congratulations to you today! Meryl already is a fine young journalist with an amazing future ahead of her. When I see her, I don’t see the enemy of the people.
First, let me say that it’s truly a pleasure to speak with you all today at the Honors Medallion Ceremony. This is about the one time of the year when I think that everyone truly is happy or, at least, should be. I think people are probably even happier than they are at their own weddings. There is always seems someone in one family inevitably is not getting along with someone in the other family.
Now let me start by asking you all a question. And raise your hands, please, so I can see your answers.
First off, for how many of you did your time here at the University of Florida and the Honors Program go by fast? I can see that that is most of you.
Now, how many of you can remember arriving here at UF on your first day?
And now I suspect that . . . for some of you . . . a parent . . . maybe as a last parting gesture before leaving you behind in Gainesville . . . might have made up your bed in your dorm room for you. Is that true for anyone?
And now . . . true confession time for those raised their hand on that last question . . . for how many of you was that the last time you had clean sheets on your bed that entire semester? Wait, don’t answer that.
Regardless of your laundry habits as a freshman or whether you are washing-machine challenged, I know that if I were applying for the Honors Program today, I never would have been admitted with my scores and my GPA. All of you are amazingly impressive. It’s a fact! But . . . I have had the opportunity to teach several honors seminars over the past few years, including one just this Spring called “The First Amendment and Free Speech." What makes it such a pleasure to teach honors seminars is not only the small size – mine had six students this Spring – but also the fact that the students come from across different academic colleges at the University of Florida and . . . in turn . . . have a diverse range of both majors and minors.
Here’s the breakdown for my seminar this Spring:
- International Studies + Russian with a Minor in Environmental Science
- Economics + Political Science
- Marketing with a Minor in Mass Communication and Retailing
- Interdisciplinary Studies with a Minor in Health Disparities in Society
- Linguistics + Political Science with a Minor in Communication Studies
All of this does, at least I think, lead to a larger lesson:
Get a group smart people – ones with very different interests – in the same room together and get them to know each other and get them to talk with each other and then, presto, magical things can happen. Not only will you recognize that it’s okay to get your nerd on, as it were, but also you’ll be able to share ideas and thoughts that collectively can propel you forward as an organization or on an individual level, can help you to see a different perspective. Indeed, it’s a great lesson as you move forward in your career – whatever it may be – and into leadership roles: Assemble a team of great people with diverse expertise and knowledge, put them together and give them some freedom and space to share and explore.
Now, as it turned out, all six of the students in my honors section this Spring had taken or were studying to take the LSAT – the entrance exam for law school. And one of those students – kudos to her and clearly with no help from me – is now heading off to Northwestern for law school in Chicago on a full-tuition scholarship. To her, I simply say this: You’ll do great . . . and be sure to buy a heavy coat, thick gloves and some boots (and I don’t mean Uggs).
I note as well that among those of you graduating today, several will be attending UF’s Levin College of Law, which recently rose 10 full places to Number 31 in the national law school rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report. Still, others will be attending law school at places such as Emory, Alabama, University of Virginia, and Boston University, among institutions. So, as you graduate this weekend, I doubt that I can dispense any lasting pearls of wisdom that you’ll remember tomorrow, let alone months or years from now.
So what I want to do, instead, is to focus on some things that I’ve learned from teaching – teaching both honors students and non-honors students over the course of more than twenty years as a professor.
Those things are . . . and in no particular order of importance:
- The person who is silent and quiet in the room may not, in fact, be bored, uninterested or unconcerned. He or she may, instead, be thinking about the issue or they may just be shy. In brief, don’t dismiss a person – whether it’s a student, an employee or a colleague – simply because he or she doesn’t talk. It’s a version of the old maxim that “still water runs deep.”
- Conversely, and this is something I learned in law school, just because someone speaks up all the time and kind of sounds impressive and knowledgeable at first does not mean that they, in fact, are. We called them “gunners” in law school. They were always ready to fire off with an answer or to chime in with something sounding smart.
But we far more admired (or, at least, we were pleased by) the professors who, like Prof. Kingsfield in the movie The Paper Chase, shredded their logic and, in doing so, made the rest of us feel just a tad better about our own self-doubts. Another maxim: It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and to remove all doubt.
- Be consistent across everyone in following and applying the same rules to them and you won’t get in trouble and, more importantly, everyone will be treated fairly by the same standards.
- Don’t fixate or dwell on a few people who complain or aggravate you when the overwhelming majority of people never complain and never cause problems. See the big picture.
I’ve learned this from teaching my non-Honors section of a class called Law of Mass Communications here at UF in the College of Journalism & Communications. This Spring, the class had more than 190 students, including Meryl. I have a policy of rounding upgrades at the end if a person’s overall average ends in .50. Some students inevitably end in .38 . . . just oh-so-close to that magical .50 round-up mark. They will email me wanting an exception. They will come to my office wanting an exception. And they will leave my office disappointed and maybe even a little bit perturbed at me for not caving in.
But hold the line, don’t play favorites, treat everyone equally, and you’ll have done the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing. This happens when professors receive their teaching evaluations. We tend to fixate on the negative ones. We think to ourselves things such as: “What do you mean the course was disorganized?”
What we need to do is to reflect on the fact that the vast majority of people say positive things, contribute class, and genuinely care.
- For those of you going on to grad school, it may be much harder than anything you’ve experienced so far in terms of workload. But have some dignity if you don’t do as well as you think, didn’t get the raise you thought you deserved. Don’t ask for the handout.
- Finally, say thank you and keep in touch. Tell the people who wrote you letters of recommendation about how you are doing and what you are up to. Write personal thank-you notes; hand-written ones go even farther than emails today because they suggest you really took the time and effort to say thanks.
I got a “C” in statistics – one of the reasons I majored in communication – and a “B Minus” in Calculus 1 and . . . I survived, even if my GPA took a hit. Again, it’s about perspective. Be the class act.
As you move into leadership roles in whatever profession you go into, you’ll likely find that you can never say thanks enough. People feel acknowledged and respected and like their contributions matter.
With that, I wish you all good luck in your future endeavors. Good luck and go Gators!