The Class of 2016 has special significance for me personally. Along with this year’s graduating class, I became a part of CU-Boulder in 2012, joining the university as this college’s dean. I’m delighted to see the successes of this remarkable class of students in earning their degrees. I should point out that the class of 2016, as well as a few other classes, should be recognized for amazing resilience. I’m referring to the terrible flooding in September 2013, which greatly impacted the lives of our students and their families. While revisiting that dreadful event will bring up some bad memories and even nightmares and is not quite what we should be thinking about at graduation time, it makes the accomplishments of the class of 2016 all the more remarkable.
For those who may not know, flooding closed campus for several days, canceled a football game, and displaced a number of our students, particularly students in the neighborhood near campus, from their residences. It speaks well of you who succeeded despite that serious event.
Your graduation is also special for many other reasons. Most importantly, the class of 2016 is earning a degree from a top-ranked institution that has gotten better each year you’ve been a student. In fact, during the class of 2016’s first year, as freshman, our campus won as many Nobel Prizes as football games (one of each, and in combination, a rare event for any university). That was our fifth Nobel Prize, and of course the Buffs football team is on the upswing.
Graduation at CU-Boulder is a vibrant, happy and engaging event (or rather series of events with receptions, department graduations and campus commencement). I strongly encourage our students, as well as faculty and staff, to participate in as many of these events as possible (always a challenge for our double and triple majors). For campus commencement, the procession through the Norlin Quad reminds us of all the great moments in our university history, especially the visionary leadership, integrity and brilliance of former CU President George Norlin himself. The campus commencement on Folsom Field during a spectacular Colorado morning, with the Rockies presiding over the ceremony, can only be described as breathtaking. We have one of the most beautiful commencement ceremonies in the world. And, of course, make sure to pay close attention to the “Norlin Charge” and the many graduation speeches that you’ll hear (CU President Bruce Benson typically gives graduates pretty good advice).
Almost 70 percent of you have made arrangements for work, either full- or part-time. Another 3 percent will be interning in non-profits or teaching, and about the same percentage will be joining our military or volunteering elsewhere. About 15 percent will be continuing their education, with the remainder planning to travel or still considering options.
The Class of 2016 will also have the opportunity to spend a last little bit of time with their classmates and friends from their time at CU. There is little question that this generation will be able to stay in touch like never before. However, being in the presence of your friends for what might be the last time on campus will be truly special, and, I hope, a cause for reflection and appreciation for all that you’ve done for one another.
Graduation also gives you some time to spend with happy families, friends, special guests and CU faculty and staff who have had positive impacts throughout your lives. Your success wouldn’t have been possible without their help, and their help has come in many forms, not just support through tuition. Those very important supporters who have helped with your tuition payments will be delighted to learn that almost 70 percent of you have made arrangements for work, either full- or part-time. Another 3 percent will be interning in non-profits or teaching, and about the same percentage will be joining our military or volunteering elsewhere. About 15 percent will be continuing their education, with the remainder planning to travel or still considering options.
Those of us at CU-Boulder will certainly miss the creativity, intelligence, adventurousness and, of course, resilience, that the class of 2016 brought to our community and classrooms. Teaching at CU-Boulder is a privilege, because we have some of the most engaged and thoughtful students in the world. We want you to know that, once you’re gone, we will continue to maintain the highest academic standards here at what will soon be your alma mater. You can be confident that your degree will mean as much in the future as it does now and in the past, as we continually strive to make CU-Boulder as academically strong as possible. While we can’t promise to win as many Nobel Prizes as football games every year, we’ll continue to try for undefeated seasons in both areas.
Steven R. Leigh is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.