I have been on campus for 42 years and commencement is always the best day of the year. It's the culmination of years of hard work by students, a celebration of lives transformed and dreams realized. To see the joy and pride on the faces of our graduates and their loved ones reminds us all why we became educators.
It was our honor to recognize the 5,736 students who applied to graduate so they could participate in commencement May 7 at Folsom Field. Many of these graduates had a positive impact on campus and will contribute to the world in ways we cannot begin to fathom.
Since 1882, when six young people graduated from the university as its first class, the University of Colorado has been conferring degrees to prepare graduates to succeed in a constantly changing world. Today's graduates may likely flourish in jobs that didn't exist when they began their educational journeys.
Their diplomas are adorned with the university seal that depicts a Greek classical figure sitting in front of a pillar and holding a scroll. Next to the figure, laurel branches frame a burning torch. Translated from Greek, the inscription reads, "Let your light shine." Our future as a society depends upon our youth and I am confident that CU-Boulder graduates will shine.
How do I know? It's evident in these stories below of perseverance, lessons learned and obstacles overcome by members of the 2016 graduating class. The grit and persistence of these young people to achieve their dreams and reach their goals inspire us in our own lives. I am sure you will agree.
Philip P. DiStefano
Class of 2016
Bridgette Zuckerman never planned to join the Army. She grew up in an Army family and graduated from high school in Colorado Springs. Her mom and dad both enlisted and, by the time Zuckerman was starting college, her sister Briana (15'IntPhys) was already a cadet in the ROTC program at CU-Boulder. But family tradition won out. Briana convinced Bridgette to give it a shot.
It was a long journey from the tiny Mexican town of Tlazazalca Michoacan to Boulder for Emmanuel Melgoza Alfaro. And an equally long distance, culturally, to become his family's first high school and college graduate. On Saturday, May 7, Alfaro completed this journey when he graduated from CU-Boulder with a degree in ethnic studies.
Graduating senior Brian Newsom has made the most of his time at CU-Boulder by joining a growing "hacker" community, participating in competitions such as SXSW and New Venture Challenge and cementing a well-rounded education that capitalizes on his love of music—and math.
During Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan's periodic trips to visit family in India she was bothered by the pollutants spewing from the ever-present gasoline-powered rickshaws. She was also disturbed by how hard it was for rickshaw drivers to make ends meet due to the expense of the fuel. So, the Superior, Colorado, native set out to find a solution and created Surya Conversions.
Pati Hernandez's Facebook page recently sent her a reminder about where she was two years ago—in a practicum classroom as an education student. The reminder was fitting as graduation approached and considering that classroom experience solidified her aspirations of becoming a teacher.
There's something to be said for mapping out your future, particularly if you are about to become a college graduate. Colorado football player Derek McCartney has quite obviously done his homework in that regard—but depending upon the circumstances, his path will take one of two wildly divergent roads two years from now: Football player or doctor.