Published: May 4, 2021

Words of wisdom from the class of 2021

The 2021 livestreamed commencement ceremony is Thursday, May 6. Be part of the story by tagging #ForeverBuffs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn!

This year, students had a unique opportunity to process into Folsom Field as a way to commemorate the occasion of graduation prior to the campuswide ceremony––watch the recordings. Find additional resources on the 2021 commencement site.

Below, read from a few of the many talented, motivated and innovative students who are graduating and starting on their next adventure. As they become Forever Buffs, they leave their inspirational legacies––with advice and reflection––for those who follow. 

What you'll carry forth

I am leaving CU with a treasure trove of skills and experiences, an exciting job at Apple and an incredible array of friends. Earning my graduate degree was a long-held goal and one that I wish my mother could have seen. Graduation will be a proud moment and a reminder of the many sacrifices my parents made so I could pursue my passions.”

–Thaala Loper (MBA’21)

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Show up. Show up for others, show up for your community, show up for yourself. It’s incredible how rewarding that is. Just show up. The rest will take care of itself.”

–Nathan Bala (Dance’21)

I will carry forward with me the realization that my impact on the world as an engineer is just as important as my contributions in the small slice of research I have focused on. My five years at CU have been some of the most tumultuous in our country's recent history, and there are many challenges to help solve moving forward. After my time at CU, I feel empowered to make positive change by translating my research skills to real world problems.”

–Katya Arquilla (PhDAeroEngr’21)

I was fascinated by the art history classes I took from Professor Albert Alhadeff, where he would meticulously describe a painting, but also the artists intent, the political intrigue of the time, and all the layers of backstory that brought the image to life. From his classes I learned about the power of art to communicate simple and complex ideas, and as my career began to unfold over the years, I always incorporate the arts in my projects because I learned to appreciate them from my time at CU.”

–David Clark (DistSt’21)

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I have learned that doing good scholarship and being a good person are two sides of the same coin. It’s commonplace for people in the academy to focus on the academic project and lose the basic understanding that we are all just human beings who thrive if we center basic care for each other––what we call ‘ubuntu’ back in Southern Africa. In my experiences with faculty and staff at CU Boulder, particularly in the School of Education, people care about academic rigor as much as they care about being great human beings.”

–Tafadzwa Tivaringe (PhDEdu’21)

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I think the most important thing I've learned from CU that I will carry with me is to be true and authentic to who I am, and to always stand up for what is right, especially against the people we are most scared to speak out against. My career and my ‘connections’ are never more important than the fight for equity in the arts.”

–Rita DiSibio (Thtr’21)

My experiences within the CU Boulder education program helped make me aware of how the standard American public school curriculum has maintained race, class and gender divisions within society through the use of the hidden curriculum. I have used the knowledge gained from the program to help establish a tribally controlled charter school in southwestern Oklahoma that will attempt to decolonize Native American education by promoting Comanche culture and language.”

–Justin Boos (MEdu’21)

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My professors have made my experience at CU so wonderful because I truly feel like they have prepared me to be successful in whatever role I take on post-grad. I have also made the most amazing lifelong friends here and will carry the memories we have with me forever.”

–Emily Reno (Comm’21)

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As I make my next career move into the gaming industry, I will carry forward three things. The first is a commitment to listen to, represent, include and highlight diverse voices in the stories and games I will be creating. The second is a resolution to prioritize community and the beautiful things that can happen when people connect, share and empathize with each other. And the last is a continual sense of gratitude for everyone who supported me throughout my journey.”

–Harrison Bolin (CTD’21)

Read More About This Distinguished Undergraduate

The courage to change the world is something more valuable than the knowledge itself. During my time at CU Boulder, especially at the ATLAS Institute, I have learned that through our work, we can create opportunities for more people and contribute to social equality, and I am committed to doing so.”

–Ruhan Yang (MCTD’21)

Read More About This Distinguished Graduate

My time at CU has given me a lot to appreciate. Lessons on the importance of adaptability, innovation and collaboration have shaped my experience and will continue to influence my future. Through the supportive relationships I have developed with faculty members, professors and peers who have become my mentors and friends, I've learned the power of always asking myself how I can improve and the importance of working with others to accomplish these goals. I am so grateful to have been part of a community that encouraged me to dream big––it's this type of hope and passion that I aim to always carry with me.”

–Tayler Shaw (Jour, Span’21)

Read More About This Outstanding Senior

We are all better teachers when we learn from each other. My professors and peers all had different styles and strengths. From the inspirational writing community Wendy Glenn guided in Processes in Writing to the incredible support network Silvia Nogueron-Liu created in Digital Literacies when we all literally went digital for the pandemic, I had the privilege of learning new strategies and skills from the dozens of creative and experienced teachers who were my classmates.”

–Erica Bednar (MEdu’21)

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Everyone’s time comes differently. Some students will be able to complete within the traditional four years, but for others, it may take longer and that within itself is also valid. Some flowers only bloom on the night of a full moon. Only those who are patient enough to wait for it will see its true potential.”

–Kyle Lee (Dance’21)

I cherish all the amazing professors I was able to learn from. I will carry their wisdom, teachings and advice with me for the rest of my life...I do not take lightly the hard work, sacrifice and risk all of these mentors took so I could step into/ create a world I love and desire.”

–Sara Swain (Edu’21)

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Beyond everything I learned throughout my master's coursework, research and practicum, I also gained many valuable connections with individuals I met along the way. From professors who have become friends to peers who have become mentors, I am very grateful for all the incredible individuals who came into my life during this time. I hold especially dear the tight-knit relationship formed with my two cohort-mates and am eager to see not only where we all go from here, but also when our paths may cross again as professionals!”

–Kearney Newman (MCTD’21)

Read More About This Distinguished Graduate

 I have met mentors who have forever changed my life. They have helped me grow into the person I am today. They taught me about myself and gave me inspiration as I entered the next stages in my professional and personal life. Another thing I'll take away is a mindset––in college I learned a lot about my work ethic, strengths and weaknesses. So I'll definitely take away those nuggets of information as I pursue my professional aspirations and develop personal relationships.”

–Sarah Lurie (Bus’21)

 I loved getting to work with the communities I was designing for, both within and outside of the classroom. I got to meet with industry professionals and community members in my studios, but I also got to meet with CU Boulder students I was representing as a member of CUSG's Legislative Council. I've learned a lot about how important it is to talk to the people you serve and introduce plans they support.”

–Sarah “Skitch” Kitchen (EnvDes’21)

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 My student-teaching semester was an experience I’ll never forget. In the face of immense adversity during online learning and throughout the pandemic, my students taught me the true meaning of resilience and determination. Despite being physically separated online, we built relationships and created a sense of classroom community that reframed my view of what is possible with online education.”

–Lauren Gaona (MEdu’21)

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Your best piece of advice

 Life’s full of strikes and gutters, ups and downs. Try to just take it easy and not stress about things that are out of your control.”

–Clark Mousaw (InfoSci’21)

Read More About This Outstanding Senior

I would advise all students to take their health seriously, both physical and mental. Graduate school is tough, and it's very easy to stop sleeping, survive on tortilla chips, and ignore your imposter syndrome just to get more work done. From personal experience, that ends up hurting both you and your productivity. Your work takes longer to do and it becomes worse in quality. If you take care of yourself first, you give yourself the best opportunity to do amazing work efficiently. Good luck, you're capable of pulling this off.”

–Aroob Abdelhamid (PhDChem’20)

Be your true self in college. Follow your own interests and passions and embrace your identity in terms of both academic and social settings. Following the paths of others will only set you back; and I have learned you have the most fun when you are your true, genuine self.”

–Rachel Emmitt (Edu’21)

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My advice for other students is to remember that your fellow CU students possess mastery and knowledge of topics that you do not. Never underestimate the amazing resources you have within your fellow students, make friends, do not be threatened by each other's brilliance, and be generous with what you know.”

–Sarah Rose Mauney (MFA’21)

 Do not forget the passion that made you apply to your program in the first place, and make sure that passion continues to be reflected in your studies and work. For me, that meant teaching as much as possible while I was a PhD student, even though some academics suggested I needed to prioritize research and writing.”

–Will Lindsay (PhDEdu’21)

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If you don’t know what you’re doing, it's OK––most people don’t know what they’re doing either. We can understand what we’ve done in the past and apply those lessons in the present moment, but the process of figuring things out is all very confusing and based on trial and error. The best way to learn is to dive right in and make some mistakes.”

–Nina Williams (Comm’21)

Read More About This Outstanding Senior

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The advice I would give to other students is to not compare yourself to others...You are enough. You belong at CU. If you put in the work and believe in yourself, you will succeed!”

–Taylor Christiansen (IntPhys’21)

Always read the books that are assigned. You’ll never regret reading a book but you might regret not reading it––especially when finals come around.”

–Grace Dearnley (Engl’21)

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I think some of the most brilliant students spend their whole college career looking ahead to ‘after graduation’ without taking the time to enjoy what they have already. Everything in life is a process, and you can’t spend every moment waiting for a feeling of finality. I think a lot of students need to hear they are already on the path to wherever they need to be, even if something different or unexpected lies ahead. If I could go back to my first year and tell myself anything, it would be, ‘You’re still here. You have already made it.’”

–Allen Means (Engl, Jpn’21)

Make sure you are studying something you are passionate about. College is rewarding, but it’s also challenging. No matter what you major in, you will always be confronted with hard work. But if you study something you are passionate about, that work will be worth it in the end.”

–Megan Cunninghame (MediaSt’21)

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Use college to develop your true interests and passions, and use it to explore potential fields of interest. This means looking into independent studies and internships that you actually get value from––not just for a résumé. Take classes normally outside of your scope, like courses on Vikings or printmaking, and join a club or community of some kind. The community doesn’t have to be strictly through CU, either. For me, this meant joining the martial arts gym, Easton, in Boulder to build a sense of community. School can be very difficult and we all go through real-life hardships while getting our degrees. Giving yourself a spark of excitement to look forward to every week truly helps.”

–Cera Kocher (CritMedia, Comm’21)

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I think the best piece of advice I could give to younger students is to fake it until you make it. It can seem really intimidating coming into college and seeing so many people who seem like they have their life together while you are completely lost, but honestly they’re trying to make it just like you. So do your best and fake confidence until you make it, and then you’ll find yourself exactly where you always wanted to be.”

–Nadyah Spahn (IntlAf’21)

I have a few short, simple pieces of advice for other acting students: Listen. Be on time. Know your lines. Don't stretch yourself too thin. Drink water. Try something different every rehearsal. Read a new play and watch a new film every week. Live a full life outside of the theatre. Have fun. Be yourself.”

–Grant Bowman (Thtr’21)

Get involved in all the things CU has to offer––from rigorous clubs in STEM to the hammocking club, there is something for everyone. It is equally important to find things you like within your major as it is to find hobbies outside of school. Getting involved and meeting new people of different types opens many doors and creates connections that will last a lifetime.”

–Perry Hayman (IntPhys’21)

There will be things you find challenging. Don’t immediately look for the easy way out––strength is built through struggle. There’s a sweet spot between giving up way before you’re supposed to, and knowing when you’re stuck. Find that place!”

–Marvin Gonzalez (ChemBioEngr’21)

Read More About this JEDI Award Winner

It sounds very cliché, but don't lose sight of your strengths and your passions. I think those are really key drivers, and sometimes in academia, we can lose ourselves within it. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done in how we protect ourselves in the academy. Allow yourself to explore.”

–Lianna Nixon (MEdu’21)

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Listen to your gut and take care of yourself. It's OK to say no to things.”

–Aubrey Prestwich (EnvDes’21)

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Find other students you care about and want to see succeed, and then help them succeed. Then no matter what happens, you will have done something good with your time here.”

–Jason Buell (PhDEdu’21)

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You belong here. It can be hard as marginalized students to feel welcomed into institutions that weren't built for us, but we need to be here for ourselves and others...Once I found other queer students, staff and faculty, I found real community for the first time in my life. The care you receive from that community will change your life. Don't be afraid to lean on each other and offer support when others struggle in your community. You belong here and your presence makes space for yourself and others.”

–Kiar Rickert (WomSt’21)

Network as much as possible! Networking got me all of my internships and jobs throughout college. You might be surprised that you are only a few connections away from your dream company or role.”

–Henry Kvietok (CTD’21)

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The experiences I had in student organizations helped shape me into the person I am today. I had opportunities to work on my leadership skills, create lasting connections with many people and meet some of my closest friends. I know at times it can seem like there is no possible way for you to fit things outside of school into your schedule, but I encourage everyone to step outside of your comfort zone and get involved.”

–Sasha Hall (CompSci’21)

Read About This Community Impact Award Winner

My best piece of advice is to put in just a bit more effort––the effort you put in is the experience you’ll get out. Becoming a learning assistant was one of the best decisions I made in college. It took time and effort, but working closely with students and faculty taught me many things I couldn’t have learned from my classes, and I cultivated friendships I will have forever.”

–Noelle Ireland (CTD’21)

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Try new things and find what you're passionate about—whatever it is you're interested in, chances are CU has something for you. Go on the career treks, join a club that interests you, take a class that sounds fun and really branch out. The best part about being in a school with so many different opportunities is that you have a lot of chances to discover what you're passionate about and connect with other people who are passionate about the same thing.”

–Ananya Tyagi (Fin’21)

My best advice to other students is to get involved in things you care about, both on campus and in the community. Reach out to organizations doing work that is meaningful to you and see how you can fit in! Often times they are happy to involve you, and you can develop your skills and make meaningful connections. These experiences taught me a lot, and I was able to help causes that I cared about.”

–Anna Lynton (CTD’21)

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What graduation means to you

I am graduating college in a monumental time: the storming of the capitol, fights for racial equality, a mass shooting in our hometown and a global pandemic. There was a lot of growing up we had to do, but I am thankful for it. Graduating feels like creating an independence for myself for the first time following a series of challenges we could have never prepared for. Our whole life has been leading up to this moment...we are ready to do whatever fulfills us, as we are in the most complete stage of ‘finding ourselves’ that we ever have before.”

–Julia Merten (CritMedia’21)

Read More About CMCI’s Outstanding Graduate

As a professional driven to make a lasting impact in this world, finishing grad school represents a pivotal step in helping me achieve this goal. The education and connections I received at CU Boulder helped me tremendously thus far, and this accomplishment will only bolster my abilities to continue pushing forward with my career.”

–Ricky Marton (MCTD’21)

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Graduating from college represents many things for me. As a first-generation college student, it brings a multitude of significance as the hard work of my family is coming together toward this goal that once seemed like a distant future. As an individual who values education, graduation brings reflection on my academic journey and excitement for what is to come. Importantly though, officially graduating from college allows me to continue moving forward to follow my passions and enact change on my passion areas.”

–Eyob Abai (Bus’21)

Graduating from this program is an act of social justice in and of itself. The lucha (or struggle) toward truth can sometimes feel overwhelming and daunting, but it can light the path toward unity and harmony. Completing this program represents a fight for what is right, and I am proud to lead others in the same direction.”

–Michelle Lopez (MEdu’21)

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I will always cherish my time spent at CU. I look back at my time in Boulder as a moment of self growth and wonderful hikes. I’m grateful to have met so many unique, diverse, wise and beautiful people.”

–Aarjav (MCTD’21)

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As a first-generation college student, I'm proud to say I also will become the first member of my family to attain a master’s degree. But, most importantly, graduating from CU Boulder represents one more step completed in my journey toward becoming a professor of Japanese literature. My experience here will form the foundation of a lifetime of language and literature teaching and learning, so I am proud to call myself a graduate of CU Boulder.”

–Dean Leininger (MJpn’21)

I love adventure stories—nothing feels more exciting and meaningful than exploring what life has to offer. For me, college has been a pretty good story. The worst part about a good story is that the ending is always bittersweet. But, if you're lucky, the next story is already well underway. I'm feeling pretty lucky.”

–Evan Clark (Mgmt’21)

The end of my classes and time at CU does not mean my opportunity or drive for learning has come to a close. It is my community that has really inspired me to ask questions and keep going. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to walk along beside them and grow as a community.”

–Kate Kelly (WomSt’21)

Graduating from college represents the hard work, sacrifices and accomplishments of my family. I could not have done this without them and the eternal love and support I have. This is as much theirs as it is mine.”

–Jasey Joohi Kim (Span, Fin’21)

Graduating from CU is a reminder of all the things my family and I had to go through to be able to get here. When I was a kid, my family and I didn't have many options, but graduating from CU opens up options I never imagined I would ever have.”

–Niama Al-Nima (Phil, Film’21)

Graduating from college represents a chance to put my skills to the test. I’ve spent the last four years anticipating this opportunity, and now I can prove it to myself that I’m ready to build my life however I see fit.”

–Michael Marcoux (Mgmt’21)

Having been in schooling of some kind for the past 20 years, graduating to me represents the first time the path in front of me is completely open-ended––a prospect both intimidating and exciting.”

–Zoe Fischoff (Thtr’21)

As a first-generation college student, this is for my family. This is also is for anyone who thinks they can't go back to school and accomplish their dreams or for anyone who was told they wouldn't.”

–Jeffrey Barnett (EnvDes’21)

Read More About This Outstanding, Distinguished Undergraduate

It is a time to reflect on the knowledge and experiences gained and feel proud to be a CU Boulder graduate.”

–Anya Berlova (Fin’21)

I'm the first in my family to graduate. It's very much a big deal, but I also wanted to have this as a beginning to another chapter. The official next step for me.”

–Kelsey Hernandez (EnvDes’21)

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Graduating from college represents a stepping stone to a world of opportunities. There have been many obstacles in my path, both physical and mental, but getting my diploma gave me proof I'm capable of more. If I set my mind to it, I can accomplish great things.”

–Lizzy Corona Jimenez (Span, IntlAf’21)

Read more from outstanding graduates in the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Education. Plus, learn about some of the incredible students graduating from the Leeds School of Business.

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. See a list of degree abbreviations.