In her commencement speech two-time U. S. presidential appointee and honored American scientist Shirley Ann Jackson urged graduates to harness technology as a voice to transform society, be guided by conscience and courage in decision making, and let uncertainty compel them toward their own unique voyage of exploration. “Your new education begins today,” Jackson said. “That is what commencement really means.”
Several hundred students gathered on the lush lawn outside Mead Hall on Saturday and laughed and cheered as the culmination of their hard work was formerly recognized with a drum and bagpipe welcome, formal, chorale interludes, and diplomas.
While leaving the sheltered life of the university is an anxious time for students—particularly when the economy struggles to recover—several graduates said they were hopeful of finding work.
Nina Baber of Montclair, who graduated with a BA in History and Pan African Studies, said she is hopeful about job opportunities once she completes Drew’s full time Master of Teaching program next May. “I talked to students who graduated from the program this year and some have jobs lined up because they made connections while student teaching,” she said. Baber will soon depart for Ghana as part of Drew’s International Seminar.
Nina’s father, Kabir Baber, approves of his daughter’s decision to go to grad school. “I remember back in the Seventies when I was in college and it was a little hard for teachers to get jobs, but the economy got better. I’m glad she is going to graduate school because when she gets out things might even out,” he
Drew University President Robert Weisbuch urged graduates not to be afraid of tomorrow’s uncertainties.
Michael Mays of Linden, who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, said he will find work by this summer. “I have been networking so finding a job will not be hard,” he said. Mays plans to pursue social work because he likes working with youth.
Inspiration and optimism were as much a part of the ceremony as the stately trees and historic buildings that define Drew.
Siavash Bahreini of Bayonne said he attended the ceremony because his professors wanted to see his guide dog, Ozzie, get up on stage. Bahreini said he is optimistic about finding a teaching job once he completes a Master’s degree.
“Whether there is a recession or not, people who want to be teachers have always been able to get a job,” he said. “It’s harder to get a job in a recession, but it’s easier to get a job in that profession than in computer programming, which is flooded with programmers.”
Bahreini graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science and minor in Writing. He plans to attend the University of Florida for his Master’s degree and teaching certificate.
Ashley Kraft, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in French, is so confident she will find a job that she turned down a financial advisor position at an investment firm. “I’m going to take the summer off and travel and relax. I’m pretty confident I will find something in the fall,” Kraft said.
Honorary degree recipients also inspired and encouraged graduates to be hopeful and explore.
Civil rights pioneer Clarence Benjamin Jones, who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. on his “I have a dream” speech, counseled the graduates to be peacemakers despite the constant threat of violence.
Maxine Clarke Beach, former Dean of the Drew Theological School, told students to forgo the constraints of fear, realize everyone is equal, and challenge injustice.
Leading New Jersey business advocate, Joan Catherine Verplanck, jokingly told the graduates her recipe for success included being tall, but tall is in the mind. She said “think big thoughts and move forward with confidence.”