The Theatre School at DePaul University | Spring 2020 Online Commencement

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Your final final is finished. Congratulations! I wanna say, number one, that I wish we could all betogether cheering and clapping and celebrating with you. And I knowthese times are weird, and we all know, and no one knowswhat the future will bring, but no one ever knowswhat the future will bring. Today is about morethan the external factors. It is aboutyour work, your growth, and your accomplishmentsin the last several years… and I have no doubt that you will rise to the occasion, figure out what you need to do, and do yourselves proud. I’ve been rewardedby watching you grow through tremendous highs,and emotional lows, and everythingthat comes between. And I’ve been impressedwith your learning of not only your skill sets, but also how to navigatewithin a community, and find out who you arewithin that community. You all came fromliterally all over. You are extraordinary artists. I’m floored every dayby the talent that I see in all of you. Thank you for your passion, thank you for your unbelievablycreative works of art… the great shows you’ve done, the great playsyou’ve written… Your perseverance,your resilience, your creativity are absolutely inspiring to me, and I’m sureto many, many others.

I’d like to givea special shout-out to the stage managersof the Theatre School… to the casting students… my MFA actors… all of the designtech students… the BFAs, you were my veryfirst class that I taught… Please know thatall of us are so proud to have had the opportunityto be your teachers. From your time spent on crews, to production work, to your time spent on the stage. You are the reasonthat I love my job at the Theatre School so much. I’m so proud of allthe things that you’ve achieved over these last few years individually, and as a team, and I wish you allthe very best. I can’t wait to hear aboutall of the great things you’re going to do,now that you’re out of school. Thanks for everything,congratulations. You’re gonna kill it. Go shake the world,Class of 2020. ♪ ♪ Members of the faculty, staff, administration, honored guests,and of course, our graduates, I’m Salma Ghanem,Interim Provost for DePaul University.

Welcome to our121st commencement, DePaul’s very firstonline ceremony. We very much wish we couldall be together right now, and we plan to do soto celebrate together as soon as it’s safe. Until then, we celebrate todayin this online space because the DePaul communitywould never pass up an opportunity to applaud you,the Class of 2020, and your many accomplishments. Commencement is one ofthe most meaningful ceremonies of a student’s academic career, and a DePaul commencementis anything but ordinary. As a Catholic Vincentianuniversity, we share a commitmentto uphold the dignity of every single person, and we call thatVincentian personalism. Just like we do every year,each student will be recognized. We want to give every studenttheir moment because that’s the DePaul way. It’s also why we encourageall the students, family members,and friends watching to stay until the end, especially because our ceremonywill conclude with a special alumni guest, Joe Keery from the hit Netflixseries, “Stranger Things.” Now, we know thatthe Class of 2020 faced many challengesthis past quarter. In a matter of days, you had to pivotto all remote learning. Many of you had to dashback home. Through it all, though, you demonstrated patienceand understanding as your facultytransitioned to teach more than 4,000 classesremotely. Your world was turnedupside-down, but you persevered. That’s not surprising to us because throughout your timeat DePaul, you navigated obstaclesand rose to the challenge. How? Well, throughout your timeat DePaul, your class dedicatedat least 300,000 hours to academic internships; 2,559 of you are membersof the Honor Society; 200 undergraduate studentsin the Class of 2020 completed double majors; more than a thousand of you, or roughly about 17 percentof your graduating class, participated instudy abroad programs; you danced more than 70 hoursfor DemonTHON, raising approximately $811,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospitalof Chicago; your Theatre School presentedmore than 300 productions, and the School of Music offerednearly 1,000 performances. Yeah, and yes,you also helped consume two million meals served on our Lincoln Parkand Loop Campuses, all during your time at DePaul.

If you’re watchingtoday’s ceremony, though, with a loved one, a friend,or a family member, turn to them nowand say, “Thank you,” and if you’re physically apartfrom many of the ones you love, take a momentand send them a message to express your gratitude. Don’t ever forgetall the people who helped you getto this moment in your academic career, including, of course,the faculty and staff who shared their talentand wisdom with you. Now, it is your responsibility to carry their teachingsforward. On behalf of the entireDePaul community, congratulations! We can’t wait to seewhat you do next. Now it’s my privilegeto introduce Reverend Guillermo Campuzano,Congregation of the Mission, and Vice Presidentof Mission and Ministry, who will delivertoday’s invocation, followed by the National Anthemsung by John Concepcion. For those who wish to do so,please join me in prayer. Loving God,today is graduation day, a passage, a completion,a new beginning. Today, we pray in thanksgiving for DePaul University’sClass of 2020. Our students,with the help of faculty, staff, family, and friends,have met the challenges and kept the faith to the commitmentsof their studies, and they’re becomingthe kind of people they want to and can bein our society. God, the graduationof this year happens in the contextof the most challenging events of our generation. It is in the challenging momentsthat You refine us. The joy that our studentsare experiencing today cannot be stolen. We will do well to remember that nothing can stealour joy and our peace when they are a giftthat comes from our inner self. Please, do not allowour many trials of today, as difficult as they may seem, to distract usfrom rejoicing and celebrating this meaningful momentin the lives of so many in our DePaul family. In this context,it can be tempting for us to forget to be joyful, yet it is in the challengingmoments of life that you prove yourself close,friendly, faithful. You are always with us. Our joy today is not derivedfrom our comfort, but it is a joythat is happening despite our uncomfort in this,our distance, our inability to gather,to hug, and to say goodbye. Our joy comes from our belief that no matterwhat is happening, none of us is alone. We will continue to reach outand to support each other. Please, dear God,continue to educate us all, especiallyour graduating students, and shape us more completely into the human beingswe need to be to go throughthe fire together and to prevailas one human family. Good and loving God,please bless and guide our graduatesas they reach this end and as they chartnew beginnings.

May what they have learnedby being here, with usin our Vincentian classrooms, allow them to truly bewomen and men for others. May what we have learnedfrom them enable us to be the same. Please help our graduatesuse all that they have learned to serve othersin true solidarity and kindness, to seek ways to help the poor,the marginalized, and those who are suffering, and to always seekthe greater good and make our worlda better place. Finally, God, we thank You for giving us the opportunityto build our DePaul community with these, our students,while they were here. Though they are leaving, now,our campuses, we know that they willalways be with us as part of the DePaul family, and we ask that the bondsthat have been created here remain strongdespite any distance. Bless and protect themand all those they love. Amen. ♪ O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light ♪ ♪ What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’slast gleaming ♪ ♪ Whose broad stripesand bright stars through the perilous fight ♪ ♪ O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? ♪ ♪ And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air ♪ ♪ Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there ♪ ♪ O say does thatstar-spangled banner yet wave ♪ ♪ O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? ♪♪ As playwright,Yasmina Reza said, “The theatre is a mirror, a sharp reflection of society.” As you and our alumni veered off the expectedpath this spring in response toa global pandemic, that sentiment hasnever seemed more accurate. Not only did your path change, but the path of the professionyou are now entering. However, theatre is,and always has been, a powerful wayto capture and explore a collective human experience. This still holds true,even more so today, that many of our connectionsare in Zoom boxes. You have proven your readinessto enter the profession through your skills,your artistry, your innovation, and your commitment. You proved thatagain this quarter, and you did it witha creative spirit and an energy that has made me immensely proud to be a part ofthe Theatre School community. For that, I thank you, and I sincerely celebratethese achievements, but let’s remember this quarter was only a small partof your journey to graduation.

You have built a carefullyconstructed foundation solidified by years of challengingand rewarding work. As you enter the profession, know that you are a partof an alumni network. Those alumni built their careers on the very same foundationthat you now have. They define a traditionof defying odds, and finding new and innovativeways to tell stories. These stories remind usof our humanity, and will be even moreimportant now than ever. As playwrightThornton Wilder said, “I regard the theatre asthe greatest of all art forms, the most immediate wayin which a human being can share with another the sense of what it isto be a human being.” I have no doubtyou will play a vital role in the changing landscapeof our professions. You know howto think critically, how to manage change, and how to say, “Yes, and…” I cannot wait to see your impact on the theatre community, the entertainment professions, and our world. Now it’s my honor to introduceyour fellow classmate, and our student speaker, Sydney Michelle Nelson. Sydney is graduating today with a Bachelor of Fine Artsin Theatre Arts. She recently wrote,directed, and performed her original one-woman show, “A Diva’s Bedroom.” She hopes to continue workingon this show in Chicago, and to createmany more projects to come. Please welcome Sydney. Hello, friends,family, students, professors, loved onesfor tuning in today. Congrats to all my peers who are earningtheir lovely degree. I bet the lookon everyone’s faces are saying, “Oh, thank goodness.” It took 12 midterms,12 finals, a lot of homework, a lot of projects, and a lovely pandemic. But, we still fought through it. COVID-19 put us allin a difficult situation. This may not be the graduationthat we expected, but think about it. This will be the graduationthat makes history forever. Now, if you would have told meten years ago– me at 12 years old– that I would be givingthe commencement speech at my college graduation, and that I’m graduatingfrom DePaul University, I’d call you crazy.

I would really be in shock. I would not believe you. I mean, when I was12 years old– and I’m suremany of us were awkward at 12 years old– I was five-foot-nine,was very skinny, diagnosed with ADD, made fun of for the wayI dressed, the way I talked, and there wasn’t an ounceof confidence inside of me. Even though my life wasjust starting and transitioning, I was too scared to find what it really meantto be confident. Once I got to my mid-teen years, I recognized that certainpeople would get noticed for speaking up, so I started speaking up, and talked about myselfto people at school. Unfortunately, not onlywas I talking about myself, I was bragging about myself. And now people are thinking,”Oh, who does she think she is?” It was going wellfor a short period of time, until certain peoplepulled me aside and said, “Sydney, you’re beinga bit too arrogant.” Arrogant? What does it meanto be arrogant? “You’re bragging about yourself,you only care about yourself. You think you’re the bestperson in this room right now.” I felt like I got stepped on. After hearing that, I was right backto where I was at 12 years old. My confidence wasnowhere to be found. Now let’s fast-forwarda little bit. May 11th, 2016, I received a notice in the mail that I had gotten into the Theatre Schoolat DePaul University. I was excited,but I was extremely scared. I mean, I’d be movingto a new city, a new school,a new environment. Now, I could have doneone of two things. One, I could havecontinued to be scared, let negative words haunt me, and stay back in Cincinnati. Or two… take this opportunity to find what it meansto be confident, and experiencesomething wonderful. And clearly,I took the second path, or else I wouldn’t be speakingto all of you today. Throughout my time hereat DePaul University, I learned a lotabout my career path. However, I also learned to takethe time to observe others. I learned to observethe people that inspired me, but also observe the peoplethat doubted me as well. I especially learned a lotfrom women of color on and off campus. I realized their confidence was coming from thingsthat made them happy, and I was told to do moresmall or big things that make you happy. Okay, I’ll do that. I enjoy being fashionable. I enjoy making people laugh, and I want to inspire peoplethrough my art one day. Someone came up to meone day at school and said, “Sydney, you’re just going to class. Who are you dressing up for? This makes you look arrogant.” No. You’re intimidatedby my confidence. And I realized thatbecause that same day, someone else came up to meand said, “Sydney, your style inspired me to get dressed upfor class today. It made me feel really good, and it got me throughthe day, thank you.” And just hearing thatinspired me because doing thingsthat make you feel good, and make others feel good, is confidence. Now, there’s a big difference between arroganceand confidence. Arrogance is whena person feels the need to be the only importantperson in the room. But confidence, confidence is whena person is not afraid to share the roomwith other people, knowing you’re just as important as the other peoplein that room. And it’s okay to knowhow much you’re worth.

And when you lift up the people that actually wantto lift you up, that right there is confidence. So, Class of 2020, all of you, let me leave you with this. As we continue to pushthrough this pandemic, please use your confidenceto uplift and guide people who feel lost right now. Why? Because we are now the classto reset the world. Things may not goback to normal. However, it is up to usto establish a new normal. This is a stressful timefor all of us, and we need to work together. Please, use your confidence, the power of your confidence, to create a new normal. Again, congrats to allthe graduating students! May your confidence guide you through a healthy,safe, new beginning. The dean will now presentthe candidates for the conferral of degrees. President Esteban, on behalf of the facultyand staff of the Theatre School, I respectfully presentthe candidates, and request thatthe announced degrees be conferred upon them. ♪ By the authority vested in me, by the Board of Trustees and the state of Illinois, I confer upon you the degree for whichyou have been recommended, with all the rights, privileges,and responsibilities appertaining thereunto. ♪ The following candidates have successfullycompleted the requirements and have been awardedtheir respective degrees. ♪ Members ofthe Vincentian Community and the clergy, Trustees,Life Trustees, faculty,administration, staff,and honored guests, I’m Gabriel Esteban, presidentof DePaul University. Thank you for joining ustoday to celebrate the DePaul UniversityClass of 2020. Your presence,even in this online space, means everything to us. This was not the yearor the commencement ceremony anyone expected, and I am inspiredby the tenacity and drive the Class of 2020has demonstrated throughout this time. I am also extremely gratefulto all the faculty and staff who made the swift transitionto remote learning, as well asthe many people who made today’s onlinecommencement ceremony possible. I especially would liketo recognize the membersof the DePaul community who continuedto report to campus throughoutthe Spring Quarter. DePaul UniversityClass of 2020, the worldis a scary place right now. Graduating from collegealways comes with a degreeof uncertainty. Is this the right jobfor me? Am I choosingthe right path? Will I achievemy dreams? I know all your questionsare magnified right now, and it’s okayto feel scared. Now, more than ever, the world needsDePaul graduates. There are morethan 6,000 students in the Class of 2020, and the world needsevery single one of you. We need entrepreneurs,economists, and hospitality leaders. Journalists,filmmakers, computer scientists,and game designers. Teachers, counselors,writers, artists, diplomats,and historians.

Nurses,psychologists, scientists,and mathematicians. Musicians and actors. The world needsDePaul graduates because you knowwhat it takes to succeed. You know howto roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takesto get the job done. You understand the importanceof giving back. And you have the courageto ask, “What must be done?” At DePaul,our Catholic Vincentian mission to servethe public good is at the heartof everything we do. We have taught youto fight for social justice, help thosemost in need, listen,and be kind. Please keepour Vincentian values close to your heart. Be mindfulof the responsibility that comeswith a DePaul diploma. The diplomathat bears the name of St. Vincent de Paul. DePaul UniversityClass of 2020, you are ready to servea changing world, transformed byyour DePaul education, grounded in mission. Make us proud. The last stepin your journey at DePaul is to be inductedinto the alumni community. It is my distinct honorto introduce our special alumni guest,Joe Keery, who graduated fromThe Theatre School in 2014, and now playsSteve Harrington on the hit Netflix seriesStranger Things. DePaul has always been proudto call Joe one of our own, and my wife and Iare big fans of his work. We’re very gratefulhe could join us today to celebratethe Class of 2020. Please welcome Joe Keery. Hi, everybody,my name is Joe Keery. I’m an alumniat DePaul University, Class of 2014,from The Theatre School, and I’m honored to bethis year’s Alumni Inductor and to welcomethe Class of 2020 into the Alumni Association. So, congratulations,Class of 2020. When I thinkabout my time at DePaul, I think aboutall the hard work. I mean, DePaul really conditionstheir students to work. If you ask any of the studentsat The Theatre School, they’re definitelyworking very hard. It really conditioned meto fill my days doing the thingthat I love to do, and then work towards goalsthat I really set for myself. So, now, more than ever,as graduates, and kind of giventhe current state of the world, I think it’s really importantto keep your foot on the gas and to really go afterevery single opportunity, to makeyour own opportunities.

If you work hard at somethingthat you love to do, and you can makea living doing it, then you won’t have to worka day in your life. That’s always beenmy mentality, and I feel so luckyto be able to do the workthat I’m able to do. And it wouldn’t havebeen possible, truly, without DePaul. I look backon my time there so fondly. All the friendsthat I’ve made, all the experiencesthat I had. But, truly,now the real fun begins, because you get to takeeverything that you’ve learned and everything thatyou’ve worked towards at DePauland put it to use. And now you can startthis new chapter in your life and always look back fondlyat your time at DePaul. So, congratulations again, and now to inductthe Class of 2020. Inscribed upon this scrollare the names of the members of DePaul University’s121st graduating class, the Class of 2020. We acceptthese graduates into the DePaul UniversityAlumni Association. Members ofthe 121st graduating class, we welcome youto the next step in your lifelong connectionwith DePaul. As students of yesterday,graduates today, and alumni forever, you are now part of aneven larger DePaul community of over 190,000 alumniliving around the world. The continued vitalityof DePaul University depends uponeach of us as alumni, and our pledge of commitmentand service to the university. We invite youto accept membership by moving your tasselfrom the right to the left as a symbolic gestureof your transformation from a studentof DePaul University to a lifelong learnerand citizen of the world. Graduates,please move your tassels, you should really do it, and congratulationsto the Class of 2020. (applauds) ♪

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