Commencement weekend in Storrs is a time where achievement is recognized; where nostalgia competes with anticipation; where the word ‘student’ is replaced by the word ‘graduate;’ and graduates are welcomed into the fold of more than 225,000 UConn alumni worldwide.
At 12 different ceremonies held on Saturday and Sunday, members of the University’s undergraduate class of 2013 – nearly 5,600 out of a total number of almost 8,000 receiving degrees – were reminded that they had been officially welcomed to campus on Aug. 31, 2009 at convocation ceremonies where they were promised an exciting journey on their march toward commencement.
This weekend, those same students completed that march and received diplomas in fields as diverse as biology, journalism, plant science, nursing, English, psychology, dramatic arts, education, and history, to name a few. Graduate students celebrated degrees in numerous disciplines including pharmacy, social work, engineering, business, the sciences, humanities, and fine arts.
Class of ’13 excels at outreach, community service
Matthew Farley, associate director for community outreach in the Department of Student Activities, says the Class of ’13 has been one of the most engaged classes in terms of service in the history of UConn. “We’re still adding up the numbers for this year, but to give you an idea of the level of commitment,” he says, “during the 2011-1212 year, UConn students in total committed 1.4 million hours to service; I expect this year will equal or surpass that figure once everything has been reported.”
Farley says that during the past four years, Community Outreach has seen a 22 percent increase in service hours and a 23 percent increase in the number of organizations the University partners with in outreach programs. Also, there have been a record number of students applying to postgraduate service programs such as Teach for America, City Year, AmeriCorps, and others.
For those who wonder what has happened to the ‘younger generation,’ UConn graduates answer by serving their country and their communities, while enjoying the varied challenges and opportunities that are involved in obtaining a first-class education.
Included among the many outstanding students in the Class of ’13 are 306 Honors Scholars, one of the largest Honors cohorts ever; a Goldwater Scholarship recipient; three winners of NSF graduate fellowships; athletes who have risen to the top of their chosen sports; and musicians who have written and performed original works. There are also budding scientists who have put in countless hours working on original research in laboratories across campus, and individuals who spread their wings to participate in UConn Study Abroad programs in countries as diverse as England, China, and Costa Rica, choosing from 300 academic programs in 65 countries on six continents.
There are too many ‘firsts’ and ‘bests’ and ‘amazing accomplishments’ to mention individually, but students from Storrs, from the regional campuses at Avery Point, Greater Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury, and from professional schools in Hartford and Farmington have made their mark in an impressive variety of ways.
Importance of High Impact Practices
Gary Lewicki, assistant vice president of enrollment planning & management, points to these accomplishments as being central to UConn’s commitment to High Impact Practices, a program endorsed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities that stresses the importance of first-year seminars and experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service learning, internships, and capstone courses and projects.
“We are always proud of our students and what they achieve in the classroom,” Lewicki says, “but it’s important to realize that there are experiences that will transcend a person’s GPA. We know that when students study abroad, or work for Habitat for Humanity, or participate in living and learning communities, they are becoming well-rounded, productive citizens. They are ready for whatever the future brings – whether that’s graduate school or employment or some sort of volunteer service. Whatever their options, our students are eager, and more than ready, to take their place in the world.”
The future is bright
Of course, not every aspect of a university education is devoted entirely to serious matters. Among other noteworthy accomplishments, the Class of ’13 has been impressively represented at the spring ritual known as OOzeball; it has launched careers in karaoke and lip synching; and it will be permanently honored at the Dairy Bar by ‘Mirror Lake Mint’ – the Class of 2013 Senior Scoop winning flavor consisting of mint ice cream with crumbled Oreos and fudge swirl.
Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, captures the essence of the weekend: “Commencement is one of the best times on the academic calendar. It’s a rite of passage celebrating the many achievements of the Class of 2013 and the support of their friends and families. Everyone involved is in a great mood – there’s just no downside to it.”
Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive officer of General Electric Corp., addresses the Graduate School commencement ceremony:
While the majority of degrees were bestowed in Storrs this weekend, the University looks forward to separate ceremonies for graduates of the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine on Monday, May 13, and graduates of the School of Law on Sunday, May 19. Their achievements are impressive and their commitment to their chosen professions in law, medicine, and dental medicine are a tribute to their hard work and determination.