Commencement – A beginning not an ending

As is the common practice at this time of year, universities celebrate the ending of the academic year and the graduation of undergraduate and graduate students through University and Graduate Commencement ceremonies.  At the Virginia Tech Graduate Commencement ceremonies on May 16, 2014, the master’s and doctoral degree recipients crossed the stage to be hooded, received their diplomas and were congratulated by many.  Speeches were given, music (original composition) was played, visual reflections viewed and more.  A celebration of an ending but more importantly a new beginning.

To commence is to begin.  And once again, I find myself on the eve of departure for the 9th year of the Global Perspectives Program and ready to board the plane to Zurich. The 2014 theme is Future of higher education: Preparing for change which is not only timely for global discussions but also for personal & professional reflections about change.

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Joseph Campbell (writer) once said “we must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so we can have the life that’s waiting for us.”  What is the life that’s waiting for us?  How shall we embrace the future?  What are the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead?  Life is a journey that continues to unfold.

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In the spirit of Joseph Campbell, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, in her address at the 2014 VT Graduate Commencement Ceremonies encouraged each of us to have a “courageous conscience” as we prepare for change.  She indicated that having a courageous conscience means being “a person who is actively engaged in making one’s workplace, one’s family, one’s community a better place, and a person who is not willing to compromise his or her values or integrity just to keep a job, a relationship, or a comfortable place in life”.

As we commence with a graduate degree from Virginia Tech or begin the journey known as GPP (Global Perspectives Program) (or both) let us experience the life that’s waiting for us!  The 2014 GPP participants will commence our collective and individual journeys at Hotel St. Josef in Zurich Switzerland at 1500 (3:00 pm) on Sunday, May 25th.

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