GVSU MSW Graduation Hooding Ceremony

I wanted to share this very special speech my friend, Dianna wrote for our graduation hooding ceremony.  It is slightly referenced in my Tiny Prints post.

Welcome Grand Valley MSW students, a special welcome to those from Soo Saint Marie. We welcome our families, babies, and friends. We welcome Dean Grant, and members of the Grand Valley faculty. We also welcome anyone else who traveled to God’s country on this gorgeous day to be a part of this hooding ceremony. whew–I think that should cover everyone. there are a few things that are possible in the next five to ten minutes. Usually, when I perform as a public speaker, I often have, what my friend Dolly calls, “a gratitude attack” because I cry with tears of joy. Sometimes I swear…though I don’t do that as often since I left construction and began studying social work and if it does happen, it will be spontaneous, because I took all the swear words out of the written copy. Most importantly, I promise not to talk all afternoon. Brevity, as my classmates know, is difficult for me at best when I am the center of attention. I am well aware that on such a day of celebration, that you would like to hear is a speech that is inspirational,…yet short. There are a total of 935 words in this talk, and you have already heard 210 of them.

Well, here we are. Wow. Did you know that you can buy graduation speeches on the internet for $ 20.00? Of course, not one of them said what I want to say today, and none of them could describe what has happened to any of us in the last three years. So I decided to write my own.

In our first class, Fall of 2008, there were 27 new master’s of social work students in the Traverse City cohort. Professor O came the University Center from Grand Valley’s campus to teach Cultural Competency. She taught us about the “lens” that we see others through, how diversity is a blessing, about the similarities and differences between cultures and the importance of being aware of them. These are all very important lessons to learn as future social workers… to be sure,…but the one thing that she said that has stayed with many of us is “this program is going to change you. You will go through many life experiences together during the next three years.” Now, being on the other end of that, I would say she was right.

There have been external changes–many of our families look very different than they did when we started. In the Traverse City cohort, there have been seven babies born. SEVEN. BABIES. You were in grad school people, how the heck did you find the time to make THAT happen?

Two very strong women that were not yet aware of that, became empowered and left unhealthy marriages and filed for divorce. Two of us have exchanged wedding vows with our beloveds. Three of us are engaged to do the same thing in the future. Did I mention SEVEN babies?? There are only 18 of us and one is a male…seven babies is extraordinary! Some of us, on the other hand, have faced an empty nest. Others have bought and sold houses, vehicles and businesses. I for one haven’t cut my hair since I started grad school…and neither has Adam. A lot has changed, and we’ve gone from 27 students to 18 Traverse City students who are being hooded today. 36 total MSW students when we count SSM. 36 very different people from those who started in 2008.

Alisha said recently in her blog, “I expected to show up for class once a week and learn about social work theory and practice.” We all did that, of course, but I’m not sure that any of us were prepared for the internal change that has occurred. Graduate school has showed us what we are made of, whether we are nursing a baby with one arm and typing a paper with the other, pushing through exhaustion beyond our wildest expectation in order to finish a project, or continuing this program despite the deaths of family members, births of babies, cancer or other medical trauma…, and change. For some of us, a Masters degree seemed out of reach, and yet here we are. For others, they’ve known always that they wanted to be social workers and this is an end goal. For others, a doctoral program is in the future. Regardless, this journey, this program and brought us to this time, this place, right now. Somehow we have juggled jobs, internships, children, school work, and managed to sustain relationships. Somehow we still have some…, and I repeat SOME,…semblance of sanity. Some of us have even had some fun. (Seven babies.) This program has changed me. Sitting in class once a week with classmates and Grand Valley instructors has changed all of us.

I used to be afraid of change…because I had a fear of the unknown. Fear. I have learned that where there is fear, there is no faith. Change is happening and will continue to happen regardless of whether we meet it with fear or with faith. That is something I learned in this program…and I don’t believe this meets any of the specific competencies!

After we graduate and don’t have papers to write or powerpoints to put together, there will be change. Instead we will be writing case notes, grants to justify our jobs, and treatment plans. Our external circumstances will change because we won’t meet once a week to learn from each other, instead we will be using the skills that we learned while we were all together to create and empower change in others. So I challenge you, classmates…and faculty, to continue the changes that have occurred in you as a result of this program. Be the change you wish to see in the world. That IS why we have become social workers, is it not? We will never reach “graduation” when it comes to change. We can always strive to learn, to know ourselves better, to know others better, to treat others better. We can always change for good. That is my challenge to you, to always strive to be better people, better practitioners and better social workers.



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