I was recently given the honour of giving the student’s response at the convocation ceremony for my Masters graduation. You can watch it here… <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdOA1OSY4o0>. I’ve also included the speech text below.
Good evening Chancellor, Mr David Morgan, Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander, staff, fellow graduates and guests. My name is Geoff Schoenberg, and I am a Deakin Graduate. I couldn’t say that until today and I’ll tell you this, it feels good.
Fellow graduates, why did you go to university? I came because I figured getting my masters would give me a heads up in the race to become a Very Important Person in the Olympics or the World Cup. The aim was a degree, a qualification, something that proved I knew something. Obviously, as I’m standing here today with a funny hat on my head I achieved that goal.
I came to Deakin University wanting answers to my questions, wanting to be given information and knowledge. But, early in my degree, things changed. It became clear to me that learning the process of finding answers was more important than the answers itself. Later in my degree, this progressed even further. No longer was I concerned about answers. I started to recognise the importance of asking questions, and more specifically, asking the right question. I learned that to find the right answer you must first start with the right question. I started university seeking answers. I finished seeking questions.
This is only one example of the changes in perspective that happen through a university education. At its core, a university education is about gaining as much personal knowledge and having as many experiences as possible. Getting a university degree is really, one of the most self-indulgent things we can do. We get degrees so we get better jobs. We get degrees to increase our skills. We get degrees to expand our networks. There is no obligation to actually use your knowledge or experience, just to gain it.
But despite a university education being a self-indulgent activity, a huge number of people have supported us on this quest. Why? Because they see the inherent benefits in education. Because they recognise the personal growth that a university education facilitates. Because they know the value of those changed perspectives. And for their support, we owe them a big thank you.
Faculty members, lecturers, supervisors, tutors, all provided us with a framework for study. Through formal instruction in lectures to casual discussions in the hallways, they provided us with the opportunity to seek answers, which always seemed to lead to more and, hopefully, better questions. So, thank you. Thank you for the times you provided guidance and assistance. And, as painful as it is to admit, thank you for the times you forced us to find our own way.
Another thank you goes to well, each other. Thank those around you for the late night study sessions, last minute read throughs, for picking up our slack in group work or helping us pick up the slack of another.
Thanks are also extended to the Deakin alumni; those who graduated before us, whether it be for a meaningful mentorship or, simply, as a source for cheap text books.
And thanks go to those coming after us. Seeing new students struggling with the concepts we struggled with, helps us to remember how much we have grown and learned.
Now, today is mostly about us, and celebrating our achievements. Let’s be honest, we are fantastic. However, there is a wide group of people outside the Deakin network who made our accomplishments possible. Our parents, our siblings, our grandparents, our partners, our friends, our children. All our loved ones. They have contributed so much throughout our education. They have been there to help absorb all of our stresses, be it a crashed computer, a hectic exam schedule, or a bank account that never seems to have quite enough.
Today is also a day for them. It is a day they have worked towards and they will be very proud of each of us for what we have accomplished. They may not get to cross the stage, but I want to take a moment to remind them to be proud of themselves for helping us along the way.
Finally, fellow graduates, congratulations. You did it. I urge you to keep learning, to continue to seek answers, and, most importantly, to constantly ask questions. But, all of that can start tomorrow. Today, celebrate. Smile and say proudly “I am a Deakin Graduate”.