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2018 Summer Graduates Look Ahead to their Next Chapter

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Justin Beach

Alyssa Hurst

Commencement ceremony held August 18

News  •

At the University of Denver’s summer Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 18, a sea of family and friends came together in Hamilton Gymnasium to celebrate the accomplishments of 620 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students ready to embark on their next chapter.

“You have, since your very first day on campus — whether you are an undergraduate, a master’s or a PhD [student] — accomplished a great deal. But I do think we have to begin with a moment of gratitude, because gratitude accompanies us on our journey,” Chancellor Rebecca Chopp told the graduating students before asking them to turn around and thank their families.

With her Commencement address, Shelly Smith-Acuña, dean of the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, also noted the day’s significance, urging the University’s new alumni to take their individual experiences and stories out into the real world and make an impact.

“I know you will be telling your story on social media. You all look fabulous and there will be lots of amazing photos of you with friends and family, marking this important day,” Smith-Acuña said. “But I ask you: How can you take this a step further? … The story you create today can provide a positive foundation for your future.”

Although Smith-Acuña pointed out some of the United States’ greatest problems, such as gun violence, sexual harassment and homelessness, she said DU’s new generation of scholars and leaders brings her hope. “You have the power to create a new narrative,” she said. “While it’s easy to succumb to narratives that are divisive, destructive and demoralizing, we don’t have to accept these stories. … Graduates like you will be able to counter these narratives and negative trends, and actually make a difference in our world.”

Drawing on her expertise in psychology, Smith-Acuña then encouraged the graduates to relax their shoulders, take a deep breath and join her on a “mini therapy session,” in an effort to reflect on the meaning of their DU education. She asked the graduates to consider such questions as, “How are you owning this achievement?” “Which of your abilities will add to the world?” and “Who will you never forget from DU?”

Smith-Acuña’s final note reminded graduates of their lasting ties to DU. “In many ways you are leaving home today, and we wish you well on your journey,” she said. “I hope that you feel a strong connection to DU. Know that you belong and are important to us. You can leave with confidence, and trust that you can always return.”