Graduates Encouraged to Seek Answers Through Questions
Spring Commencement ceremony welcomes graduate students to ranks of DU alumni
To get to Magness Arena on June 14, the University of Denver’s most recent parade of graduate students had to pass final exams, publish research and defend their findings and conclusions.
But before they received their well-earned diplomas at the graduate Commencement ceremony, keynote speaker and proud alumnus Imran Khan (BSBA ’00) had three more questions for them to ponder.
Why do people act the way they do? Why do I want the things I want? Why are things the way they are?
The answers, Khan explained, have helped him navigate a long journey from a small, tech-poor city in Bangladesh to Wall Street and, eventually, a C-level position at Snap Inc., the parent company of the Snapchat app.
The first time Khan, who also received an honorary doctor of business degree at Friday’s ceremony, left his country was to come to DU. His father encouraged him to look for schools in the United States, and he found DU on Google at an internet café, wooed by Denver’s famous 300 days of sunshine.
He would become, as Chancellor Rebecca Chopp noted in her introduction, “a dynamic and innovative leader … not limited to one industry or sector,” successful because of “his agility and ability to think quickly.”
But in becoming that 21st century leader, Khan encountered discrimination, hazing and crises. His optimism got him through.
“In each case, I could have said, ‘screw this’ and gotten angry,” he told the graduates. “Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t agree with how I was treated because of my look, my name and ethnic origins. But each time I asked what they saw and feared about me. I could have let them [get] under my skin, or I could understand that these actions are products of others’ lack of experience or exposure.”
At the same time, Khan continued, it’s important to examine one’s own motivations.
“Success doesn’t come from being fixated on one hyper-specific goal,” he warned. “There are a lot of pathways to happiness and fulfillment. The question is not, ‘what is my goal?’ but, ‘why is this my goal?’”
Each time Khan asked these questions, he found his decision-making enhanced.
Finally, Khan explained, it’s important to question conventional wisdom — which doesn’t mean challenging the status quo every single time. “By understanding the reason behind why things are done, you will uncover the complexity of the issues, and that will help you solve any problem,” he said. “We never have all the information we need. None of us has all the answers. The good news is we can always ask the right questions.”
Chopp encouraged the new class of graduates to ask those questions, no matter their industry, urging them to serve the public good even as they seek to advance their own careers.
“Our city, country and world need your resources,” she said in closing. “We need your skills, your compassion, your leadership and your imagination. As we celebrate your incredible success in obtaining this advanced degree, we ask you to use it to address problems and create new opportunities.”
DU’s 1,116 graduates will join a network of more than 140,000 alumni stationed across the globe. Before embarking on their new lives, however, Chopp asked them to acknowledge the faculty, staff, friends and others who supported them throughout their studies. She called on the capped-and-gowned to turn and face their families, who got them to this day. Her final words, though, were directed to the newest recipients of master’s degrees and PhDs.
“I charge you, as University of Denver alumni, to be real leaders,” she said. “Listen deeply to others, live with a moral heart, imagine new possibilities, make a difference, dedicate your life’s work to the flourishing of all, and most certainly of our planet.
“May you fulfill your hopes and dreams, and may that fulfillment benefit, nourish and strengthen our world.”