Susquehanna Celebrates Graduation of Pioneering Class
Published on May 13, 2013
Susquehanna University celebrated its 155th commencement ceremony on May 12 by conferring degrees on 484 graduates, many donned with sashes representing the countries to which they traveled as part of their undergraduate education. Three students received the university’s final associate degrees and 481 students were awarded bachelor’s degrees.
The Class of 2013 is a pioneering group, the first to enter Susquehanna under a new curriculum that guarantees each student will have a cross-cultural experience followed by post-travel reflection on that transformational experience. To fulfill the university’s Global Opportunities (GO) program, these students traveled more than four million miles to study in 39 different countries on six continents.
“In our global economy, cross-cultural experiences have never been more important,” said Susquehanna University President L. Jay Lemons, addressing the graduates. “You have the broader view because of your travel and immersion in other cultures, and through those experiences you have expanded Susquehanna’s global footprint from Selinsgrove to South Africa, Australia, Central America, Asia and Europe.”
Allan E. Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education (IIE), who honored Susquehanna in March with the institute’s Andrew Heiskell Award for Internationalizing Campus, said the Class of 2013 and the GO program represent something that is “still quite rare.”
“Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not even have a passport, and fewer than one percent of our citizens in higher education ever take the opportunity to study abroad,” Goodman said. When he asked how many graduates had a passport, nearly the entire class raised their hands, prompting the audience to erupt in applause.
“From our earliest vision of what higher education in this country should contain, there was always an element that stressed knowledge and experiences that could only come from engagement with the world beyond the campus,” Goodman added, noting that Susquehanna’s Class of 2013 included Fulbright recipients who will continue studying abroad in the months to come.
To demonstrate the value of cross-cultural experiences, Goodman pointed to a blog post by an academically talented Susquehanna student who struggled with oral comprehension during her semester abroad in Strasbourg, France. After receiving a devastating grade in one of her classes there, a friend told the student that as a French teacher she will likely encounter someone who is struggling as she did. “Before you got this grade, you probably wouldn’t have understood him or her, or been able to help them realize their potential,” the friend said.
“Quite a revelation,” added Goodman. “And indeed, sometimes what you learn abroad is how to serve your community even better at home.” He said he recently met a Fulbright alumnus who teaches in New York’s public school system. The teacher told Goodman that the school’s administration seeks to make students “career ready and college ready.” As a Fulbright alumnus, the teacher realized he needed to add a third requirement—world ready. “This class is surely that,” Goodman concluded.
Goodman was one of three individuals to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. He was joined by Ambassador Donald C. Leidel, formerly the top U.S. diplomat in Bahrain, and Lucille M. Arthur, widow of 1949 Susquehanna graduate and emeritus board member Douglas E. Arthur.
Two faculty members were also honored during the ceremony. Associate Professor of Music Nina Tober was awarded the Susquehanna University Teaching Award, and Associate Professor of Biology Alissa Packer received the John C. Horn Distinguished Service Lectureship Award, memorializing a former long-time member and chair of Susquehanna University’s Board of Directors.
Before closing his remarks, Lemons told the graduates that, “While GO has taken you all over the world, I hope you have developed a keen sense of the value of being rooted in this community and in this place. The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.’
“Members of the Class of 2013, the faculty and I join your parents in saying that we hope we have provided for you both roots and wings. As you prepare to begin a life beyond this hallowed ground, know that your relationship with Susquehanna and its people is a lifelong one to be cultivated and shared. Return to these roots again and again to be both nourished and to nourish others. Use your wings to fly off then to new communities and new opportunities for work and learning, ready and prepared to lead productive, creative and reflective lives of achievement, leadership and service in a diverse and interconnected world.”