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Penn Commencement 2012

May 22, 2012, Volume 58, No. 34

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Remarks given Monday, May 14, 2012 by Susan Margulies, George H. Stephenson Term Chair in Bioengineering and Professor of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science and Incoming Chair of the Faculty Senate.

It’s About the Possibilities

Susan MarguliesAs Chair of the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate, I am honored to represent over 4,200 members of the faculty and share with you our congratulations on your accomplishments, and a few pieces of sage advice.

First, I will share a personal secret with you—I cry at graduations. Not just because I have known two of you since you were in diapers, and over 200 of you as undergraduate and graduate students at Penn. Actually, I even cry when I watch graduations in movies, so it’s not about you, it’s about the possibilities.

A graduation is a moment in your life when many doors are open, and your life is filled with possibilities. You are pluripotent. Like stem cells, given the right environment and stimuli you have what it takes to be anything. As your professors, advisors, and mentors, we have trained you for this moment. Our goal was not just for you to know things, but to be able to apply that knowledge as you embark on uncharted paths in your future.  Most importantly we have taught you that learning is a life-long activity— even when there are no more courses and no more teachers in your lives, we know you have the tools, fortitude and intelligence to teach yourselves.  You have worked hard at Penn, but we have helped you learn that when fall, you know how to get up and move forward. This graduation day is like the moment you probably had when you learned to ride a bike. This is the moment when we as your teachers stop running alongside you, gently guiding and stabilizing your seat, and instead watch you wobble off, chin up and face bright with your future ahead, gaining speed and self-assurance.  We are so proud of you and all you have accomplished, and wish you all the best in your adventures ahead.

Which road will you take? When I was in elementary school, I systematically made my way through every biography in our little library. I loved reading about Thomas Edison, Florence Nightingale, even Benjamin Franklin.  I was most inspired by those individuals who reinvented themselves multiple times in their lives, who were able to see solutions to problems, and who made an impact on their world. They were my role models. I urge you to find your role models who motivate you to set high goals for yourselves and to achieve beyond your own expectations.

Now, for three pieces of sage advice as we launch you into the world. First, engage with your community. I don’t mean on Twitter, Facebook, Gchat or blogs. I mean live life face-to-face, and in real time. Connect with your local and global community—they need you and you need them. There is no substitute for actually being there. Second, find your purpose. What are you good at, what gives you satisfaction? Don’t be afraid to take risks, be persistent, and use your life-long learning skills to reinvent yourself multiple times. Third, have an impact—on your children, your field of study, or your world. One person can make a difference.

In closure, you have worked hard to earn this moment.  As your professors, we know you are prepared for your exciting journey ahead. Remember to engage, find your purpose, and have an impact. Finally, keep in touch with your Penn family—we want you to succeed on your adventure ahead. Our role as your mentors never ends. We wish you all the best.

Almanac - May 22, 2012, Volume 58, No. 34