Campus News

Speakers encourage grads to succeed by using lessons they learned at UGA

Commencement speakers are known for offering affirming messages to graduates. Amy Robach, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and UGA’s spring Commencement speaker, encouraged graduates to make a habit of using the affirmative.

“You should say ‘yes’ as much as possible,” said Robach, who spoke May 8 at the undergraduate Commencement ceremony in Sanford Stadium. “Say ‘yes’ to the scary stuff. Say ‘yes’ to the seemingly menial stuff. You’ll be surprised how that one small, three-letter word will open doors, because opportunities are all around you.”

Approximately 4,488 undergraduates and 1,179 graduate students—a total of 5,667—met requirements to walk in the university’s spring Commencement ceremonies. The evening undergraduate ceremony included an additional 1,022 summer candidates who were invited to walk in the spring ceremony.

In her address, Robach, a 1995 alumna of UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, recalled the many times when saying “yes” helped her establish a successful career as a journalist and allowed her to tell important stories to the public. But perhaps the most important affirmative for Robach was when she reluctantly agreed to undergo a mammogram on live TV in 2013 to raise awareness about breast cancer screenings. The mammogram found that Robach had two malignant tumors. She successfully finished chemotherapy treatment one year ago.

“I can stand here and tell you I am a stronger and better person. I live with an even greater purpose. I live to enjoy life and to give back,” she said.

Other speakers at Commencement encouraged graduates to use lessons learned at UGA to succeed in their careers.

Hayes Hardy Patrick, a biology and psychology major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, delivered the student address at the undergraduate ceremony.

Patrick said that students in this graduating class are ready to face the next stage of their careers because UGA has prepared them so well for what’s ahead—even for challenges like a boring job or difficult co-workers.

“We are graduates of the University of Georgia,” Patrick said. “We strive to succeed in the real world with courage, we will treat those people we dislike with the same patience and kindness we showed our freshman roommates, and we will face those challenges with integrity.”

Gary Bertsch, university professor emeritus, delivered the Commencement address at the graduate ceremony, which was held at Stegeman Coliseum in the morning.

The founding director of UGA’s Center for International Trade and Security, Bertsch talked about the transformative power of higher education—including how it allowed him to go from milking cows as a boy at a dairy farm in Idaho to becoming a distinguished professor in foreign affairs.

Bertsch said UGA has made exceptional strides to become a leading public research university.

“The University of Georgia is a special community, a special university, that has benefited so much from thousands of people who have done so much good,” he said.

Bertsch encouraged degree candidates to be a part of building a better world.

“Put service before self,” he said. “Be good ambassadors for this university. I’m optimistic about the future. I’m optimistic about this university and about this country.”

UGA President Jere W. Morehead, who presided over both ceremonies, encouraged graduates to strive for excellence in the next stage of their lives.

“You are leaving this institution with great potential to shape the future of your communities, the future of this state, the future of this nation, and, indeed, the future of the world,” he said. “We now expect uncommon things from you, because you are a graduate of the University of Georgia.”

UGA’s Class of 2015 will enter the best job market for new college graduates since the Great Recession.

Nationally, employers plan to hire 8.3 percent more new college graduates in 2015 in the U.S. than they did the previous year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. There are signs on UGA’s campus that graduates are poised to benefit from a friendlier job market.

“Things are looking good,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center. “The job market is better, and hiring is up.”