Campus News

New UGA graduates prepared with life’s lessons

For the members of the University of Georgia’s Class of 2022, their education extended far beyond the classroom.

They benefited from completing assignments, passing exams, working in labs and taking advantage of experiential learning opportunities. They also learned from weathering a global pandemic. And all those lessons will stay with them for a lifetime.

“Yes, you learned a lot in your chosen field of expertise. But importantly, you now have the opportunity to apply that knowledge through a new lens into our world and in a new way,” said Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian, who gave the undergraduate Commencement address May 13 in Sanford Stadium. “Our world needs you, and I know you are ready for the challenge.”

Bastian offered a few life lessons to the new graduates. First, he reminded them that character is not built by crisis—it is revealed in crisis. Second, he encouraged them to make learning a lifelong pursuit.

“Please don’t let today mark the end of your ‘learning’ and the beginning of your ‘doing.’ Life is a learning journey,” he said.

Bastian also shared the importance of building a quiet, inner confidence by putting in extra effort, by not being afraid to fail, by venturing into unfamiliar territory, by expanding the horizon and by remaining humble.

“Yes, times going forward will be challenging,” he said. “I know and continue to battle them every single day, but I continue to tell you that the opportunity that you have to make an impact on our world has never been greater. Take full advantage of it, and take others with you on your journey.”

Student speaker Karli “KB” Bryant also shared some of the lessons she’s learned with her fellow graduates. Specifically, she urged them to take a moment to enjoy their successes.

“My challenge to myself is now one I extend to you: celebrate yourself and celebrate being alive,” said Bryant, a first-generation college student from Marietta. “While the big things are worth celebrating, of course, so are all the little things. We cannot sacrifice the joy of the journey for the prospect of the destination. So, don’t forget to enjoy yourselves. Go out into this world, and continue to celebrate all the aspects of your existence, as it is this happiness that makes life worthwhile.”

At the graduate Commencement ceremony held earlier in the day, Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach, shared some of the lessons she learned during the pandemic and encouraged graduates to embrace what makes them uncomfortable.

“As we celebrate today, you’ve already shown what you can do when you move out of your comfort zone,” she said. “You undertook a significant challenge under difficult circumstances, and you succeeded.”

Frum spoke about the impact of the university’s outreach mission during the pandemic, such as giving vaccines through a mobile clinic, helping small businesses access federal funding through the Small Business Development Center and helping to expand broadband internet to rural parts of the state.

“Never underestimate how your education from the University of Georgia can have a positive and profound impact on your community,” she said. “Your time has prepared you to do things you never thought possible. Do the thing you think you can’t do.”

A total of 7,603 students—6,054 undergraduates and 1,549 graduate students—met requirements to walk in the university’s spring Commencement. Of the graduate students, 263 were doctoral candidates, and 1,286 received their master’s or specialist degrees. UGA President Jere W. Morehead conferred their degrees, and Natalie Shay Clark, Sarah Marie DelBene, Shawn Thomas Kuhn and Kelli Brooke McGrail were awarded degrees posthumously.

“Graduates, I hope you will remember the relationships you formed with your classmates, advisors, professors and others you met during your time here,” Morehead said. “These relationships will become even more important to you in the future as you look back upon the profound influence they have had on your life. We expect uncommon things from you—because you are a graduate of the University of Georgia.”

A total of 109 students were recognized as First Honor Graduates during the undergraduate exercises for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA in all work completed at UGA, as well as all college-level transfer work done prior to or following enrollment at the university.

“To our graduates, you represent tangible and inspiring evidence of the wisdom and foresight of those who drafted the charter of the University of Georgia and thus began in 1785 the great American tradition of public higher education,” Morehead said. “Whatever your future holds for you, your time here preparing for life and citizenship gives special meaning to the words in the university’s charter that call the young people of this state ‘the rising hope of our land.’”

The evening undergraduate ceremony was capped by a rousing rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” performed by Gabriella Lauren All, an Honors student from Savannah double majoring in piano performance and chemistry, that brought the crowd to its feet, as well as a fireworks show over the stadium.