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The Regis Graduate as Risk Taker
& Cultural Change Agent across the Disciplines
President Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN
May 10, 2014
Good morning! And a grand morning it is as Regis College assembles for the Commencement of over 700 graduates – an all-time high!
Regis College Trustees, honored guests Donna Sytek and Marshall Sloane, parents, families, friends, faculty and staff, and most of all, 2014 graduates. Today I’d like to deliver a brief message to you regarding higher education and your role as a risk-taker committed to leadership and service, a change agent in the world.
We are honoring two people with honorary degrees who give you some very good examples fulfilling such a role. They have already been major change agents making major contributions by means of business and politics, service in organizations like Catholic Charities, parole boards, and business consortiums, and opening doors of opportunity for American individuals and institutions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and beyond. Like Donna Sytek ’66 and Marshall Sloane, today you are stepping up and stepping forward in the neighborhood of greater Boston and New England and declaring yourself to be a person capable of lifelong learning, assessing and taking risks of growth and development, and being a change agent in your neighborhood and workplace.
A lot of attention has been paid in recent years to rising tuition and debt loads, combined with an anemic job market because of the Recession of 2008. Many students have asked whether college was worth it, but the evidence shows that focusing on the immediate reward is too narrow. US college degrees are increasing in value. The wage gap is growing for those who don’t have them.1 The real benefits of education show over the course of a career, and they are massive\ -- not only in annual salary increases but in your development as a person, a citizen of the world, a lifelong learner.2
Undergraduate and graduate alike, while you have been matriculating at Regis College, we have emphasized five things in your education:
- Interdisciplinarity and thinking across the disciplines
- Pre-professional and professional education with attention to graduate programs
- Partnerships with business and industry, especially healthcare, through internships, research, and preceptorships
- Technology and digital pedagogy through our iPad initiative and the development of on-line and face-to-face hybrid courses
- Learning in this multicultural community to become a global citizen not only respecting others but connecting with others for the common good
The faculty, staff, trustees, and administration of Regis College have wanted you to grow your capacity to think, to take risks, to provide resources for your lives and those of your families, to belong to a profession and to give to others in the world. This is our recipe for fighting off inequality: education, leadership, and service.
By now you have heard of the French rock-star economist Thomas Picketty, whose new 700-page book entitled Capital in the Twenty-First Century published this spring is already sold out.3
Studying wealth and income inequality since the eighteenth century in Europe and the United States, Piketty basically documents the growth of inequality. His book is controversial and has already stimulated a great deal of debate.
Now what has this to do with you? This. Your experience and our values at Regis College have already led you to an intuitive appreciation both of the growing increase of inequality and also of the personal effort required of each of us to develop more just distribution of all kinds of resources, powers, and goods. One answer to inequality is the higher education of “the dear neighbor without distinction” of social class, race, religion, or gender – and that is what we are about here at Regis College in the spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.
Today, degree in hand, you are entering the vanguard force of those whose education commits them to taking calculated and informed risks and working as change agents in a world that needs better distribution of the privileges of education, better delivery and distribution of health care, and better opportunity for leadership for women, for people of color, for the young.
As Dr. Deborah K. Fitzgerald, the Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has put it, today the humanities are just as important as STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – because “the world’s problems are never tidily confined to the laboratory or spreadsheet. From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale, and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions. So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities — the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence — as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences.”4
We say so, too, here at Regis College, and we all – you graduating and we operating the College – must continue to adapt to the demands of the interdisciplinary and the technological, rejecting false oppositions between arts and sciences, humanities and professions, challenges and opportunities. We must, because that is where the world lives today, that is where you live.
As educators, we have been learning to work the disciplines all together, and we are going to continue to work them together. You are among the first fruits of that labor, the emissaries who are today going out into the world with your newly minted degrees to think critically, to assess and take risks of community development, and to become change agents of social justice, using your interdisciplinary education for the common good.
Go to it. Make us proud. Congratulations and Godspeed!
1 Hope Yen, “US college degrees increasing in value; wage gap grows for those who don’t have them,” The Boston Globe (February 12, 2014), A9.
2 Max Nisen, “Long-Term Salary Data Shows How Much A College Degree Is Really Worth,” Business Insider (August 27, 2013).
3 Reportedly more than 80, 000 print copies and 13,000 digital copies have been distributed – not the usual publication data for an academic press, in this case, that of Harvard University.
4 The Boston Globe (April 30, 2014)