2018 Women’s College Coalition Members Commencement Speakers
Agnes Scott College: Commencement May 12, 2018
Speaker: Jennifer Nettles - Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter
In her encouraging address at Agnes Scott College’s 129th commencement held on Saturday, May 12, 2018, award-winning singer-songwriter Jennifer Nettles ’97 offered inspirational words of wisdom on being flexible to change and the importance of being dreamers.
“I want you to be changelings. All the time change. I want you to be flexible to change in knowing that stasis does not equate to safety,” said Nettles, who is an Agnes Scott alumna. “If there is something you don’t like. Change it. Period. Be kind, compassionate, empathetic, but live authentically and without apology. Calcification makes one brittle. Brittleness makes one more likely to break. Bend, sway, dance but don’t break.
Dream of everything you want. Dream every day. Getting what you want isn’t as hard as knowing what you want. Dreaming shows you what you want. I see people every day struggle to find their purpose—our wants, our desires, our longings, our dreams point the way to our purpose. They are like sign posts. Listen to those wants. Listen to those desires. Dream as much as you can. Sift through it until you find the golden one. Now is a time to do that,” said Nettles, “And yes, you must be brave to go after your dreams. You must be brave because the Universe requires it. But here is the beautiful thing about the universe: if she sees one spark, one tiny breath of bravery and truth, she will rally around you.”
She closed her speech by urging them: “I want you to be curious women. Let your favorite questions be ‘What if and why not?’ Instead of ‘Why me?’ Why not ask, ‘Why not me?’ Somebody has to live her best life, achieve her goals, find love and fulfill all her dreams. Might as well be you, right? That’s how I look at it. Might as well be me! Might as well be you. I’ll do good with it. You will do good with it. It should be you living her best life and fulfilling her dreams.”
Bryn Mawr College: Commencement May 18-19, 2018
Speaker: Angela Davis - Scholar, Activist, Writer
Cedar Crest College: Commencement May 12, 2018
Speaker: Kirra Jarratt - Executive Director of the DC Bar Foundation
Quotes from Jarratt:
“On this day, what I really, really want you to know is that you have everything that you need, right now, in this moment, today, to be successful.”
“Twenty-five or thirty years from now, when you may wind up in a place that’s wildly different from where you imagined today, be the best that you can be, enjoy the journey, and go forth.”
Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtF9oXf5o-s
Converse College: Commencement May 19, 2018
Speaker: General Ann Dunwoody - the United States Military's first female four star general
"As you might imagine, in the Army, I didn't just skip along the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz, and wake up one morning as a four star general. I had obstacles; I had roadblocks; but I also had a lot of people who supported me along the way. I think those obstacles - those roadblocks - and the people willing to help exist in every profession, in every business environment, and at every college and university. Not everyone in the Army was happy or excited to see Ann Dunwoody show up for a new job. Sometimes it was the same old thing...'what on earth are we going to do with this...with this WOMAN?' But I truly believed that by staying on the moral high ground, by not lowering my own standards and not stooping to counterproductive tactics like name calling, gossip or innuendo, that I would prevail by making believers out of non-believers. It worked for me."
Cottey College: Commencement May 13, 2018
Speaker: Ms. Tatsiana Khvitsko-Trimborn - Class of 2010
This year’s honored Commencement speaker. Born in Belarus four years after the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986, Tanya was born without fully-formed legs and also missing most of her fingers, making her a “Child of Chernobyl.” During Cottey’s 2018 Commencement ceremony, Tanya shared her journey of challenges overcome and the importance of perseverance and moving past barriers, as she went on to earn a master’s degree and complete several full and half marathons. Here are a few key points or quotes from her speech:
• “I remember running for the first time. I had no clue how to control them [new running blades], but I ran so fast people had to catch me. And that feeling… I felt like I was flying. It was just so incredible.”
• “I didn’t even know English, and now I have my master’s degree, I’m running marathons, I’m speaking and sharing my journey and encouraging young girls who are struggling… It’s going to be ok. We all have problems, we always have problems. Some are more visual than others. Some are dealing with it differently than others. But the point of the story is, don’t give up.”
• “Don’t give up graduates. I don’t know what’s going to happen in your future, but think positive - think positive - because it’s going to be all right. It’s like my running a marathon. I’ve learned through the years what I need to change, where I need to adapt, and what I need to do. And here I am finishing a marathon, five minutes from the world record [for a female above the knee amputee]. It’s all about doing your best, and trying again. Even if you fail, try again, try again, try again.”
• “I often get asked, if I had to restart my life, would I rather be born with legs or with no legs. Now I would love to have legs, to wear heels and a dress without someone staring. But at the same time, I remember that if I had feet, I probably wouldn’t have gone through this journey. I probably wouldn’t have been at Cottey - and I love Cottey! And I love being able to help people, because most of my life, people have been helping me, and if I can give back a little bit, that’s a win right there. If I can, through my running…encourage just one person to get moving, that right there is a win.”
Douglass Residential College: Commencement May 12, 2018
Speaker: Tammy Murphy - First Lady of New Jersey and Imbolo Mbue - Douglass alumna and author of the New York Times bestseller, Behold the Dreamers, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
1) Tammy Murphy shared her desire to see more women make their mark in the areas of technology and innovation:
“there is one area in which I really want to see women add their names – in technology and innovation. Throughout the innovation economy, women are severely under-represented. New Brunswick is one of the nation’s hubs for innovation… we all know that the Douglass Project has been at the leading edge of breaking down barriers for women in the STEM fields. So, which among you will step up, and step out among your peers, and help knock them down for good?”
She also shared some words of wisdom that have helped her to be successful in the male-dominated financial services industry:
“Always be purposeful but thoughtful. Set your goals and carefully think through the decisions you make. Take initiative, get involved, and excel – this should be your mantra through everything.
These words are what allowed me to thrive in a financial services industry traditionally dominated by men. It is the mantra that inspired me to serve others, including helping women at their lowest points at a center for victims of domestic violence in Monmouth County, where we live. It is what led me to be a founding member of The Climate Reality Project alongside former Vice-President Al Gore, to focus on the fight against climate change.”
2) Our second speaker was Douglass alumna Imbolo Mbue, author of the New York Times bestseller, Behold the Dreamers, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Imbolo encouraged graduates to put into practice everything they learned at Douglass and Rutgers:
“but what good is it just to know? Is it enough for you to say, “Now, I know?” No, my dear friends. All the knowing in the world will do nothing for you, if you don’t apply it; if you don’t live it. There is no substitute for doing.”
She also reminded them to be intentional in how they choose to live and that their choices will make a difference:
“How do we put into practice things what we’ve been taught, lessons like: Be Brave! Work hard! Be kind! Don’t give up! Be Authentic! Be Fearless! Be Confident!
How do we do this doing? One word, my dear sisters: CHOICES. Believing in yourself, that’s a choice. Being positive, that’s a choice. Being judgmental, that’s a choice. Working hard, that’s a choice. Showing compassion, that’s a choice. How you respond to bad weather or unemployment or betrayal or your weight or the fact that everyone seems to be having more fun than you, is all entirely up to you. You have a choice. You make your choice. You can choose to be afraid, or you can choose to be strong.”
Meredith College: Commencement May 12, 2018
Speaker: Adrienne Cole - Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce President and CEO
Adrienne Cole, a 1993 graduate of Meredith College, is the first woman to serve as leader of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce in the organization’s 129-year history. With more than 20 years of experience, Cole previously served as the Chamber’s senior vice president of Economic Development and executive director of Wake County Economic Development.
In her speech, Adrienne Cole recalled her feelings of excitement during her own commencement. She told the Class of 2018 that as Meredith graduates, they are ready for anything.
“Be open to uncertainty, be open to constant disruption, and be ready for surprises. You do not have to have it all figured out or have all the answers in order to go for it.”
“I have a special message for the women graduating today. Data shows that men will go for a new job or promotion if they possess about 60% of the knowledge and qualifications required, whereas women feel they need to have 100% of the qualifications in order to apply. Do not wait until you are completely comfortable. If you do – you’ll pass on opportunities that you are infinitely qualified for. Raise your hand!”
Echoing the College’s Going Strong brand, Cole said, “As Meredith women, we know what strong means, but we also know the importance of being flexible.”
Cole reminded graduates that their education won't end with commencement. “Keep learning, keep inquiring, keep questioning … wherever life takes you, remember you are Meredith Strong.”
Meredith College commencements close with a special tradition during which the new graduates hold candles, symbolizing the education they have received as light they are taking into the world. “We charge you now to take the Meredith light into the world,” said President Jo Allen. “As you have gained confidence, knowledge, courage, and strength, we charge you now to put those qualities to work to improve our world.”
Moore College of Art & Design: Commencement May 12, 2018
Speaker: Janine Antoni - Visual Artist
“We need to commit ourselves to the fact that art can change the world. … We need to come together, to seize every opportunity to have our offerings contribute to healing. This is why I am here today. To tell you not to become complacent. Your success and opportunities are responsibilities. The more you are given a voice the more responsibility you have. Take a hard look at your time at Moore. Ask yourself, what have you really learned? When were the times when you came through for yourself? Notice that you learned most when you struggled. Moving forward, try to remember that fact. Have courage and stamina to face what is difficult. Change and impermanence are the salient qualities of life. Accepting this is a lifetime project. Your antidote to fear is courage. Be resilient.”
Simmons College: Commencement May 18, 2018
Speaker: Jacqueline Woodson - Prolific, Dynamic, and Decorated Author
To date, she has published 33 books ranging in genre from adult novels, children’s picture books, poetry, and young adult fiction. Woodson’s texts often weave in her personal journey growing up in Greenville, South Carolina until age seven and her subsequent move to Brooklyn, New York. She brings keen insight into issues that impact our lives including race, culture, language, and status. She is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a National Book Award finalist, a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner, and an NAACP Image Award winner. She is the Library of Congress’s 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Excerpts from Jacqueline Woodson Remarks:
“You, my fierce Simmons graduates, have stories to tell. And whether you write them, or sing them, or work them out in banks, or classrooms or coffee shops, or on stages or in orchestra pits, or libraries, or helping others get seen, they are your stories. And you have the right to live them. You have a right, now, to do the work you have been called to do.
“Because what’s within what brings you joy, life’s passion, and within passion there is brilliance. And within that brilliance is the thing that will get you through this life and help move us all toward a greater good. This brilliance, your brilliance, is what will change the world.”
Wesleyn College: Commencement April 28, 2018
Speaker: Superior Court Judge Verda M. Colvin
Appointed by Governor Nathan Deal, Judge Colvin is the first African American female appointed to the Macon Judicial Circuit Bibb County.
“Always remember, your career is what you’re paid for, your calling is what you‘re made for. Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. To do this you must put purpose to your dream by benefiting others. If your focus is only on you and yours, you negate all that Wesleyan invested in you.”