To the graduates of the Class of 2016,

This is YOUR day. We applaud you, we honor you and we stand with you during this momentous time.

Today we recognize the accomplishments of the undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students in the College of Health and Human Services. Your dedicated pursuit and successful attainment of your respective degrees will allow you to make a difference in the health and well-being of our region as future practitioners, educators, researchers and leaders.

You made it! You persevered through the years, studied dutifully, spent countless hours at internships or clinicals, put it many late nights and early mornings. You may have even balanced academics with both family and/or work life – but you made it and are now sitting here representing the class of 2016.

As we think about our many graduates, a poem by the late Maya Angelou, a renowned writer, poet and humanitarian, comes to mind. In her poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” she writes…

“Lift up your eyes upon

This day breaking for you.

Give birth again

To the dream.

Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands,

Mold it into the shape of your most

Private need. Sculpt it into

The image of your most public self.

Lift up your hearts,

Each new hour holds new chances

For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever

To fear, yoked eternally

To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,

Offering you space to place new steps of change.

Here, on the pulse of this fine day

You may have the courage

To look up and out and upon me, the

Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.”

This influential poem, which she recited at the 1993 Presidential Inauguration, touches on the important aspects of change, inclusion, and responsibility – all elements you experienced while at Fresno State and those that will continue to shape you as you move forward in your professional careers.

Change: A simple definition of change is “to become different”. During the past few years you have made choices that will have a huge impact on your future. YOU have changed. Your experiences while at Fresno State have altered your perceptions about the world and about yourself. Your experiences will continue to be the lens in which you see the world. Many changes have occurred in your personal and academic endeavors and that’s simply a part of life. Change will always be around the corner. It transcends you, builds you and most of all – helps you grow.

Inclusion: What makes Fresno State exceptional are the bonds that hold together one of the most diverse campuses in our nation. And, in the words of President Obama, “Our Nation derives strength from the diversity of its population and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all. We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.”

As a future health and human service professional, inclusion is something you will embrace wholeheartedly, as the ones you will go on to serve will come from all walks of life.

Responsibility: Maya herself once said “each of us has the power and responsibility to become a rainbow in the clouds. Prepare yourself to make a bold difference in your profession and in the lives of those you have chosen to serve.

And, as we reflect today lets be reminded of those who have been our rainbows in the clouds – those who have guided you along the way and supported you throughout your journey. This day also serves to honor them – family members, friends and other loved ones. Those who have lifted you up and on whose shoulders you stand tall. To those who surround us in rainbows of love and friendship, we give you our highest gratitude.

Graduates, you have been well-equipped by your faculty – a faculty who are leaders and researchers, who are recognized for excellence in teaching, and whose dedication, hard work, and passion have guided you to this day. To the faculty, staff and administration of the College of Health and Human Services, we say “thank you”.

As some of you may know, each college and school selects an undergraduate and graduate dean’s medalist who is honored at commencement. Students are nominated by their faculty and the competition is tough. I am pleased to share that the undergraduate deans’ medalist for this year Lilliana Toste from the Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies and the graduate deans’ medalist is Bessie Yang from the Department of Public Health.

In addition, we’d like to recognize our 2016 graduate project and thesis award winners: Katelynn Shea of the Department of Kinesiology, recipient of the Outstanding Master’s Degree Project Award ; Brittany Scott of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies, recipient of the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award; and Megan Negatu of the Department of Physical Therapy, recipient of the Outstanding Doctoral Degree Project Award. Congratulations to these bold leaders!

Graduates, as you go forth as members of Fresno State’s 105th graduating class, and alums of the College of Health and Human Services, be proud of your individual and collective accomplishments. When you leave here today, you will represent the college as alumni who will make a difference and truly impact our region in critical ways. Know that your alma mater and your faculty and staff are so very proud of you. And perhaps more importantly, please know that we are all counting on you to help create a thriving, healthy region, bringing to life our college motto, “Live Well Central California.”

For the impactful contributions and the difference we know you will make in our region and beyond, we say “thank you” class of 2016.

Congratulations to each and every one of you.

Thank you.

Dr. Jody Hironaka-Juteau, Dean

Dr. Mitzi Lowe, Associate Dean

College of Health and Human Services