On May 6, 2021, thousands tuned in as the University of Utah honored 8,442 graduates during the campus-wide, virtual general commencement ceremony. The celebration featured musical performances, student cameos, entertaining and meaningful messages from college deans and inspiring speeches from the keynote speaker, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, and the student speaker, Kirsten Caron.
In case you missed it, catch the full commencement video here and more highlights below.
- Kirsten Caron, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a certificate in applied positive psychology, was chosen as the student speaker. Watch her speech here.
- Donovan Mitchell, NBA player for the Utah Jazz, delivered the keynote address which can be viewed and read here.
- Chris M. Ireland, chief global officer and Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, is the 2021 recipient of the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence.
- An annual favorite part of the general commencement is the unique congratulatory messages from each college dean. Catch each of those here.
2021 Commencement student speaker: Kirsten Caron
How many times have we heard that word in the last year? I’m just a bit older than most of you and I can tell you I’ve heard it more in the last 12 months alone than in all my previous years combined! I’m a psychology major. Wait, no. Now I need to get used to saying that I have a B.S. in Psychology. There’s a saying we use a lot in psychology: Neurons that fire together, wire together. What that means is our brains make associations between things. Not always accurately, mind you. (No pun intended). Here’s an example that most of us have experienced. You’re a kid. One day you’re eating a banana. And it’s so delicious. You love bananas. Maybe you even have a second banana, it was so good! A bit later, you puke absolutely everywhere. Fast forward to today and you hate bananas. “Bananas make me barf!”
Neurons that fire together, wire together.
But what really happened when you were a kid was that you had already contracted a flu bug. Or maybe you were in the car eating that banana and you actually experienced motion sickness. The banana did not, in fact, make you sick at all. I feel the same way about the word “unprecedented.” Over the last year, I have come to dread seeing or hearing that word. It conjured fear. Violence. Loss. Illness. Uncertainty. Death. Today, I want to break that association. I want to rewire our neurons. I want to take that word back.
Find video and transcript of Caron's full speech here.
2021 Commencement keynote speaker: Donovan Mitchell
To Interim President Michael Good, the Board of Trustees, the Board of Regents and the Associated Students of the University of Utah, I want to thank you guys for allowing me to join you on your beautiful day of celebration.
Class of 2021, congratulations to you—and to your families!
The determination and hard work that got you here today will be the foundation for everything you achieve going forward. As you start this new chapter of your life and your journey, hold the confidence that you can face tremendous uncertainty, that you can adapt to unexpected challenges.
When life brings you challenges and puts you on the sideline, the question is: How you handle it? How you face adversity? Will you come back stronger? Will you give in to adversity? What will you do?
Find video and transcript of Mitchell's full speech here.
Morgan Aguilarcommunications specialist, University of Utah Communications