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A gift of greatness in diversity

A message of congratulations and hope from Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal.

This piece was originally published in the People & Places blog.

As graduation day nears, I think about the people surrounding all of you, those without robes whose support sustained you through this journey. Your families—biological and chosen—your friends and those that loved you through it all, allow us a moment to acknowledge them with our collective gratitude for their support and for allowing us to be a part of your life.

Each of you knows what challenges you faced in the years that have led you here. Some of you got to this day as parents, some of you pushed against economic hardship, many of you experienced family illness and loss, some of you are the first in your families to graduate from college and feel pride in what you’ve achieved. The hopes of many have led you here. All of you that today celebrate this great achievement have persisted beyond the obstacles and for that, we’re most proud of you. You got to this day fueled by determination, grit and friendships.

Today, as you move into the next chapter in your journey, I hope you will consider the experiences you’ve had at the University of Utah the first graduation gift and that it continues to nourish your transformation.

The moments of fierce disagreement with professors and peers in the classroom and beyond were challenges that gave you greater confidence in your ability to think critically and develop new and innovative solutions. The times you cried with each other or shed a few tears alone; those times you doubted if you’d get to this day, those times gave you the resilience that will ground you when life brings unexpected challenges. The friendships you’ve made here have gifted you with special connections and people that will continue to cheer you on in your success and embrace your learning when the unexpected happens.

Most of all, I hope you embrace the gift of greatness in diversity—having the gift of considering other perspectives and embracing the complexity of authentic discourse. You’ve also shared your gifts with our campus community and have left behind a legacy of succeeding despite the obstacles.

Thank you for sharing this space and time with our community. Now is the time to take this all in and make the most of it.

Your University of Utah family will be cheering you on!

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