Welcome Message

- From the Dean of Academic Affairs

Congratulations, graduating students!

“Commencement” means “beginning,” of course. Ironically, you are ending your studies, not beginning them. But you are, by “commencing” here at UWest, beginning a new journey in your lives. Hence, “commencement” means that you are beginning, not ending. You are venturing forth onto new territory, with a degree in hand that will lend increased legitimacy to everything you do in your careers and in your lives.

“Graduation” means, quite literally, that you have achieved a new grade in your life, not a grade as in an “A,” “B,” C,”…, but a new position or height or level. When a measuring cup is “graduated,” for example, it has marks on it that designate different levels – a quarter cup, a half cup, a full cup. In a sense, you have graduated from one level on the cup of learning to the next level. Well done!

Let me try to relate to you some of what I consider the most valuable lessons I have ever learned in my life, with the hope that you may bear these in mind as you move forward from this commencement (this new beginning) and continue from this graduation (new level) to even further levels in your life:

1) Recognize that you should understand and express the full self that you are: Don’t follow the crowd. Try to avoid doing what everyone else is doing because that may be comfortable. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and out of the habits, customs, conventions, and routines into which it is easy to get stuck. Seek to express yourself, not what you think others want to see from you. Let your spirit soar.

2) Recognize that everything in life is interconnected and interdependent: Learn how to see the subtle connections between even the most disparate phenomena of our lives.

3) Recognize that every moment of life, if experienced imaginatively and creatively, is linked to eternity and that each thing in life, if experienced imaginatively and creatively, is linked to the infinite. As the poet Blake said, life is so much richer if we can “see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower/Hold infinity in the palm of our hand and eternity in an hour.”

4) Recognize that giving is receiving: The more you give to others, the fuller your life becomes.

I wish you the best as you commence your new life. And I urge you always to commence – that is, to begin afresh constantly and to forever see the world with fresh eyes.

William Howe
Dean of Academic Affairs

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