Celebrating the College's Graduates

Graduates urged to pay it forward, remember their "WHO, HOW, WHY"

by Anne Reynolds

Human Development and Family Science Graduates (student photo)
Human Development and Family Science graduates 
(photo provided by student)

EagleBank Arena, on Mason’s Fairfax Campus, rang with excitement on Friday, May 17.

Excited families at degree celebration

Following George Mason University’s Commencement on Friday morning, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences held two degree celebration events: an afternoon ceremony recognizing its graduates in the humanities and interdisciplinary programs, and in the evening, an event to recognize its graduates in the social sciences.

Students process into EagleBank Arena

Both degree celebrations opened with the uniquely Mason sounds of the Green Machine, led by Jeremy Freer, the Green Machine’s associate director. As families and friends filled seats around the arena, the ensemble that the NCAA has hailed as the best pep band in the nation filled the air with exuberant sounds that signaled that this was no stodgy walk across the stage but a true party to honor the college’s graduates, whether they were receiving bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees.

Green Machine playing

Following college tradition, distinguished graduates of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences addressed the assembled degree candidates. Liana Montecinos, BA Philosophy and Foreign Languages ’09, was the featured speaker for the humanities and interdisciplinary programs degree celebration. An immigration attorney in Washington, DC, Montecinos spoke about the value that education had brought to her life. “Education is what gave me a voice in society,” she said. “It is education that broke the chains of poverty in my family and empowered me to fight for others’ rights.” Relating her childhood experiences as a Honduran asylee, she encouraged the graduates to “check your privilege and embrace it, so you can pay it forward.”

Two grads take a selfie picture

The attendees of the celebration for the college’s social sciences graduates listened attentively as Dr. Alexandra Sims, BA Anthropology ’09, described the path she took to obtain her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor – and how her degree in anthropology moved her along in her goal to serve others. Sims described her family’s pain when her younger sister died at only three weeks old, telling the graduates, “I’ve come to appreciate this tragedy as a seed implanted to serve.” She advised the graduates to keep in mind three things as they tacked their own aspirations: their WHO (“You’re not doing this alone,” she said. “You stand on the shoulders of giants”), their HOW (the skills they would need in order to change the world), and their WHY (for continued strength when their journey seemed murky).

Student award winner standing

The college’s dean, Ann Ardis, congratulated the graduates, noting that each of them had been a part of George Mason University longer than she had, and remarking on the changes that had come about even during this, her first year in her role. “I hope that you return to campus on a regular basis in the years ahead,” she urged. “Mason is your educational home forever, and I hope you keep coming back here to see it continue to change and grow.”

For a great behind-the-scene's look at the most exciting day on the CHSS calendar, check out this quick video!

Video by Isaac Mei, CHSS Marketing

Unless noted, all photos John Boal Photography/GMU Creative Services.