Even though it has been more than a decade since I walked across the stage to receive my undergraduate degree, I can still remember some of the feelings that overwhelmed me on that day.
It is, after all, hard to forget a moment when it’s suddenly made apparent to you that everything you’ve come to know and love is about to change, and to realize that you are at the end of a journey that you will never get to experience again, in a place that you might never be again.
If that sounds a bit harsh… or scary… or sad… or even a smidge exciting – that’s because it is. It is all of those things and more. It is an ending…
…But it’s also a new beginning.
Whether you’re graduating from college or getting ready to walk across the stage and receive your high school diploma – or even if you already just did – I know you know what I’m talking about.
You who made hundreds of pictures with your circle of friends in the last few days leading up to graduation because you feared you may never see them again (and some of them you won’t).
You who shed a tear at the conclusion of your last ever class with your favorite teacher/professor.
Or you who visited all of your favorite campus spots or downtown locales one last time, or for the sake of tradition, had one more experience.
One for the road; a final glimpse of the habits, people and places that contributed to making you who you are today at this moment in time…
For me, those things included a quiet study carrel in a small library with an unending supply of natural sunlight streaming through the windowpane; a run around campus after dark, tennis shoes tapping out a rhythm to the beat of the music in my ears. It was a dinner surrounded by supportive, silly friends; a mentor who encouraged me to take “the next step;” a subject that encouraged me to think outside the box; and a campus home away from home where learning about oneself was equally as important as the academic discussions that took place in the classroom.
What things have contributed to the making of who you are?
On Saturday, May 11, 2019, alumnae and acclaimed emerging artist Jordan Casteel ’11 delivered one of two commencement addresses given that day to 217 members of our first SUMMIT graduating class, the Class of 2019. This year, Casteel was featured in the New York Times, Vogue magazine and was selected as one of Forbes 30 Under 30, while opening her first major museum exhibit “Returning the Gaze” at the Denver Art Museum.
“It was here [Agnes Scott] that I learned that with each step off the cliff, my wings would get stronger,” Casteel told the graduates about recognizing, accepting and cultivating her passion for art and all of the things that went into the making of who she is today. “…Trust that you have all the colors you need for your painting and use them fearlessly to create a life that may be at times light, dark or blurry, but certainly well-lived for the common good.”
After four years of Agnes Scott’s SUMMIT-based curriculum, the Class of 2019 certainly spent their time honing in on and cultivating their passions, leading thoughtfully, learning what makes them tick and fearlessly “becoming.”
The class produced one Marshall Scholar (who also delivered the Student Commencement Address!) and a Congressional Leadership Development Fellow; contributed more than 9,200 hours of community service during their time at the college; and were the first graduating class to complete SUM400, SUMMIT’s Digital Portfolio capstone portion of the curriculum. Many of them chose to take part in Agnes Scott’s longstanding tradition of ringing the bell atop Main Hall, “ringing out their good news” once they secured employment or got accepted into graduate school ahead of graduation. Others took a gap year, or a pause, to rest, reflect or travel after graduation, clearly drawing the line between one meaningful journey and the next.
For our Bell Ringers, a few of their new beginnings include:
Attending Graduate School at:
- University of St. Andrews (Master of Letters in Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy) AND the University of York (Master of Arts in International Political Economy)
- Florida State University (PhD program in Sociology)
- Washington University in St. Louis (PhD program in Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology)
- George Washington University (Master of Public Policy)
- University of Central Florida (PhD in Physics and Planetary Science)
- Emory University School of Medicine (Master of Medical Science Anesthesiology Assistant Program)
- Georgia Institute of Technology (PhD Program in Biology)
See additional graduate school outcomes for our Bell Ringers in the Class of 2019.
Beginning Employment with:
- Marcus Autism Center with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as a Behavioral Data Analyst
- Urban Teachers Program and Resident Teacher at Johns Hopkins University
- Congressman Hank Johnson’s Congressional Intern and Congressional Leadership Development Fellow
- Georgia Public Broadcasting as part of the Fundraising and Marketing team
- Teach for America
- Oregon Health & Science University as a Research Scientist in NIH
- Mailchimp as a Product Marketing Specialist
- F.L. Putnam Investment Management as a Portfolio Analyst and Operations Associate
See additional employment outcomes for our Bell Ringers in the Class of 2019.
If you’re a future college student, I promise, most of what will contribute to who you will become will be things you didn’t plan for because there isn’t – and shouldn’t be – a roadmap for how you should experience college. My best piece of advice is to let yourself experience it and follow where the road leads, embracing not necessarily who you think you should become, but who you were meant to become.
Congratulations to the Class of 2019 and best wishes on your future journeys!
Kati Burns Mallows is the Director of Enrollment Marketing in the Office of Admission at Agnes Scott College. When she’s not working (which is constant), she’s still trying to get accustomed to the volatile Georgia weather while simultaneously fighting to keep her husband’s 85-pound house dog from eating the remaining furniture.