“Today we look back, but tomorrow we move on,” Noel Girgenti, a marketing major from the Stillman School of Business, said to approximately 1,375 of her graduating peers in her valedictorian address at Seton Hall University’s 159th baccalaureate commencement ceremony.
On May 16 members of the SHU Class of 2016, accompanied by family and friends, packed the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. to commemorate the end of their undergraduate educations.
Family members waved and yelled from the crowd to the graduates as they entered the arena, creating an animated atmosphere that remained throughout the entire ceremony.
Some graduates described their emotions as excited and relieved, but also nervous about the future.
“We are all Pirates, but that does not necessarily mean we’re all on the same boat, or pirate ship, if you will,” Toni-Anne Fajardo, an accounting major from the Stillman School of Business, stated in her speech as the 2016 senior class representative. “Some of us know exactly where we want to go; half of us have no idea. However, we’re all in this same unpredictable ocean of blue. Truthfully speaking, none of us know where we’re going with certainty, and we can’t tell where the current will sweep us.”
Fajardo spoke about the worries that some of the graduates may have had about finding their place after graduating, but stated that Seton Hall built the graduates into “servant leaders,” which will always be with them as they move on to the workforce.
Girgenti touched upon a similar topic in her address.
“When we first embarked on our journey 4 years ago, there was insurmountable pressure to know our destiny,” Girgenti said. “None of us knew if we would graduate a better person than the high school versions of ourselves, as it was virtually impossible to predict exactly who would be sitting in these chairs today.”
Girgenti stated that Seton Hall became home for all of the graduates and that the years they had experienced at SHU challenged their way of thinking and taught them how to show compassion for others.
Both Girgenti and Fajardo stated that though the future is unclear, the Seton Hall community provided support and taught valuable lessons to the graduates.
Although many students were excited about the ceremony, there was still some displeasure with the lack of a commencement keynote speaker for the second year in a row.
Riya Ayora, a public relations major from the College of Communication and the Arts, stated that not having a keynote speaker at the ceremony was “unfair.”
“I gave Seton Hall four years, they could’ve given me a speaker,” Ayora said. “Also, I believe speakers hold such an influence because I know personally I’m scared about graduating and the’ real world; a speaker usually makes people feel better and that they will be okay. We didn’t get a speaker to give us that advice, that we’ll make it somehow, someway and we deserve it.”
Erik Axelsen, an accounting major from the Stillman School of Business, said that it was “a little disappointing” not to have a keynote speaker, especially since Rutgers University had President Obama speak at its commencement the day before.
“However, it was nice listening to our peer’s speeches and their advice for the future,” Axelsen said. “Just because we do not have a celebrity speaking to us, does not mean we cannot take in advice and knowledge from our peers who spoke.”
“(The lack of a keynote speaker) really didn’t matter to me either way, however, I felt the student speakers did not give us advice for success in the future like a successful alum might have,” Maura Jones, a social and behavioral sciences major from the College of Arts and Sciences, said.
Despite whatever uneasiness there may have been about no keynote presentation being made at the ceremony, many graduates were still able to use the ceremony to reflect on their experience at SHU. Jones described the ceremony as a “surreal experience.”
“It’s very bittersweet,” Ayora said about the end of her Seton Hall journey. “I’ve met so many people during my time at Seton Hall and for it to be over just like that, it makes me feel such a range of emotions, but I’m eternally grateful for everything. I’m excited to start my life and I owe it to Seton Hall and the last four years.”
Axelsen said that Seton Hall helped him develop many life skills and provided many opportunities that helped him develop into the professional he aspired to be.
“I can’t believe I am officially an alumni of SHU now!” Axelsen said. “It’s still sinking in; I know when the fall comes around I am going to be sad that I am not coming back. I had four of the best years of my life at Seton Hall.”
Ashley Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.