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The GW Hatchet

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CCAS undergraduates reminded to be stubborn, fearless in pursuit of their goals

Lisa Blitstein | Contributing Photo Editor

More than 650 graduates from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences were saluted for their accomplishments on Saturday afternoon in the Smith Center as they celebrated the end of their undergraduate journey.

In the first of two ceremonies for CCAS undergraduates, seniors completing degrees in political science, economics, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, journalism and political communication received their degrees.

Speakers at the ceremony spoke of the beauty of American education, the importance of innovation and creativity and the need to always be stubborn.

Here are three highlights from the ceremony:

1. Don’t be afraid of change

Graduates nominated Arun Malik, a professor of economics, as the faculty speaker this year. Malik reminded the audience that even though there will be many changes and challenges ahead for the Class of 2017 as they start the next phase of their lives, it’s important to keep an open mind and be receptive to new experiences.

He recalled hating his economics courses during his undergraduate years, but while at graduate school studying environmental science, he found that economics was his true passion and decided to switch his focus.

He praised the American education system that allowed him to switch gears when he decided to change his career aspirations.

“One of the wonders of the educational system in the U.S. is that we can change fields of study even after college,” he said. “We are fortunate to have an educational system that allows us to act on new experiences and new information to change direction”.

2. Be stubborn

Student speaker Paul Scotti told his classmates that it was important to be stubborn in pursuit of their goals.

Scotti, a psychology major graduating with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience, said he learned from conducting research projects for the last two years that most experiments won’t work, but scientists have to remain persistent to achieve a breakthrough.

Scotti also recounted to his fellow graduates the many ways he tried to force himself to wake up on time while at GW, including wearing an electric shock bracelet, setting a second alarm to blast bad music and creating a system in which an embarrassing photo would be shared on Facebook if he didn’t get out of bed.

Though these techniques didn’t all work, he said the situation taught him the importance of fighting back, putting in more effort and not fearing failure.

“If you’re lucky enough to already know your passion or a goal that you want to achieve, it’s still easy to get lost in the process,” he said. “That feeling is always there. We need to battle it head on and not be afraid to go down a certain route because of the fear of failure.”

3. Remember your education

CCAS Dean Ben Vinson issued a challenge to all graduates: take a few minutes out of their busy weekend to reflect on what they have learned at GW. He said seniors should repeat this process once a month for the rest of their lives to remember what they took away from their undergraduate education.

“By doing this exercise it is my hope that you will continue to rekindle your creative juices and reignite your intellectual process regardless of what happens to you in life,” he said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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