Virtual Commencement Celebrates SEAS and PitE Graduates
Be yourself, be optimistic, flow like water, and know that the courage to act must come from within, Telva McGruder advised the Class of 2021 during the U-M School of Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and Program in the Environment (PitE) virtual commencement on May 1.
"If you feel stuck, remember that oftentimes the problem is not that the mouse is in the maze, but that the maze is in the mouse," she said, referencing Deepak Malhotra's book, I Moved Your Cheese, and its three adventurous mice who refused to accept their reality of living inside a maze. "Confront the mazes in yourself and take positive action, be optimistic about the change you can create, and be prepared to flow like water when the world changes around you."
McGruder, the keynote speaker, punctuated her advice with anecdotes from her career at General Motors, where she is Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She previously led facility engineering for the GM global footprint as well as facility management strategy for North American manufacturing facilities.
"You have so much to look forward to—we have so much to look forward to," McGruder told graduates. "Congratulations! And thank you for keeping people and the planet first."
Student speakers Elliott Schwab and Kate Walsh also imparted their own wisdom to fellow graduates, who numbered 177 for SEAS and 245 for PitE (majors and minors).
"If being at SEAS has taught me anything, it is how to work hard at being okay with this discomfort [of not having all the answers], and to use it as driver of change," said Schwab, an MS/MBA candidate in U-M's Erb Institute for Sustainable Business with a focus on energy and strategic development. "Regardless of career interests, it is impossible not to see the difference that each and every person at SEAS can make going forward to create a more just and equitable world. Thank you for showing me what’s possible—now go out and show the world."
"Studying the environment can be a difficult thing," added Walsh, a graduating senior in PitE who will earn a BA in environment with a specialization in law and policy and minors in water and environment and writing. “And yet I was surprised at how easy it was to find hope.... This hope didn’t always come from the content of my classes but from learning from and connecting with my classmates and seeing a group of people hungry to make a change. We have been given the knowledge and tools to go out and make the change we've all been longing to see."
In addition to the keynote and student speakers, the ceremony included slideshows of SEAS and PitE graduates, as well as congratulatory videos from faculty of both programs. The SEAS Student Government teaching award winners also were announced: Professor Sam Stolper received the Superior Teaching Award, while Marissa Lazaroff was given the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.
Also during the ceremony, graduates heard remarks from Jonathan Overpeck, the Samuel A. Graham Dean and William B. Stapp Collegiate Professor of Environmental Education; Michaela Zint, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Environmental Education, and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; and Shelie Miller, Director of PitE, the Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professor of Sustainable Systems, and U-M Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Sustainability.