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Carl Bellone's graduate commencement speech

  • July 20, 2006

President Rees, fellow university administrators, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, and the class of 2006 graduate and credential students:

I am honored to offer my congratulations to the graduate and credential students tonight, especially at this very first California State University, East Bay graduate commencement. Graduate and credential students are very important to Cal State East Bay, where they comprise 30 percent of our enrollment, the second highest percentage in the 23 campuses of the California State University system.

My career at CSU East Bay has been closely tied to graduate and credential students, whom I have come to know and admire. In fact, as I prepared for these remarks I realized just how well I have come to know graduate students. With apologies to my biology colleagues, I would like to refer to our graduate and credential students as Graduous Scholasticus and to explore some of the characteristics of this remarkable species. 

Graduous Scholasticus are mainly nocturnal. Although they can be seen foraging around at work during the day, it is in the evening when they are at their best. Other homo sapiens retreat to the comfort of their nests at night to watch televised idols and other people’s reality. However, when it gets dark, Graduous Scholasticus are attracted to the bait of knowledge and learning found at our university.

Graduous Scholasticus always appear to be in a hurry traveling from their places of work to the university at great haste. They are easily agitated by traffic and lack of parking spaces. Their eating habits are odd; often consisting of packed food raided from vending machines. Some of them even call this dinner. Coffee and other high-caffeinated beverages are greatly prized.

Graduous Scholasticus can frequently be seen attached to electronic devices such as cell phones and PDAs - without which they quickly become disoriented and isolated from other members of their species. Blackberries can reduce these symptoms.

But the most profound characteristic of Graduous Scholasticus is their ability to multitask. They can often be seen balancing work, studying, family and a rudimentary social life all at the same time. Without a doubt, Graduous Scholasticus are highly adaptable creatures to the many demands placed upon them.

While this description may seem light hearted, the astonishing thing is that it is quite accurate. Graduate and credential students are indeed a breed apart. The graduate and credential students that I have the honor of addressing today lead truly amazing lives. Because of your talent, commitment and hard work, you have justly earned the respect of your professors, family, friends and colleagues.

Your graduate education at Cal State East Bay has prepared you to be exemplary professionals in your chosen fields; and as exemplary professionals you have learned to be effective problem solvers.
I have found that effective problem solving is comprised of at least four ingredients that I want to briefly share with you tonight.

One is finding the right starting point for solving a problem. Sometimes we think that expert knowledge by itself will automatically give us the answers to problems; and it will for simple problems. But for the complicated interdisciplinary problems that confront us in our changing and interconnected world, our expertise provides us with the starting point - not the ending point - for solving problems. 

A second ingredient is knowing the right questions to ask. Without asking the right questions, we run the risk of using old methods and old knowledge to solve new problems. 

The third key ingredient is the ability to be reflective about our actions. What is that we are doing that works and what doesn’t work, and why? Why are the actions that were effective in the past no longer effective now? When this happens, we need to reflect on our practice, stop doing what doesn’t work and experiment with new actions.

The fourth ingredient is being mindful of the unintended consequences of our proposed solutions. Sometimes solving one problem creates a new and worse problem. Just look at the gas additive MTBE, which reduced air pollution but poisoned ground water.

I know that during your years of study at Cal State East Bay you have gained expert knowledge, which combined with your own practical experience has prepared you to be exemplary problem solvers. You are professionals who, through your research and practice, will make life better for all of us. Again, I congratulate you for your great accomplishment that we are celebrating tonight.

Oh, and one last thing, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that people with master’s degrees and credentials earn 25 percent more than people with just a bachelor’s degree, so when you go to work tomorrow be sure and ask for a raise.

Thank you.

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