AUC Says Goodbye, Good Luck to Class of 2018
Embracing fear, honoring lost loved ones and pushing ahead to make change in the future were the messages of the weekend, as more than 700 students capped off their AUC experience.
In total, 668 undergraduates, 128 master's students and 3 PhD candidates received their degrees at AUC’s 95th commencement ceremonies on Saturday, June 23. The all-day celebration included speeches from President Francis Ricciardone, class representatives, Her Excellency Minister of Tourism Rania Al-Mashat '95 and Mahmoud Mohieldin, senior vice president for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships at the World Bank Group.
At the graduate commencement, Al-Mashat, remembering a quote from the provost at her own graduation in 1995, reminded the students that the diplomas they would soon be holding are the most important documents they would ever receive — more important than their marriage certificates. “It [graduation diploma] will not be revoked, and it cannot be nullified,” she said.
Al-Mashat went on to discuss the impact of her own AUC education, referencing its importance to her career of working for organizations including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and finally, in her current position as Egypt's minister of tourism. “The slogan for tourism promotion is ‘Egypt, where it all begins.’ For me, personally, I can say ‘AUC, where it all begins.’
Al-Mashat also spoke to the women in the class, of which there were 93, telling them to never let gender stand as a barrier to their success. Also receiving master's degrees were 38 men, 115 Egyptians and 16 international students.
Following Al-Mashat, graduate class representative Mirna Said Fougère, who received a Master of Arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages, addressed the class from a teacher’s perspective. She emphasized an example taught to her by her late mother: the importance of helping those around you.
“I’m not here today to give advice about the 10 steps you need to get the career you want or the seven steps that lead you to become a millionaire or the five steps that lead you to success, because all of that revolves around you,” Fougère said. “But what about the person next to you? What steps can you take to help them get the career they want, take their talent a step further, become a better person or reach their goals? You will only feel fulfilled when you do something for someone else.”
Later in the day, at the undergraduate commencement, hundreds of students, their families and friends gathered in the ARTOC Sports Court to watch AUCians become alumni. Donning the formal blue gown, President Francis Ricciardone welcomed the crowd of roughly 5,000 people by acknowledging the internationalism present in the class and the audience -- 25 international students graduated in the Class of 2018 -- and recognizing those who were unable to make it.
“It’s a special privilege to have a few who are from far less fortunate circumstances than most of us here this evening -- I would say than any of us here this evening -- who are refugees from their home countries, whose families aren’t able to join us,” Ricciardone said. “You are with us tonight, and we are conscious of you, and we join you in celebrating your sons' and daughters’ high achievements.”
President Ricciardone then addressed Mohieldin, to whom he awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Mohieldin offered advice to the class peppered with anecdotes about his own college-aged daughter and a few jokes about economists. While acknowledging the privilege the students had of graduating from AUC, he warned them to temper their conceit.
“It wouldn’t be very wise to assume that deep knowledge can be obtained at a very young age. … but how to do it is, basically, seek advice. Don’t be reluctant to ask somebody who you trust and with so many achievements in life,” he said, citing his own life experience. “The only problem that we need in this country, in this region and indeed in this country… is more of you who are not just going to get certificates as Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science, but basically, a license for lifelong learning. Your journey starts now.”
Perhaps the most touching part of Mohieldin’s speech was his testament to the late father of Mariam Mohamed Mazhar, the undergraduate class representative, whose father was Mohieldin’s close friend. “It was one of the saddest days of my life when we lost him just five years ago,” he said. “Mariam, you have made us all proud, along with your friends and colleagues today, and without doubt, your father would have been the happiest person here celebrating your achievements.”
Mazhar, who received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism, took the stage shortly thereafter, to offer a few words about a subject most people in the audience might not have expected to hear: fear. “It is the one feeling I walked into AUC with and am now still walking out of with,” Mazhar said. “But on none of these days were you asked not to be afraid. Some would even say that this fire you felt in your stomach is what got you here and pushed you to get through the journey:
Mazhar received raucous applause from her classmates and finished with a strong word of advice for the future. “Only you get to make a decision of where your fear takes you,” she said. “Embrace it, appreciate it and let it take you places you never imagined it could.”
With that, the Class of 2018 began crossing the stage to receive their diplomas, prepared for a lifetime of facing their fears, inspiring change and continuing to seek knowledge wherever they go.