On Saturday, May 12, Webster University Geneva hosted its annual Commencement Ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel to celebrate and recognize 107 new graduates from the 2017-18 academic year who earned bachelor degrees, master degrees and academic certificates.
Traditions of Excellence
In the ceremony led by Dr. Clementina Acedo, Director General of Webster University Geneva, the keynote address was delivered by Anne Hornung-Soukup, Chair of the Board of Transports publics genevois (TPG). First, Dr. Acedo opened the ceremony reminding the graduates that while many graduates are next entering a world of uncertainty, the knowledge, skills and internship experiences they acquired through Webster are certain to serve them well in their careers. She challenged them to remain committed to excellence, just as they have demonstrated through their academic pursuits, and to remember that they are part of a longstanding Webster tradition. As Webster University Geneva (1978-2018) begins to celebrate its 40 year anniversary, she concluded, it is the continued success of alumni that drives the institution forward.
The Serendipity of Life’s Journey
Keynote speaker Anne Hornung-Soukup, a dual American and Swiss citizen, has had a dynamic, varied and highly distinguished career that began with early career experiences in South Africa and Switzerland. She addressed the graduates with personal insights from her own non-linear career path, which brought her from a small town near Chicago to Geneva. She began her speech with some assurance to all those graduates who are not yet clear about their next step in life, namely that “you don’t always have to have a plan.” She encouraged the audience to be open to new experiences, and to appreciate the notion of “serendipity:” of gaining unexpected value from opportunities and experiences not directly sought after. With a highly developed global mindset and leading a complex Swiss organization, Ms. Hornung-Soukup shared how each stage of life prepared her for the next opportunity — oftentimes, catching her unawares. Her personal story was all about this notion of serendipity, and of being comfortable with the unknown; it was about taking risks in pursuing activities that drive your curiosity until the next discovery is made that can drive your future career forward.
Shining Like Stars
The 2018 graduating class represented over 46 different nationalities, and ceremony speeches were also delivered by student representatives of the bachelor and master degree programs. Bachelor representative Merima Huseinovic delivered an inspiring speech, using the analogy of students as a bright star: that members of the class of 2018, arriving to Webster as a cloud of potential, have formed to create their own light. Thanking her family for providing a strong base of values and grateful to Webster faculty and staff for providing a campus community of learning, Merima encouraged all of her classmates to be bold, to seek to be the best at what they do, and to shine like a star.
Follow Your Bliss to Find Success
Representing his master student classmates, Youssef Refaat Awad reminded the group that a focus on happiness was the signature route to success. He encouraged the class to listen to themselves, to trust their emotions, and to let their hearts choose what they want to do in life. Their success, he continued, would be measured by their efforts — and not, as some might argue, by competing for wealth or greatness. He concluded that happiness would come from both inner peace and social peace — reminding us that putting others’ happiness as a priority benefits us as well.
Additional Honors and Awards
The annual ceremony is also the occasion for the university to recognize academic achievement, as with the distribution of Webster's thesis-based Scholars’ Program certificates, and for several students earning departmental honors (based on high Grade Point Average).
In addition, the annual Undergraduate Student Leadership Award was given to Akul Khullar, and the Outstanding Graduate Student Award was given to Karlis Vailevskis.
Certificates were also given to those who successfully completed the Webster LEADS Program, and to a number of individuals earning awards for community service and campus spirit.
As per longstanding tradition, it was followed by a Garden Party held on campus in Bellevue for the university’s newest alumni, family and friends.
Photo credits: Oliver O’Hanlon, Francesco Arese Visconti.