Commencement Season by Cathy Sandeen (and a poem by Laurel Ann Bogen)

Spring is here, finally, I hope. (Believe it or not, the “Grapevine” section of Interstate 5 just north of Los Angeles was closed yesterday due to snow and ice!)

For those of us in the higher education world one sure sign of spring is planning for various commencement and graduation ceremonies. These ceremonies definitely mark the high point of the year for all of us who dedicate ourselves to transforming lives through education.

UCLA Extension is no exception.  Last year marked the beginning of an annual ceremony honoring the achievements of around 700 students who have earned a postgraduate professional certificate from us during the year.

Our students are a special bunch. They typically work full-time and make the extra effort to study on evenings and weekends to earn these university-based, credit-bearing certificates. Another group of students come to UCLA Extension from around the world to study on a full-time basis to earn a certificate at a US university.

 Our certificate graduation ceremony is special as well. We take the best from formal traditions and add our own UCLA Extension twist. Last year we commissioned a poem to be written by UCLA Extension instructor, Laurel Ann Bogen.

Her poem is so inspiring to me every time I read it and it is a great tribute to all students who have completed a significant educational endeavor. To launch us into commencement season, it is my pleasure to reproduce Laurel Ann’s poem here for you. 

 Commencing/Commencement

by Laurel Ann Bogen

To begin we educate
Whose very root means
To lead
To lead out
To lead out of self
To lead out of another self
The knowledge to lead

And so it goes —
From the bramble of ordinary life
Comes a desire for more
A spark / perhaps a flicker
Whether it catches fire
Or falters is up to

The High School science teacher
Who wishes he could write poetry to change the world

The accountant whose dream to create and build
Living art through landscape architecture is unfulfilled

The waitress who believes she can help others
Find a better life if she masters human resources

It comes to this —
Commencement:

Today
After the books you’ve read
After the papers you’ve written
The blueprints you’ve drafted

Today
After the lectures you’ve heard
The discussions you’ve been part of
The hours and days and weeks and fellowships of class and classmates

Today
Ideas have been planted
You have nurtured them
And cultivate them

From seedlings to knowledge
From knowledge to wisdom

Now you will commence
To lead out of yourself
The gift of what you have learned
Whether for yourself
Or for others

Begins

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