Quote, Unquote: Commencement 2019

Quote, unquote is an eclectic sampling of things said at and about Hope College.

As the 713 members of the Class of 2019 prepared to cross the stage during Commencement at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium on Sunday, May 5, featured speaker Dr. Kristen Gray reflected on ways that their lessons had prepared them to travel from the campus community to living in the larger neighborhood of the global village.

“Whether you experienced the arts, natural and applied sciences, social sciences and the humanities as part of your major, or for your core education, the culmination of a liberal arts education at Hope is intended to inspire and prepare you for lives of leadership and service in our global society,” said Gray, who is the associate dean for health and counseling and directs counseling and psychological services at the college. “In other words, we have been educating you to be neighbors.”

Dr. Kristen Gray
Dr. Kristen Gray

…Hope is intended to inspire and prepare you for lives of leadership and service in our global society. In other words, we have been educating you to be neighbors.

Gray explored in turn how each of the four academic divisions provides crucial and distinct insight regarding how to live well with others.

“Studying the arts makes you a more empathetic neighbor,” she said — a neighbor who can “sing, strum, soar, syncopate, percuss, tap, pirouette, sweat, hip-hop, paint, sketch, sculpt, carve, film, photograph, see — really see, visualize, imagine, embody, transform, design, build, express, write, revise, rise up, fall down, rise up, see the world, push past your fear, reach out to tell the stories that need to be told.”

“The natural and applied sciences, in their exploration of the physical world, educate neighbors who are scientifically literate,” she said. “The sciences allow you to be a more critical consumer of science reports, to understand the impact of single-use plastics and live more environmentally sustainable lives, to give thanks to the people who spent untold hours in a lab to develop the life-saving medication your loved one needs, to be a neighbor who understands.”

“The social sciences, by examining behavior across time, by individuals and groups and institutions, allow for insight into the world. By gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for all the variety as well as commonalities of human lives, we might just be able to live together in more peaceful and harmonious ways,” Gray said. “A person who has studied in the social sciences can recognize that opinion-based editorials are not investigative journalism, correlation is not always causation, translation differs from interpretation, and research is not the same as Google.”

“The humanities, with the word human tucked right in there, give us ways to grasp and grapple with what it means to be human,” she said. “Humanities allow you to think philosophically about religion, and religiously about philosophy; reflect historically about politics, while questioning the politics of our history; challenge English translations for colonialist leanings; and debate the dreaded Oxford comma. Rather than memorizing ‘correct’ answers, the humanities nurture neighbors who ask life-changing questions.”

The students’ academic work, Gray said, was complemented by meaningful lessons learned during their time outside the classroom, whether through worship, the residence hall, campus activities, campus activism, service, athletics, relationships, engagement with the Holland community, or off-campus study both in the U.S. and abroad.