Chicago Campus Commencement - July 2013

Dr. Michele Nealon-Woods
 President, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Charge to the Graduates
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
 Chicago Campus Commencement, July 26, 2013

Graduates - it gives me great pleasure to congratulate each of you, and your loved ones, on your outstanding achievement.

Three times a year, I have the privilege of standing before our graduates to congratulate them as they leave our campuses across the country. Every time I watch the faces of those crossing the stage, I cannot help but be reminded that our school’s mission is alive and well: a mission that directs us to embrace the diversity of our nation and to turn over the best trained psychologists and behavioral and health scientists to our communities.

Many of you, and indeed all those in the auditorium today, already came here knowing the issues before us as individual communities and as a nation. With one personal, community, and national tragedy after the other filling all communication channels, we cannot escape the realities before us. With each commencement speech I write, I typically take the time to update the data I present so as to drive home the responsibilities I suggest each of you have as you enter and advance your career. I chose not to do that this year – the data does not get any better, the issues don’t get any less complex. It is the urgency for true leadership, for personal and institutional responsibility and courage, for a narrowing of the focus on what really matters, and for actions emanating from positions of legitimate personal integrity – that have taken central stage for our nation and for those across the globe.

For some in this room, you will hear my words as the “same old, same old.” For those unique few that have already felt and embraced this sense of urgency, I belabor two points:

First - Diversity within America continues to grow. As we have all recently watched the George Zimmerman trial unfold before our eyes, we were all reminded about how much is left to be said to each other on the topic of differences. In 2012, the US Census Bureau estimated that 14.1% of the US population is African American, 16.9% Hispanic, 77.9% White, 5.1% Asian, and 1.2% of the population is American Indian. The US is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043. While the non-Hispanic while population will remain the largest single group, no one group will make up a majority.

For those of you that understand the magnitude of what these figures will bring for us as a nation, I send you out to help break down the barriers that remain amongst so many.

Second - For those of you destined for positions of leadership – I send you out knowing that most organizations train and condition employees to be doers versus thinkers. We all have the natural tendency to get caught up in what we believe are the most importance causes and issues for us as individuals. I suggest that stance in life is for those whose contributions to society will go un-noticed. For the leaders amongst you, you already sense the full potential of your individual talent – take it now and share it, not for yourself, but so that you can benefit others. It’s an old fashioned positioned to take, sure, but you will come to understand it never lost its relevance. Trust yourself to step away from the everyday narrative, be the leader you already are, and have the depth of courage needed to step aside from the status quo.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby proclaim that this, Commencement Ceremony for The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, is now concluded.