Dylan Keenberg Commencement Address

I must begin this speech by deeply thanking the clinical psychology department and the Student Affairs division for this amazing opportunity to speak as a representative for my fellow students. One of the reasons I chose to study at The Chicago School was because it offered me the chance to take a leadership role in shaping an emerging student culture, something that other programs with established ways of being may be less able to provide. Your providing me the time on this stage today is proof that my efforts have not only been successful, but that they have been recognized and appreciated. Thank you to everyone involved for not only providing the time and space for my speech today, but for the years of guidance and cooperation that have enabled me and my colleagues to thrive in our studies.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is committed to the integration of four key values in its efforts to produce the next generation of mental health professionals: education, innovation, service, and community. What I would like to speak about today is how those graduating have adopted and applied these four tenets over the past years. This will both provide us the important opportunity to reflect upon our accomplishments (a rarity given how many responsibilities we must tend to these days!) and offer a framework to continue utilizing these values to help those we work with heal and grow. I also hope to inform all of the extremely important people in this audience today – our family, friends, and significant others who have cared for and supported today's graduates through our difficult journeys – a little bit about what we have been committed to and what we plan on continuing to pursue in the following years.

The major component of any graduate program in clinical psychology is the provision of educational experiences that enable its students to feel knowledgeable and confident in working with their clients so they can help them to some degree. Those who desire obtaining an education must be active learners; it is not something that comes with the price of admission or the little letters designated at the end of a name. As a co-participant in the numerous courses, trainings, resume-boosting extracurricular activities, and all the stress therein, I can confidently say that those receiving degrees today have worked in great volume and with passion toward becoming educated. A great number of us have even sought out learning opportunities beyond our classrooms, choosing to become enthusiastic lifetime learners who look forward to increasing our education through a variety of scholarly avenues. These qualities will definitely serve us and those we work with well in our pursuits of health and growth.

Not only have we put forth the effort to learn the current ways of thought about psychology, but we have also spent considerable energy on critically evaluating their accuracy and usefulness given our unique perspectives, experiences, and accumulating wisdom. Where the prevailing notions have proved incomplete or inadequate, we have aimed to be innovative by creating new ways of understanding the human condition through our study of the latest psychological research and theory. Faced with clinical difficulties that challenge all recommendations outlined in our textbooks, we have also valued innovative approaches to helping alleviate suffering despite our uncertainty and, with support and faith in the human ability to overcome great struggle, we have often been successful.

The Chicago School has afforded each of us ways to apply our education through providing services to those who are struggling with psychological distress, often in facilities assisting people with high levels of need. While we still have much to learn about assessing and conducting therapy in the most beneficial of ways, we have still been able to return to campus with stories of accomplishments using the knowledge we have and leaning on the support of our experienced supervisors. While there have been some who have questioned us for not only volunteering ourselves but paying to do so, we know that the chance to be of service to our clients is well worth the time and resources put forth. Speaking personally, even getting a slim chance to give a fellow human being hope about their situation is a wonderful, invaluable gift.

In addition to all of this, my experience as a member of this graduating cohort has most notably expressed a firm commitment to the fostering of community on and off The Chicago School campus. When we began our graduate studies two years ago, we had a momentous decision to make: would we regard each other as future competitors, or bond together in effort to assist one another through our shared trials? Fortunately, we made a conscious effort to pursue the latter course of action. The result has been the creation of a wonderful community, steeped in appreciation of our vast diversity and mobilized to prove that anything is possible with help from our companions. I know for a fact that a number of us graduating today would not have chosen to continue on were our student body less determined to be one of caring, openness, and acceptance. It is working well, so let us continue to be allies in our endeavors; taking the lessons we have learned about how to love one another – despite differences – into our communities and places of work. In doing so, we can act as shining examples of how to encourage the building of a more empathic, understanding world.

In these ways, we have worked to actualize the values put forth by The Chicago School. While we celebrate our hard work today, we also know that our academic and professional paths are far from ending and that there are still many twists and turns to navigate. However, I have great confidence that we will complete the journey because we have so far accomplished substantially through our commitment to the values of our institution. I am further assured knowing that in times of uncertainty and doubt we can reach out to a network of knowledgeable and reassuring supporters, be they professors, peers, family, or friends. And finally, my belief in our success is nearly unshakeable because I know that we share a commitment to bettering the lives of those around us so fully that we refuse to do anything but continue to grow. So realizing these things, I urge my cohort members to continue helping humankind through education, service, innovation, and community.