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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Commencement returns to the stadium for Class of 2022


Photo courtesy Rice University Facebook

By Keegan Leibrock     5/7/22 2:28pm

The 109th Convocation ceremony was held in person this past Friday night, with no restrictions on attendance. Hundreds of class of 2022 Rice undergraduates passed under the Sallyport before meeting at Rice football stadium for the ceremony. 

Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman welcomed the graduating class to the convocation proceedings.

“Tonight is simultaneously a celebration of your growth as leaders, collaborators, and informed and engaged citizens of the world,” Gorman said. “You have all done so well. We are proud to call you Rice Owls and are excited to cheer you on tonight with your family and friends as you conclude your undergraduate experience with us.” 

The elected student convocation speaker, Krithika Shamanna, addressed the audience of Rice Stadium with a story about searching for her dedications and passions while at Rice.

“What was I dedicated to? I came to Rice hoping to find out in classrooms, or walks in Hermann Park, or volunteering off-campus,” Shammanna, a Jones College graduate, said. “I hoped for a single eureka moment that would be understanding dedication. Although that single moment never came, I’ve learned more about dedication over the years than I could have ever imagined four years ago.”

Shamanna said that, to her, the Rice student body is defined by compassion for one another and the surrounding community.

“Nothing defines the Rice community more than the idea of showing up for each other. Showing up to recognize policy shortcomings and demanding justice for survivors. Showing up to recognize our mental and physical uniqueness and creating more educational spaces. We showed up and we will continue to show up.”

In his last graduation as Rice President, David Leebron began by celebrating the class of 2022’s in-person graduation, despite spending most of their college experience in an ongoing pandemic.

“Two years ago, we celebrated the class of 2020 in a completely online ceremony… This year, we had to move online at the beginning of both semesters and recently we have had to address a new surge,” Leebron said. “It’s truly wonderful that we can be together [in person] on this occasion to celebrate your amazing accomplishments.”

Leebron said that he will miss interacting with students as part of his role as university president.

“It has been one of the true privileges of my job to see your extraordinary talent and passion and compassion, to see your drive to make a real contribution to our world, and to see your commitment to making Rice better,” Leebron said. “I will miss many things in the years ahead, but none more than my interactions with you. I look forward to hearing about your growth and achievement in the years ahead.”

To conclude the ceremony, Leebron announced numerous awards given to recognize outstanding Rice students and faculty. The Student Association Mentor Recognition Award, which recognizes a faculty or staff member for their extraordinary service, was awarded posthumously to Kelley Lash, the former director of student media.

“Kelley Lash was the director of student media at Rice for many years and passed away unexpectedly just a few months ago,” Leebron said. “All who knew Kelly know what a loss it is that she is gone, and I am really pleased to see her good work and kind spirit recognized by our students.”

The commencement ceremony was held the following morning. Sonia Nazario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, delivered this year’s commencement address to the graduating class. Nazario spoke about her career in journalism and what it has taught her about seeking truth. 

“In my twenties, I focused on my career to the exclusion of nearly everything else,” Nazario said. “At twenty one, I was the youngest person hired by the Wall Street Journal, and I toiled in three cities in five years. I stayed out of activism as my journalism profession demanded, and it took me decades and a winding, difficult road to see the joy of fighting for something beyond myself.”

Later on, Nazario said her experience utilizing direct action by mixing journalism with activism taught her the importance and benefits of helping others.

“My honest assessments have led me to press for prescriptions on the immigration issue that anger both the left and the right,” Nazario said.  “But direct action is what brings me joy, and the older you get, you’ll understand that joy is what we’re aiming for… helping others helps you lower your blood pressure and risk of early death, it decreases depression and even makes your brain release endorphins.”

Nazario congratulated the class’s ability to balance academics with college culture.

“Kudos to the graduates not only who learned how to ride bikes while chugging beer and streaked naked with some strategically placed shaving cream, but also worked hard and pulled all-nighters to obtain what my husband’s longtime boss, a Rice grad, proudly proclaims to be the best damn education anywhere,” Nazario said. 

Nazario ended her commencement speech by calling upon the graduating class to discover their passions and utilize direct action to make change throughout the world.

“As you leave here today, that awesome diploma in hand, I hope you ask yourself: what would you like to see change? What gets your blood boiling?” Nazario said. “How can the skills and critical thinking you gain at Rice help you figure this out?”

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