2013 Doctoral Convocation - Dana Charles McCoy, Student Speaker

Good evening, friends, family, faculty, administrators, fellow graduates.  It’s an honor to be here with all of you.

As you might imagine, when I found out that I would be speaking to all of you tonight, I was a little bit nervous!  So in preparation for this evening, I did what all of us have done so many times before over the course of our academic careers.  I sat down at my desk, surrounded by the writings of those who have inspired me, I collected my thoughts, and I Googled “how to write a graduation speech.” 

 “Tell a joke!” said the blogs.  “Be engaging.  Keep it simple!  Be optimistic.” 

And then, the “don’ts.”  “Don’t use clichés.  Don’t use big words.  Don’t,” and I quote, “blab on forever and ever.  No one cares what you have to say, and everyone’s hungry.” 

But one piece of advice stood out amidst the clutter of the blogosphere, and that was this: be genuine. 

As researchers and clinicians, we have been taught to be rigorous, to follow protocols, to find “the answer” within the confines of our notes and spreadsheets.  At times, it seems that the price of this rigor is our intuition and creativity, and we are left bug-eyed, starting at a computer screen questioning our sanity and praying for sudden clarity. 

But the truth is that none of us would be here without our intuition, our curiosity, our genuine passion for what we do.  For some that passion lies in technology, in developing tools to enhance learning.  For others, it is understanding the complexities of the developing mind, and how we can promote resilience in children growing up in unimaginable circumstances.  For others still, it is providing patients with the critical skills they need to better their health and improve their wellbeing for years to come. 

Our passions are diverse, but all of us have chosen this, a school of Culture, Education, and Human Development for a reason.  What unites us is not the degree about to be bestowed upon us, our common suffering, or even these ridiculous outfits, but rather our genuine passion for learning,  and, above all else, our shared belief that some questions are too important to be answered badly.

And so my advice to you, fellow graduates, is this:  In your moments of frustration and bug-eyed computer staring in whatever next steps you choose, I hope you can remember three things:

First, while here at NYU, each of us has benefited from the mentorship of extraordinary advisors and peers, and the support of countless friends and family.  Remember these people who have encouraged you, supported you, and challenged you.  Chanel their energy.  And thank them.

Second, reflect on all of the things you have learned in the past several years.  Be proud of this knowledge, of the skills you’ve gained, of how far you’ve come as a scholar.

Finally, and most importantly, use these moments of transitional respite between commencement and commencing to recall your earliest convictions.  Reflect on the reasons you started this journey: the stories, places, pictures, and people who made you want to change the world.  Then do it.  And as you’re changing the world, always remember to follow the immortal advice of be genuine.  And, of course, be quick.  People are hungry.