New ASU graduates encouraged to lift up their communities

'You are responsible,' degree-holders are told at fall 2016 commencement

student celebrating at ASU commencement

Arizona State University's newest graduates were encouraged to lift up their communities as they find success with the degrees they received Monday.

ASU awarded about 5,200 bachelor’s degrees for the fall semester, with the undergraduate commencement Monday morning at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, and about 1,800 graduate degrees were awarded at the graduate commencement that afternoon.

ASU President Michael Crow told the students at the undergraduate ceremony that they are graduating “on the best day in the history of our country.”

“We’ve never been at a moment in history closer to the point where equality and liberty and justice are now much more than theoretical concepts. They are things we are actually pursuing with a vengeance — a positive vengeance,” Crow said.

But he warned the graduates that they face unique challenges.

“Every single person that is in our society has something to contribute, and we’re at a particularly hazardous moment right now where large numbers of people are feeling left behind,” he said.

“There’s a lot of resentment and a lot of anger and a lot of stress as a result of this.

“You as freshly minted college graduates have to think not only of your own success, or your family’s success, but also the broader community’s success in everything that you do,” he said.

“You must think more broadly than the small group you’re connected to.”

Crow said this is ASU’s final lesson: “You are responsible. There is no one else.”

After the undergraduate commencement on Monday morning, a number of convocations are planned for special-interest groups and ASU's individual colleges and schools. The fall 2016 semester includes 206 graduates from the Starbucks College Achievement PlanThe Starbucks College Achievement Plan, launched in 2014, offers full tuition reimbursement to employees who pursue an online degree through ASU. — a record number.

Several new graduates said their ASU education has prepared them well for their next step.

Sam Stefanski, who earned a degree in vocal performance, said he plans to teach in his own studio and to perform.

“I plan on bringing music to the next generation. I’m building my own program,” said Stefanski, who sang both the national anthem and ASU alma mater during the ceremony.

“ASU gave me the flexibility to work during my undergrad and to build my own clientele and students,” he said.

Brandon Kamentani earned a degree in pre-law and justice studies and will attend law school.

“Every class, every course I took made me completely confident in what I want to do and allowed me to figure out what I want my career in,” he said.

Top photo: Criminal justice student Alexis Cook cheers as she and other students receive their degrees during ASU's fall 2016 undergraduate commencement on Dec. 12. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now