Skip to main content

Advice to spring 2024 grads: 'Spend your time creating new things'

Nearly 20,700 ASU students honored in graduate, undergraduate ceremonies

Group of graduates in maroon caps and gowns through their caps into the air

W. P. Carey School of Business executive MBA Chinese graduates toss their caps following ASU’s Graduate Commencement on Monday, May 6, at the Desert Financial Arena. Nearly 20,700 undergraduate and graduate students are earning their degrees this May — the largest graduating class in ASU history. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

May 06, 2024

The largest graduating class in the history of Arizona State University celebrated their new degrees with “Pomp and Circumstance” during spring 2024 commencement ceremonies on Monday.

Of the nearly 20,700 ASU students graduating this semester, about 13,800 are undergraduates and 6,900 are graduate students.

Video by EJ Hernandez/ASU News

ASU President Michael Crow addressed the crowd during Undergraduate Commencement Monday night at Mountain America Stadium. He said that ASU’s charter sets it apart from other universities.

A spotlight on outstanding May grads

We take a look some of the remarkable achievements of this spring's cohort 

“We don’t decide what you can learn. You decide, and we offer as many pathways to that as possible,” he said.

“We’re not an abstract institution that lives in an ivory tower barely connected to reality. We take responsibility.”

Crow told the graduates that as an eighth grader, he was forever impacted by the words of the Greek philosopher Cicero.

“He said two things that stuck with me. The first impacted me forever: ‘To live is to think.’

“The second, ‘I criticize by what I create.’

“Spend your time creating new things and spend less time criticizing.”

Walter F. Parkes received an honorary degree at the undergraduate ceremony. Parkes is a screenwriter, producer and former studio head. Parkes saw the value of storytelling in education and co-founded Dreamscape Learn, an education technology company that has partnered with ASU for extended-reality biology labs.

At Monday morning’s Graduate Commencement in Desert Financial Arena, Crow alluded to the recent nationwide campus protests against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, including at ASU last month.

“It’s a particularly complicated moment to think about what kind of message might be meaningful,” he said.

He described how in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt saw how the Nazis were taking over Germany and gave a speech saying that there are four freedoms worth fighting for: freedom of speech, freedom to worship without interference, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Crow said that freedom of speech did not exist until the founding of the United States.

“We have expression and we have laws that can be implemented to protect people along the way. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech does not exist everywhere,” he said.

“Last assignment: Focus on those four things in everything that you do. Each of you find a way to pick all of them or one of them — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from wanting and freedom from fear — and work on those in your life.”

Megan McCaughan, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, told her classmates that the world needs them.

“Amid accolades and applause, we also acknowledge our entrance into a world in turmoil, a world calling urgently for the kind of transformation each of us has dedicated years of our lives to enact,” said McCaughan, who earned a PhD in molecular and cellular biology.

“Divisions deepen, environmental crises lie larger and the cries for justice and equity grow louder each day.

“So as you step forward, do so with the understanding that you are not mere witnesses to history. You are its architect.”

Related stories

More Sun Devil community


President's Club supporters pictured with ASU's mascot Sparky.

Celebrating 40 years of positive impact

In 1984, the ASU President’s Club was established by then-ASU Foundation President Lonnie Ostrom and then-ASU President J. Russell Nelson, alongside a handful of dedicated community members, to…

Woman speaking into a microphone at the front of a classroom full of students.

Psychology professor named president-elect of international research association

Engaging in and strengthening psychology research at Arizona State University and globally is a priority for Ashley K. Randall. In recognition of that commitment, Randall, an associate professor in…

President Barack Obama speaks at Arizona State University's 2009 spring commencement.

Obama Scholars Program celebrates 15 years of championing accessible education

Arizona State University has played host to many highly regarded commencement speakers throughout the years, but none quite as prestigious as that for the class of 2009, when graduates were joined by…