May 5, 2016

Imagine the Possibilities

Celebration of Black Graduates
IUPUI Campus Center
Indianapolis, Indiana
(Remarks as prepared)


Thank you, Dr. Dace, and thank you all for being here this evening for the 2016 Celebration of Black Graduates.

The Class of 2016. . . That phrase has a nice ring to it.

Let’s hear it for the Class of 2016 this evening.

Would our graduates also give a big round of applause to your families and friends who are here with you this evening.

I would also like to acknowledge the IUPUI Black Faculty and Staff Council for all that they have done to make this evening possible. Would you me in another round of applause?

Your presence here as graduates is proof of your success.  It is also proof that you can achieve anything.

A Record-Breaking Class

Class of 2016, you are a record-breaking class. There are more African Americans in the Class of 2016 than in any class in IUPUI’s history. As of last count, we had 503 African American students set to graduate, and that’s nearly 200 more than last spring!

I can guarantee that we have more African American women graduating with their PhD’s in one year from the IU School of Education than ever before. I had the pleasure of speaking this morning at the wonderful event celebrating the Great 8 and their remarkable achievements.

They are truly an inspiration to all of us.

Would you join me in a round of applause for the Great 8 from the IU School of Education?

This is a year of milestones for everyone in the Class of 2016, and it’s also an important moment in the life of IUPUI.

Progress at IUPUI

We are making progress at IUPUI towards the goal of becoming a majority-minority campus. Though this won’t happen in the next year or two, we are already preparing.

In my installation as chancellor, I reaffirmed my commitment to African-American student success when I pledged to increase the number of African American students at IUPUI by 50 percent over the next five years.

To do this, we are implementing key recommendations of the Task Force on African American Student Recruitment and Retention, and we are increasing need-based aid by 100 percent effective this fall.

We want to recruit, retain, and GRADUATE more African American students!

We want the Celebration of Black Graduates to continue to grow to reflect the great success of our students. I’m proud to say that our efforts to support our African American students reach beyond the IUPUI campus.

We are partnering with the city to help make IUPUI a more welcoming and inclusive campus. To this end, I established the Welcoming Campus Initiative. The initiative includes five task forces focused on what a welcoming campus means to different groups at IUPUI, including faculty and staff, students, alumni and the community. In addition, one task force focuses specifically on our physical campus and the fifth focuses on cultural climate and multicultural competence to create a safe and welcoming campus for ALL.

To Our Graduates

As I share with you all of these important developments and look out over this wonderful crowd, I am reminded that we stand on the threshold between the past and the future.

Over the past few years, you—our IUPUI graduates—have worked hard in the classroom, the lab, and the library at IUPUI.

You have become master analyzers, critical thinkers, and creative problem solvers. And you are already giving back to IUPUI as campus ambassadors, as Jagathon dance marathoners, as peer mentors, as tutors. I would like to give a special shout-out to our graduating student athletes.

All of you have embraced the spirit of engagement and service at IUPUI and in doing so you have truly transformed our campus.

Many of you have balanced full- or part-time jobs with other commitments and today, sustained by faith, family, and friends, you stand ready to take hold of the degree you worked so hard to earn. You have so many stories of struggle and success.

Looking back, it’s probably hard for you to imagine how you managed.

But your presence here as graduates is proof of your success.

Looking Forward

It is also proof that you can achieve anything.

You are innovators of the future, and it’s impossible to imagine what you will create.

The Twitter, YikYak and Snapchat of today will have new names, faces, and functions tomorrow, and you will be leading the way toward that future with your creativity and drive.

As you move toward that future, you can be sure that you are an inspiration to your family, your friends, and all those who follow in your footsteps.

Whatever degree you are earning, you are role models and mentors who will provide leadership and guidance. Others will see in you what is possible for them.

The Sky Is No Longer the Limit

The possibilities before you are truly endless.

Your talent, skills, and determination open up and multiply those possibilities. Thanks to your time at IUPUI and your hard work, even the sky is no longer the limit.

For each one of you, anything is possible.

Congratulations, Class of 2016.