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Saturday, April 19, 2014 | Last updated: 10:44pm

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UA graduates reminded to bear down, never settle



More than 900 students moved their tassels from the right to the left of their mortar boards on Saturday, symbolizing the end of their time as undergraduate, graduate or doctorate students at the UA.

Students from the December class of 2013 shuffled into their seats on the floor of McKale Center as UA Provost Andrew Comrie welcomed them to the university’s 149th commencement. A total of 2,515 students received their degrees from the UA this winter, though only some walked during the ceremony.

Comrie reflected on his own college experience in Cape Town, South Africa, where he grew up, and said while things were much different in the ’80s, UA students’ college experiences are still similar to his own. Comrie talked about the movement to free South Africa at the time and about Nelson Mandela, an activist who played a big role in bringing democracy to South Africa and who died recently.

Like his experiences seeing protests and being in college during the Cold War, Comrie said UA graduates have also experienced history while at the UA, from watching the United States’ first black president be elected and re-elected to the Occupy movement, WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring. But the main reason the graduates were at the university was to receive an education and be prepared for a job and for life, Comrie said.

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By Rebecca Sasnett 2013 / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rebecca Marie Sasnett/ Daily Wildcat New UA graduates celebrate their achievements with a snowball fight during the 149th Commencement ceremony in McKale Center on Saturday. Stuffed cotton balls were used as snowballs to end the ceremony with a holiday celebration.

“You will find that the quality of your UA education has prepared you for life and, more importantly, has changed your life,” Comrie said. “Your UA education has opened up to unimaginable possibilities for you to change the world.”

Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, also addressed the graduates and emphasized that support from family and friends helped them reach the milestone moment of receiving a college degree. Klein told the graduates that their achievement is not only a personal one but also a statewide achievement, adding that as the state grows, it faces many challenges.

“You are leading the way to economic growth and development in Arizona,” Klein said. “With you leading the way, Arizona’s future is bright indeed.”

Sungano Siyavora, a member of the UA’s Mortar Board, a national college senior honor society, spoke about the difficult but memorable and rewarding journey many of the graduates shared during their time at the UA. Siyavora reflected on long hours spent preparing for exams and eating burritos from Highland Market at 2 a.m. Siyavora said no matter how unique everyone’s experience at the university was, they will always be united by the phrase “bear down.”

“I’m confident saying we all made the right decision to spend our years here at the U of A,” Siyavora said. “We are Wildcats for life, we bear down and we’re ready to embark on our next journey in life.”

Martin Pepper, graduate student representative studying geosciences, reminded graduates to live by the UA’s new academic strategic plan, Never Settle. Pepper spoke about how he pursued his dreams and never settled, despite people telling him his goals — like doing his research in South America by motorcycle despite not knowing any Spanish — were nearly impossible. Pepper told the graduates that if they ever start doubting themselves, they should just remember those two words, keep moving forward and pursue their own “crazy” dreams.

The keynote address was delivered by Scott Pask, a UA alumnus in architecture and a Tony Award-winner. Pask talked about his time at the UA, where he took his education in architecture and his passion in stage design for arts performances and combined the two. Since then, Pask has received his graduate degree in fine arts at Yale University, and he has designed more than 30 Broadway shows since 2001.

“The thing that’s important now is we’re at an age where we can create our own experience. … There’s no limitation,” Pask said after the ceremony. “You’ve got the skills … and now it’s really just about what your vision is. … It is really just up to you and your imagination.”

Pask also reminded students to take their experiences in Tucson and at the UA wherever they go.

The celebration ended with Christmas music playing as the audience and graduates were given stuffed snowballs. Comrie reminded those in attendance that everyone is a child at heart before family members, friends, graduates and professors had a snowball fight as fake snow fell from the ceiling.

Carlos Sanchez, who graduated with a B.A. in mechanical engineering, said he had a great time, and the snow and snowball fight was an amazing way to end the ceremony.

“I’ve been on the eight-year plan, so I didn’t think [graduation] was in sight anytime soon,” Sanchez said, “and now to see it just right here before me is breathtaking, really.”


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