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Commencement Address John Gurda University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee May 19, 2013 Well, you finally made it. After all that time, all that money and, for some of you, all that beer, you’re about to cross this stage and enter the ranks of the college-educated. You’ll join a distinct minority: about 31 percent of Americans over 25. (Those of you with advanced degrees are breathing even thinner air; 8% of us have master’s and just 1% have doctorates.) This is a genuinely big deal, and the people who love you, the people in the stands today, have come here with powerful emotions. For some it’s relief, for at least a few it’s surprise, and for everyone it’s pride. You’ve finished something that nearly half of all Americans don’t even start, and you should take some time to simply bask in your achievement. That achievement is individual, but it’s also collective. You are the Class of 2013, and just who is that class? I’m going to tell you a few things about yourselves you may not know: -- There are almost 3500 of you who will soon be hearing from the Alumni Association—3,498, to be exact. -- Nearly 75% of you are going to walk out of here with bachelor’s diplomas, the remaining quarter with advanced degrees. -- The biggest schools represented in your class are Letters & Science (25% of degrees), Business (14%) , then Education and Arts and Health Sciences (all about 6%). -- The median age for undergrads is 23, which means that at least a few of you were here on the five-year plan, maybe even the six-. -- 40% of you lived on campus at some point as undergrads; I suppose the rest of you were terrorizing the East Side. -- 55% of you are female, and so women continue their domination of higher education. On the doctoral level, the ratio climbs to 61%. -- Most of you are well within the Midwestern mainstream. 87% of you are from Wisconsin, and 78% of you are white. But—the Class of 2013 has students from 38 states and 38 countries. You are large enough to include just about every conceivable American ethnic group, and you’ve been studying fields that range from art to zoology. The emphasis here is on a comprehensive diversity. So what can I tell a class that has everything? This is the first one I’ve been asked to give, but I know that commencement speeches are the last bastion of the platitude. John Gurda, 5-16-2013 draft 1

20130519 commencement address john gurda

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