A Commencement Reflection from Dean Renée T. White

May 16, 2016

Dean White

A reflection from Dean White on her final Commencement at Simmons College.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

When thinking about this year’s Commencement, the words that come to mind circle around beginnings, endings, and great change.

We see this push for change at Simmons in the powerful voices of our students, whose demand for excellence compels us to think deeply about how and where we demonstrate our commitment to a diverse campus (and workplace). They push us to reject stasis and complacence and to be an ever better, ever more inclusive campus community.

This is a year of structural change too. We are in the midst of a redesign that will hopefully result in innovative opportunities well into the future.

But as many of you already know, this also marks my last semester at Simmons College. Leaving is so bittersweet for me. I have been incredibly gratified by many of the lessons I have learned here and am proud of what we have accomplished together. On the personal side, I have built relationships that will last a lifetime, and am encouraged by the groundswell of well wishes I have received since the announcement was made public.

As I have reflected on my five years here, I found myself thinking about my very first Commencement in 2012. I was so nervous as I stood at the microphone, reading the names at the undergraduate ceremony. I knew how important it was for each student to hear their name, and in that name a confirmation that “Yes, I am here – graduation!” Many students looked at me with a mix of nerves, joy, relief, and anticipation as they held out their name card. It took all of my energy not to hug every single student. Every. Single. One. Maybe it was the shared feeling of being on the brink of something big – for them, it was leaving Simmons, and for me, it was joining.

So here we are, approaching Commencement 2016. For me, nerves have given way to joy. It is a joy to celebrate the work of our students, both those who are graduating and those who have successfully completed another semester. And as the Dean, it’s a way to reflect on and celebrate the solid foundation laid by staff and faculty alike to get us here.

As we look ahead to Friday, I would like to close with something I said in my Fall 2012 convocation welcome – these are comments that I shared with our soon to graduate seniors, the Class of 2016.

All I can see is the brilliant light that each of you casts as leaders, scholars, agents of change and as members of the Simmons community…. Simmons College is a place where we work together, learn together, help each other, and build long lasting and abiding ties to our communities. What a wonderful thing to celebrate…. Let us savor this moment of fellowship, hold onto it dearly as we embark on the year ahead.

As you leave here, whether for the summer or as a graduate, I hope that your light continues to shine. Though some of us are leaving Simmons for the last time, I encourage us all to look to those valued colleagues and friends that we have made here for continued support during our journey ahead.

It has been an honor and pleasure to be your Dean, and I thank you for five wonderful years.

Renée T. White
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences