[MUSIC PLAYING] LEE HUMPHREYS: Good afternoon. Welcome. I am Lee Humphreys, Professor of Communication and currently Chair of the Communication Department. I am also Cornell Comm Class of 1999. It is my great joy and honor to welcome you here today to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of the class of 2022.
I would just like to remind everyone in light of university policy to just please keep your masks on throughout the ceremony. We can take pictures and everything without them afterwards.
It has been three years since we have hosted an in-person communication recognition ceremony. And it feels so good to be back. Given the tragic events of this week, however, I think all parents, teachers, and students alike cannot take for granted how lucky we are to be here today to celebrate.
Students, you have each demonstrated significant academic and intellectual achievement to be here today. This weekend, we come together for graduation because no one gets this done alone. We come together to recognize your achievements. We come together to celebrate your resilience. We come together because collectively, we are better than we are alone.
In our department, I often say that we prioritize our community, our comm-unity. Today, I want to thank everyone who came here to Ithaca to Call Auditorium, to those of you who are watching online, to be part of our community and to celebrate with us. I also want to acknowledge the many people who are not able to join us today but who helped us get to this day and who are with us in our hearts.
I would like to begin today by briefly introducing our keynote speaker, Dr. Jodi Cohen. Dr. Cohen is a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication. She is also the director of the oral communication program and the director of the undergraduate internship program. I'm both happy and sad to report that after eight years, with us Jodi is retiring this was a second career for Jodi. In 2014, she came out of retirement to direct our department's oral communication program, and she has been with us ever since. During our time with us, she has thoroughly reimagined the oral communication program, which she then revamped at the onset of the pandemic.
Prior to her position at Cornell, Dr. Cohen was a Full Professor in the Roy H. Park School for communications at Ithaca College, where she is a Professor Emerita. Her research and teaching focus on the role of public communication and identity, knowledge, and public policy. She received her PhD in communication from the Penn State University in 1984. I am pleased to welcome Dr. Jodi Cohen to the podium.
JODI COHEN: Congratulations. They said I could take this off if I clean it afterwards.
You did it. We did it. We created this miracle of now, and we're actually face to face in this public space. And I'm reading high levels of Ubuntu in here and in the halls and around campus today. That's a Zulu word, and it means "I am because we are". I did not cheat from your opening remarks, but that's an important word and a philosophy that means a person is a person only through other people.
And herein lies my advice-- you knew it was coming. I think you know, or maybe you don't know, because I actually don't teach much ceremonial speaking, but a graduation speech falls into the genre of ceremonial speeches, and the job of the speaker is to impart some great wisdom for how you can live a wonderful, successful life.
It's advice for your future, how to make that life. That's a lot to ask for in just a few minutes, but here goes. And this is advice-- not your parents-- that your parents might not give you this advice. They might not like the advice. The advice is talk to strangers because Ubuntu. Let me say a little bit more about Ubuntu before I get into the stranger stuff.
The philosophy, yes, it's idealistic. It's perhaps impossible, and it might just seem ludicrous now at this time, with all of these divisions in the human community. And we keep dividing and subdividing again and again.
Increasingly, we define ourselves by our nations, our religion, our politics, race, sex gender, socioeconomic status. And now I'm hearing a lot about neurodiversity-- yeah. Yeah, our brains are different. There's different stuff in there, and there's different ways we make connections and learn. And that's all good. Divisions are necessary and inevitable, but I'm asking that we balance them with something that's called identity.
I'm going to refer to an old guy, a communication scholar named Kenneth Burke, and he wrote on the philosophy of language. And he said that communication, all communication both creates divisions and it overcomes them with identification, meaning the meaning of our lives, ourselves, our interaction rests in that tension between difference and similarity, division and identification.
Put another way, this is a phrase-- I think it's becoming popular. I first heard it in Asia. We are same-same, but different. I am because we are. OK. I'm hearing it, OK, here, OK, Boomer, isn't that what you say, OK Boomer? Yeah, Kumbaya, peace, love, and all of that.
Well, you don't have to agree with my philosophy or even understand it to reap the benefits of my very practical advice, and you can have an absolutely wonderful life. Talk to strangers.
Prerequisite, put down the technology. I know that's going to be hard, but you've got to be able to see those people who are invisible to you. You need to see them and bring them into your life. No digital backgrounds, no special lights. You're going to be spontaneous.
And there's three levels of talking to strangers that I'm going to address, and they increase in intensity first one. Most basic, easy, hailing, greeting people. Encounter strangers in the hall, walking down the street, at the gym, sitting next to you in a movie theater. Say hello. It goes just like that. Hey hi.
Another lousy weather day in Ithaca, you could say that. It's not very positive, but it's usually fitting. Sometimes just a smile or a nod will do.
Now, it is true that when you do this, some people are going to ask you for money. But overall-- and I've tested this. If you say hello to a lot of people, it's the exception that are going to ask you for money or follow you. And they're worth the trouble. It's worth the trouble. Hailing says, hey person my person sees your person. And then if they greet you back, voila, that spark of human connection, our humanness is awakened. Ubuntu.
All right, hailing, that's basic. Better to move beyond into what we communication scholars call conversation. I call it-- I'm going to add the stranger part. I think that's an important part of it here. And you can find these strangers in physical material space. This was once known as public space before media technology sucked it all up and kind of started messing with something we had going here, which was a difference between private and public. That's my little nod to the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard goings on. OK.
We do still have public spaces, though they're becoming extinct-- parks, theaters, coffee houses, houses of worship. But attend those-- not very good with the microphone. Attend those houses of worship on occasion that are different from yours. That's what it's about, the Ubuntu.
I actually like the YMCA, as opposed to most health clubs, because there's a lot of differences at my Y. Actually, people at the Ithaca Y are kind of the same, but I live in a town a little bit over. And instead of people being same-same but different, they're kind of different-different But same.
The town meetings are another great place. You learn a lot of stuff and you meet strangers. I met my friend Stanley at a town meeting. We're strangers-- we were strangers, very, very different. I was 55 when we met, a professor, active. Stanley was 80, and he was a retired dairy farmer. Stanley loved Walmart, and really any kind of development. Me? No, not at all, but we identified.
First, we identified over our dislike of Jeremy. Jeremy is the president of our town board. OK, that was a good start. And we moved from there to our love of identifying with the countryside, long rides in a truck, Big Band music from the 1940s, and also a good breakfast diner. We spent about 10 years discovering new breakfast diners and arguing about development.
I identified with Stanley. I told my students about him, so many of you already know about Stanley. I talk about Stanley in a unit I have about research. Stanley is the informal research that I call conversations with strangers. I learned from Stanley.
I learned about spaghetti in the woods. I don't know if you know about spaghetti in the woods, but this is fun. It's a winter activity. It involves snowmobiles, which I had never been on. And it's all about strangers. They meet in the woods and eat spaghetti, really.
It's happened in New York State. I hear they do this in Pennsylvania, too. But you find a spot, a designated spot in the middle of the forest, in the middle of the state, or in the center of maybe five counties. You send out maps, post them everywhere, tell people to come, and they show up. And there you are, all strangers. You build a nice fire. You make spaghetti, you eat it, and you talk. And I've learned a lot of stuff from these strangers, not to mention how much spaghetti in the woods has changed my winter fun.
Stanley also taught me how to artificially inseminate a cow. Now, I tell you that because that's the importance of it being a stranger. If I was conversing with people in my social circles, inseminating cows, actually, is not a topic that ever comes up.
Most significantly, Stanley taught me-- I think it's grace. I'm never sure what to call it, I'm still searching for the word, to accept what you don't have control over. And through the time I knew Stanley, he lost his spouse, his farm, his livelihood, his strength, his health. And now I'm catching up with Stanley, and he's an example for me.
One, I'm not quite there yet, but I know what's coming. And I've also seen Stanley handle these things. And he does so with a sense of humor-- or he did so. He's not with us anymore-- a sense of humor, and also an appropriate dose of rebellion. I miss Stanley. He is the part of we that makes me. And now, with my story, Stanley is part of this we.
Once you're comfortable hailing and conversing, you're ready to get lost in the strange, OK? Turn up the differences and find your way out through identification with others. You can find strangers for this activity in the same places they hang, in the street and the gyms, in the halls, but I do suggest you move away from the YMCA, go a little further, or the town hall, and to travel to places that is more different, where people are more different than similar to you, or volunteer work with a community of people very much outside your experience. You're aiming for what intercultural theorists have called enlightenment through disruption.
Make room for new ideas. Change your beliefs. Rearrange your values. You've all done this, haven't you, in the last few years? That's your Cornell experience, right?
You arrived. You've hailed strangers. You've conversed with strangers, and you've had to process the ideas, a lot of strange ideas from a lot of strange people, right, or strangers, anyway, not all of us that strange.
And your knowledge has grown. Your beliefs have changed. Your values are rearranged. And it was tough, but wow, this is what it comes to, this very moment. It's worth what you're feeling now, and you've only just begun. Ubuntu, I am because we are. Keep it growing. Thank you, and congratulations to all of you.
LEE HUMPHREYS: Thank you Jodi. And let me just say briefly it has been an honor to be your colleague. Thank you for inspiring us to be better communicators, better teachers, better lifelong learners, and now better strangers. We wish you all the best as you begin this next stage of life's adventure.
Next up, I would like to introduce Vice Provost for Engagement and Land Grant Affairs and Professor of Communication, Katherine McComas.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Today, we recognize five students receiving the PhD in Communication. The PhD is the highest honor bestowed by the university. It marks the end of a long and adventurous journey-- or perhaps the word was arduous, but I put an adventurous-- filled with the tears and frustration and culminating in innovative research and the joy of discovery. It represents the beginning of a life of learning. You are all now experts in your chosen field, and the department and field are extremely proud of you and wish you the best.
You have been outstanding members of our community of scholars. Your sacrifices and dedication have borne results, and the fruit of your labor is something of which we are all proud. To the families and loved ones who have stood by and supported you over the years, we heartily thank you.
For the families of our undergraduate students, I want to take a moment to describe the role that graduate students played in the lives of our students. The graduate students are key players in undergraduate life, primarily as teaching assistants, but also as leaders of undergraduate research teams and mentors. Often it is the graduate TA that students approach before they dare to approach scary faculty. It is the graduate student who takes the time to work in the evening or on the weekend to help undergraduates prepare for exams, and it is the graduate student who is working beside the undergrads when they discover a new set of results in the lab. I believe their contributions deserve a round of applause from all of us, faculty, students, and family.
To recognize our PhD students today, we will be hooding them, an ancient tradition that signals their joining the Academy. We will individually introduce the students and invite them to come on stage, where their advisor or Committee member will have the honor of hooding them. So now I'd like to invite up Professor Dr. Sahara Byrne to begin the hooding ceremony.
Julie Cannon. Julie's dissertation is entitled "Prejudicial Perceptions and a Pandemic, Examining the Explanatory Potential of Imagined Self-Trajectory, Realism, and Appreciation on Support for Denigrated Groups". I'm going to have you go ahead and stay up here and invite Motasem Kalaji to the floor.
Motasem, or Mo, as we all know, has written a dissertation entitled "The Visual is Worth Thousands of Words, Adult and Youth Perceptions of Visual Cues in E-cigarette Advertising". Congratulations.
Now, if I can invite Dr. Sue Fussell and Wen Nguyen. Wen has written a dissertation. Her research is entitled "Understanding the Challenges of Sharing Humor Across Linguistic and Cultural Boundaries".
And now if I can invite Dr. Lee Humphreys and Swati Pandita.
The title of Swati's dissertation research is "Effects of Avatar Customization on Coping with Negative Emotions". Congratulations.
And now I would like to please invite Dr. Natalie Basarova and, please, Amanda Purington Drake.
The title of Amanda's dissertation is "Evaluating the Impact of Social Media Test-Drive and Experiential Learning Intervention on Youth Social Media Literacy Knowledge". Congratulations.
One more round of applause for our PhD students.
The next portion of our ceremony is the undergraduate degree recognition, so I'd please like to invite Christopher Byrne and Sahara Byrne to read the names and shake the hands
CHRISTOPHER BYRNE: Congratulations to all the graduates.
LEE HUMPHREYS: OK, one more round of applause for these wonderful graduates.
So my job is now to bring the ceremony to a close, but not the celebration. Before we leave, however, I do want to give a warm, heartfelt thank you to our wonderful staff who are here who helped to organize, plan, get everybody lined up. Kelly Carr, Joanna Alario, Tammy Payne, Irina Pavic, who's not here, but helped, as well. And I know they had a team of student helpers. Whoever, wherever you are, let's give them all a thank you.
So if you would please allow the graduates and the faculty to process out and follow us out to the quad for the party, thank you all.
CHORUS (OVER PA SYSTEM): --stand strong. March on, Cornell, mem'ries far above Cayuga's waters will cheer our hearts to victory. March on, Cornell!
Onward, Cornell, to the top where you belong! Yours is the glory history has made in song. March with your classmates to the heights this honored day. We're proud to be Cornellians, we're behind you, come what may!
March on, Cornell, while your sons sing out this song. Over the top we lead to glory, Alma Mater must stand strong. March on, Cornell, mem'ries far above Cayuga's waters will cheer our hearts to victory. March on, Cornell!
March on, Cornell, while your sons sing out this song. Over the top we lead to glory. Alma Mater must stand strong. March on, Cornell, mem'ries far above Cayuga's waters will cheer our hearts to victory. March on, Cornell!
Onward, Cornell, to the top where you belong! Yours is the glory history has made in song. March with your classmates to the heights this honored day. We're proud to be Cornellians, we're behind you, come what may. March on, Cornell--
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College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Recognition Ceremony 2022