Undergraduate Student Address by Nathalie Monique Vieux-Gresham ’23, GSAS MS’23
Good morning members of the Board of Trustees, President Liebowitz, distinguished faculty, staff, proud families, mom, dad, Mimi. I. I think I see y'all over there. My brother from another mother, Henry, is also here, childhood bestie. (Applause)
Y'all are great. Guests, alumni, and my fellow graduates! (Applause)
I hope, that you guys embrace this moment. We have worked so hard to be here today, and I'm honored to be here alongside you all. I can see the excitement and pride in each and every one of your eyes.
When the class of 2023 first arrived on campus four years ago, many of us participated in Light the Night, and this is a Brandeis tradition in which the first years gathered by the lights by the Rose Art Museum and we were there asked to write a one word affirmation on an electronic candle.
For those of you who were there, do you remember what you wrote? My word was confidence, and I still have that candle at home too. And, surprisingly, it still glows. Guys, that battery never went out. Ha. And that light reminds me of our resilient, bright, and always shining community.
When I initially wrote confidence, I hoped to have confidence in my ability to succeed because the Posse Foundation provided me with a leadership scholarship (Applause) - provided me with a leadership scholarship that brought me to Brandeis. Shout out to my Posse, Brandeis STEM Posse 12. (Applause) Love y'all. And Brandeis Atlanta Posse 9, I didn't forget about y'all.
And I ended up getting this confidence during my Brandeis experience alongside our community, but, to be real, my confidence in myself was not immediately present because in my first year, I took organic chemistry. (Laughter) And whether or not you took organic chemistry, you know that class can be absolutely treacherous!
The class was hard, nothing stuck, and the truth is, I almost failed. My professor, however, didn't just tell me to study more. She sat with me, got to know me, saw my potential and continued to encourage me every step of the way. It was undoubtedly a humbling experience, but she still believed in me and my ability to succeed.
I'm sure you have all experienced the power of a Brandeis friend, family member, professor, faculty or staff member believing in you too. This confidence for my professor four years ago allowed me to defend my master's thesis in neuroscience. (Applause)
And now I'm in this moment, standing and graduating alongside all of you.
Our sense of community has allowed us to get as involved as possible on campus. It's well known that Brandeis students often have three majors and four minors. I only have one, guys, sorry. (Audience laughs) Um, a ton of leadership positions and even more accolades.
Not only are we a part of the community, but we have also shaped it and driven it forward to reflect the best versions of ourselves and each other. And I got to experience it and be a part of shaping our community too, as a Bridge to Wellness Peer Health educator, a Roosevelt Fellow, (Applause) a neuroscience department undergraduate rep, a community advisor (Audience cheers), and the rhythm guitarist for my band, Olas Desuria (Audience cheers).
I felt confident in my ability to help build and drive our community, and I'm honored to have experienced firsthand how many of us strive to get as involved as possible on campus and make a difference in the Brandeis community and beyond.
During the semesters when COVID 19 was rampant, the world as we knew it suddenly became a place of uncertainty, fear, loneliness and difficulty. For mid-year and transfer friends, to say that grounding yourself at Brandeis may have been a daunting task is an understatement.
The beauty of our community, however, is that we all stuck together. Whether it's connecting in classes, club events, or extracurriculars, in person or virtually, we constantly encouraged each other to move forward and navigate challenges and hardships one day at a time.
We held each other with inclusivity, warmth, and care, and no matter what you do, or where you go, you'll find a friend in anyone. So much so, that the walk between Usdan and the Shapiro Campus Center took 30 minutes for me because I kept running into the people I love so much. This can't just happen to me, right? This is also some of y'all, right? Yes.
So, while I applaud you all for getting to this point in time on your own merits, resilience and accomplishments, our compassion also got us here to graduation. These past four years have been the kindest gift that anyone can receive, and I'm grateful to you all.
I was once asked how I would define the Brandeis community in one word. I responded with authentic. Brandeisians are authentically us, and that authenticity creates diversity in our experiences, belief in ourselves, and most importantly, the confidence to make change while never changing what drives us to grow. (Applause)
We are all so unique and different, but community, and confidence, unite us. When I wrote confidence on my little candle it was originally a wish that I would have confidence in myself, my decisions, and my ability to succeed. But now it has evolved beyond that, into confidence into each and every one of us and in our community.
I want to give special kudos to our first generation graduates and our graduates of color. (Audience Cheers) Mhm, yes. Yes. Yes.
Because, as I know, imposter syndrome may have come first before your personal sense of confidence. I have faith that each and every one of us will find utmost success in any way we define it.
I believe in you, as much as I believe in the community that roots my confidence. Some say to reach for the stars, but I can already see that we have all become stars. (Applause) I hope you leave this chapter filled with confidence in yourselves, in your community, friends, family, loved ones, and in Brandeis.
As you carry your raison d'etre, which is French for "reason to be", move with faith. Whether you trust your mind, your gut, or your heart, find confidence into your innermost parts.
The Brandeis community has been and will always be the shining light that has guided us through uncertainty and has impacted each other, those around us, our communities beyond Brandeis, and eventually the world.
Congratulations class of 2023. (Applause) I am so, so proud of you. Thank you. (Audience cheers)