On May 10th, we celebrated our SMBHC Class of 2023 graduates at the Honors Commissioning Ceremony, held at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss. More than 100 photos are available to view on our Facebook page. We appreciate honors junior and photojournalist HG Biggs for capturing many special moments.
Thank you, Sepp Cecil, Deshauna Lee Vaughn, Eva Kiparizoska, Catherine Page, Jilkiah Bryant, Edrei Peña, Sarah Ryann Morgan Fortner, and Andy Flores for representing your SMBHC Class of 2023 on stage.
Sarah Ryann and Andy are this year’s Class Marshals. Student groups were represented by Deshauna and Edrei (HoCoMEC), Sepp (Honors Senate), Catherine (Honors Ambassadors), and Andy (First-Gen Student Network). Jilkiah gave an inspiring Welcome. Eva delivered a heartfelt Address. Sepp closed out our ceremony with a motivating Charge.
Jilkiah Bryant’s Welcome
Good evening. It brings me great pleasure to welcome you all today, as well as everyone who is joining us online from all around the country to celebrate the accomplishments of this distinguished class of graduating students. I would like to extend a personal heartfelt congratulations to all of my fellow graduates on our accomplishment. And together, we have accomplished a lot.
We did it, Class of 2023. We finally made it here.
Toni Morrison, one of the greatest writers in American history, once said:
“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
As we embark on this next chapter of our lives, we must remember that our success is not solely our own. We owe it to those who have not had the same opportunity to utilize our education and privilege to serve. Let us not forget the power of our impact on the world. We have spent years learning about the interconnectedness of our communities, and how our actions can impact those around us. Now is the time to put that knowledge into action.
Toni Morrison’s quote challenges us to use our power and freedom to empower and free others.
It is not enough for us to simply succeed on our own, we must also lift up those around us.
Whether it is accomplished by providing mentorship, contributing to a community through service, providing assistance to those who are in need, or simply being a supportive friend, we all have the ability to make a positive impact on someone else’s life.
Let us be reminded of the value of our voices as we venture out into the world. We each have a unique story to tell, and it is through sharing our stories that we can create understanding and empathy for others. Let us use our voices to speak out against injustice, to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.
So, class of 2023, let us embrace the challenge set before us by Toni Morrison. Let us use our power and freedom to empower and free others, and let us never forget the power of our impact on the world.
We have been trained well to embody the core values of being citizen scholars who are fired by the life of the mind, committed to the public good, and driven to find solutions.
And I know that we’re going to set a lot of people free.
Eva Kiparizoska’s Address
Good evening to my fellow classmates, SMBHC faculty and staff, family and friends, and all others who have joined tonight to support the class of 2023 with one final farewell. It is my utmost honor to be speaking to you all tonight. Every guest and family member in attendance has shaped our class into who we are today. Thank you to everyone here, especially Dr. Scurlock and the Senior Administration, for giving us the opportunity of a lifetime to become citizen scholars.
Looking around, I am confident our SMBHC class includes the most talented group of students at the University of Mississippi. This room is full of national scholars, future doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, athletes, and above all, people who love to take risks. Over the course of 4 years, I’ve noticed that our class is not afraid to be brave and see challenges as exciting and invigorating. Whether it was answering the question of “What unites us?” on Freshman Ventures by visiting the Grand Canyon, traveling to Puerto Rico, or even interviewing a voodoo priestess in New Orleans, we aren’t afraid to venture into unknown territories and discuss big ideas. Many of us called the “Pittmansion” home, where we had lots of late nights studying, aanndd one particular late night preparing for the most fun night of the year, HOCOFO. During the pandemic, we had to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, completing some of our most important classes online and figuring out how to have a sense of normalcy in our lives. We began the daunting challenge of completing a thesis that consisted of countless hours in the dungeon, a place where many of us hadn’t seen until senior year (hahahaha) Now we’re seniors experiencing many of our lasts: our last honors classes, last conversations around the koi pond, and last dungeon study sessions (or some of our first haha). We’re thinking, “Wow. We’ve made it!!” But what now?
Freshman year, my Honors 101 final paper was titled, “Life is inherently risky,” and I still agree! These challenging moments that we have endured over the course of our 4 years has allowed us to begin our experience of finding our meaning in life. People all across the globe have asked a prevailing question of what does it mean to actually live. Is it to fulfill personal wishes and goals, or should we follow the crowd? Life offers a multitude of paths to take. A life worth living fuses aspects of imagination, self-mastery and civic importance with the passion to spend time in a constructive manner that both satisfies and fulfills. The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College has prepared us through our education, interactions, discussions, and friendships to make choices, ask good questions, and take smart risks.
I encourage us to continue seeing life as a lively risk, one that is full of intimidating yet refreshing challenges that push us past the limits of possible and into the impossible. I hope that you will dig to find your authentic passions and then purposefully pursue a life that honors your truest self. Continue being proud of what you have accomplished. Support your classmates and those around you, celebrate the victories in life, and continue to wonder and do the things you want because the challenge of it will make you happy. Surround yourself with people like those around you right now, people that push you to new heights and will cheer you on the whole way. Embrace the quirks, explore your creative thoughts, and hold on to that underlying sense of optimism.
Life is inherently risky, but without taking the chances, you won’t know just how much you are capable of. Today is a day to be enthralled and mystified by the unlimited potential in the futures we have awaiting us. Thank you to the Sally McDonnel Barksdale Honors College for investing immensely into its students. To the Honors College Class of 2023, it’s been real, it’s been fun, and without a doubt, it’s been real fun. Thank you for making my time here so memorable. I can’t wait to see what challenges each and every one of us take on in the future. To the spot that ever calls, Thank You and HOTTY TODDY.
Sepp Cecil’s Charge
Thank you for the introduction – I am honored to charge the class of 2023!
Alright, everyone, they can’t take my medal back now, so let’s crack this speech open.
I have no great wisdom to impart about the future – We all just walked across that stage together – so when tasked to give this speech, I read every charge since 2008 to see what they had to say. What I found is that they all had a strong theme centered around one aspect of the Honors College. Service, living with courage, the spirit of giving, academics (would have never guessed that one), freshman ventures, and the daunting future that this rapidly ending ceremony is keeping you from.
Why did all of the past speakers choose to focus on just one thing?? Aren’t some of the best memories we’ve made furthest from falling into the same category?
Once leaving undergraduate to pursue a career or higher education, our focus will shift from learning about everything to becoming experts in one thing. The classes we took for our major gave us “real life” knowledge preparing us for these careers we’ve dreamt of, but it’s the experiences not listed in our planned trajectory that caused the biggest changes we never expected.
How many of us changed our path based on experiences that weren’t included in the course plan we made at 18? The Honors College gently nudged us to change our course in the pursuit of broader knowledge.
It’s not fair for me to summarize the Honors College into a tagline that focuses on just one aspect of its offerings, even though doing just that was my assignment.
I tried creating a simple, nice, well-packaged, concise topic with big SAT words, but I took the ACT, so I never learned those words.
Thanks to my first-grade teacher, Ms. Nance, I did learn the word change.
The Honors College has given us so many experiences – All of which have brought us unexpected change. Taking classes to explore topics completely unrelated to our major, sending us to cities across the country to film videos answering the question What Unites Us – or taking a free trip to Disney World if you were smart – and another hundred unaccounted – for events were placed right in front of us these last four years.
After tonight, the Honors College won’t be there pushing us to explore beyond the planned course schedule we have set for our careers like they did Freshman year. Despite this, they have prepared us to seek those experiences and opportunities on our own.
The honors college has given and given and given, asking for little in return – even though getting 10 CAC hours every semester feels impossible to get regardless of how many volunteer opportunities Rachel sends our way. I think that their secret goal all along was to teach us how to feed our curiosity when no one is pushing us to. To go beyond your prescribed schedule.
After we leave here today, it is your job to bring your change. Change to serve, change to live with courage, change to develop the spirit of giving, to build a passion for academics, to love traveling somewhere new, and to brave the daunting future that is going to begin in only 4 more sentences.
When applying to the Honors College we were asked what should we remember; as we graduate from the Honors College, I think that we must remember that we are now in charge of living the seemingly simple goal of the Honors College. Keep bringing change.
Thank you, family, friends, alumni, and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College for changing us into who we are today, and who we will be in the future. This is the last sentence so get ready… Congratulations, Class of 2023!