Whidbey Island Commencement speaker Alessia Contino's educational journey began in Italy and included taking on the roles of military spouse and new mother as she worked toward completing her B. A. in sociology. Her life changed for the better with Brandman.
Here's what she told her fellow graduates.
It is my pleasure to welcome families, friends, mentors, and the faculty alike, to the Brandman University 2018 commencement ceremony. I thank you for being here today to congratulate and recognize this student body on their achievements.
Today we celebrate achieving a major academic milestone. Studying has never been easy and today’s student body is no exception. Modern studies unite students from all over the globe and celebrate a vast cultural diversity. Feats not easily overcome but welcomed at Brandman University. Students and their families are the true focus of this institution, and each are supported with an unwavering dedication and enthusiasm that motivate students to pursue their academic goal.
I met my husband while he was stationed in Sicily, seven years ago, where I was born and raised. My life was about to change. My husband’s active duty service has had a sweeping effect on many aspects of my life, bringing me to new places, living new adventures, and becoming a true citizen of the world. He introduced me to Brandman University, and after thirteen minutes on the phone, calling from the future (eleven hours ahead), I was officially enrolled. It took over one month, instead, to separate from my university in Sicily, but I guess that people working at the administration office kept saying “Andiamo a prenderci un caffe’, al resto ci penseremo domani” (Let’s go for coffee, we can do this tomorrow), and again the day after, and again the day after, which recall the famous Italian concept of “dolce far niente” (pleasantly doing nothing). Finally, I was able to transfer most of my credits from my University of Catania, and begin a foreign experience of online studying, guided through the flexible programs that Brandman offers from expert academic advisors.
I have been a student at Brandman for four years, taking courses while living in Europe, then in the Middle East, and now in America. I have faced many challenges along my path, as I am sure you have as well, operating through different time zones, three overseas relocations, the birth of a beautiful baby boy, and deployments. Studying is not easy, and we all encounter many obstacles on the way that make us think about quitting, or postponing, because it just seems impossible to achieve our goals most of the time. Today I am a mother, a military spouse, a foreigner, and I am also a student who succeeded.
I would like to extend a special thank you to my professors, the heart of Brandman University, those who always supported me, but moreover inspired me, with their incomparable professionalism, their kindness, and their engaged teaching. Professors, you couldn’t physically see me, but you believed in me, you appreciated my passion and dedication made tangible in many posts and papers, always ready to embrace the best of all of your students. Thank you!
My academic experience at Brandman made me feel part of something bigger, something more than numbers when it comes to students, grades, or classes. In these years I learned about sociology, but moreover I learned about life, and I firmly believe that there are no advantages from being one of many without compassion, empathy, or support to each other. I thought about quitting school many times when finding time for studying was hard, like in the past six months, while alone with my 2-year-old baby, in a new country. I ended up submitting my homework late, many times, but my professors never thought of me as a lazy student or a student that doesn’t care enough. Instead they gave me the opportunity to prove myself, free of any prejudice.
Their help and support pushed me to go through the trials and tribulation, which allowed me to achieve my goals. Today, I shall return the same positive attitude, and help and cooperate with others, moved from a greater sense of community, to keep this cycle going.
The ancient Greeks knew before us, the crucial role of “the community,” as we reflect on Aristotle’s words: “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” Thank you Brandman for helping me become part of a community greater than myself!
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