Graduation 2017: 'Be wonderful and make everything you do matter'

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Date: 11th Sep 2017

Vice-Chancellor Professor Rebecca Bunting addressed nearly 2,000 graduates, and their families, last week telling them to ‘keep on developing, stretching their minds and learning new things’.

She said: “During the last year we have been celebrating the University’s 125th anniversary and the opening of the original educational institution in High Wycombe. We may have ‘new’ in our title but we actually go back a long way.

“We held a number of events throughout the year, culminating in a reception in the Speaker’s Apartment in the House of Commons in July. Politicians, senior leaders from the sectors we work with, staff and alumni gathered to celebrate 125 years of providing education in Buckinghamshire.

“Originally, we were a craft school, set up to train young people and war veterans for the trades. Now we offer over 200 undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and short courses in High Wycombe, Uxbridge, Aylesbury and in a number of partners in the UK and overseas. We have certainly grown and changed over the years.

“I think I counted 11 changes of name since the 1890s. But what hasn’t changed is our focus on students and on creative and professional knowledge and skills, all of which should serve our students well in their future careers.Picture of Prof Rebecca Bunting

“Our students come from across the country and across the world. They are highly sought after by employers, to the extent that 95% of our graduates from 2016 were in work or further study at the most recent census point this year. So you have a lot to live up to!

“Our students are also highly motivated, creative and innovative and I certainly saw this in the students’ end of year shows and presentations. There is so much talent in the room and I really hope you go on to build on that talent to create successful and enjoyable future careers.

“And our students are also very caring and altruistic.  This year, 418 students took part in volunteering activities, amassing over 9100 hours in various projects and events. Many others have given their time to projects away from the university and to things like being a course representative, or leading a society or a sports team.

“This is a wonderful testimony to our students.  Don’t let anyone say young people today are only interested in themselves and don’t care about others. You are wonderful and we are very proud of you.

“Graduation days are a turning point, both looking back to all the hard work you put in, the things you have learned, the friends you have made and all the wonderful experiences you’ve had, but we also look forward to a future which is not entirely known to any of you. Each of you will go on your own journey and in your own way.

“There are, though, some things which I hope you will have in common. Foremost among these is a desire to hold fast to those values which are the bedrock of a good society; honesty, integrity, not accepting what is not right or fair, fighting to right wrongs.

“I hope you will all respect what is good and true and encourage others to do the same. I hope that you will have the courage to challenge prejudice and discrimination and to strive to make a fairer, more equal and just society where all can thrive.

“And I hope you will help to build a more ethical world where moral values prevail, not financial ones, or personal gain.  You are the future, your passion and commitment are what will make a difference. Sadly, we are passing on to you a damaged world, but you must believe that through your actions and moral integrity, the world can be a better place.

“All of you are successes. You are the elite of the education system. It is a privilege to have access to education, and we need to remember how many people in the world don’t have that access, especially girls and women. With privileges come responsibilities, and it is your responsibility not to let your education go to waste.

“Work hard, be a true professional in all you do, develop yourself for the next role you may take on, be prepared for setbacks, but not derailed by them, and try live by a strong personal code of conduct. Whether you are starting out on a career or continuing your career, go from here with passion and stand up for what you believe in. Be wonderful and make everything you do matter. Be proud of yourselves, as we are very proud of you.

“And now I want to say something I know will make me sound even older and more out of touch than perhaps I am. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s important to live in the moment, to be of the moment, and not to live your life through social media and with your head bent over a phone.  Instead of tweeting about what a good time you are having, why not just have a good time with those you are actually with?

“Talk to those around you because it’s truly only through talking that we can understand each other, and can help and support each other. Real and virtual worlds are not the same. I am sure we all recognise the social challenges we face in this respect.

“So, as you leave the university please keep in touch with us and stay involved with the university in whatever way you can. We really want to hear from you and see you back at Bucks.

“And do keep on developing yourselves, stretching your minds and learning new things. Never stand still. There is so much to learn and so much to do and you have all that wonder and excitement ahead of you.

“Many congratulations to you all. We wish you a very happy and prosperous future. You are now part of the university’s 125 year history and we welcome you to the community of graduates of the university.”

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