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David Brooks to ASU graduates: 'Keep showing up'

May 6, 2019

New York Times op-ed columnist urges newest Sun Devil alumni to build relationships to help heal society

The Arizona State University undergraduate commencement ceremony made its triumphant return to Sun Devil Stadium on Monday evening, where political analyst and New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks told the crowd of more than 30,000 graduates and guests that being there to deliver the commencement speech was “one of the greatest honors” of his life.

“This is a university of the people,” he said. “This is the university America needs most.”

Brooks, whom ASU President Michael Crow introduced as one of the leading public intellectuals in the U.S., was conferred with an honorary doctorate of humane letters for significant contributions to his field and society at large. His current work focuses on social fragmentation and what people can do to create a community of relationship and purpose.

He took students through what he called a journey of their future emotional life, saying that their spiritual and emotional health in the decades ahead would be directly proportional to how much love they pour into the people around them, and that the greatest gift they can give their country is emotional courage.

“I ask you, keep showing up all the way; fight hatred with vulnerability,” Brooks said. “Vulnerability is the only way we have in this country and world to build relationships, and relationships are the only way we have to experience joy — it is the only way we have to heal our broken society.”

Crow reminded the graduates and their families of the mission of ASU, to be an institution that measures itself by those it includes, rather than those it excludes.

“One of things going forward in our society is that we have to find ways to reach more people, engage more people to drive our democracy forward … to make the fruits of our democracy — the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness — available to everyone,” he said.

Photos from undergraduate commencement:

Matthew Bogue, who was receiving his bachelor’s in communication and media studies from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he was there Monday evening because the Starbucks College Achievement Plan allowed him to pursue his dream of a college degree when he otherwise might not have been able to.

“It takes everybody the amount of time it takes them,” Bogue said. “I turn 30 in a few months. It’s never too late.”

More: The best photos from spring 2019 convocations

Political science graduate Jennifer Dardas, 33, echoed that sentiment. A mother of three, she has already secured a job with the U.S. Department of State.

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” she said. 

Nearly 11,000 bachelor’s degrees were conferred at the ceremony, more than 500 of whom were Starbucks College Achievement Plan graduates, more than 2,000 of whom were online students and roughly 54% of whom are Arizona residents.

Earlier in the day, approximately 4,800 graduate students received their master’s degrees at a ceremony at Wells Fargo Arena.

Photos from Graduate Commencement:

Scenes from Graduate Commencement:

Video by Jordan Currier/ASU

This commencement season, ASU graduates represent scores of countries countries and all 50 states, completing degrees in more than 300 programs.

It also marks the graduation of the first cohort of Public Service Academy students. Approximately 130 students graduated from the academy, which was launched in 2015 to develop the leaders of tomorrow who are prepared to find solutions for society’s biggest challenges and create a culture of service by leveraging and combining military and civilian experiences.

ASU is the only public university in the nation with such an academy, and its mission reflects Brooks' message to students that our success in life should be measures by “the way our souls sing when we succeed at helping people in need.”

Crow implored graduates to take the theme of the evening’s ceremony to heart, and to go forth with the skills they have acquired through their education and make a difference in the world.

“Do not sit back and watch,” he said. “Do not sit back and complain. Do not whine. Take responsibility. Take action. Congratulations, graduates.”

Top photo: A graduate throws up a pitchfork as fireworks launch to celebrate the undergraduate student commencement on May 6 at Sun Devil Stadium. Photo by Nicole Neri/ASU

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

Grad combined chemical engineering with Arabic studies


May 7, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

When you’re applying for a job after graduation, what sets you apart in a field of worthy contenders? Yusef Sabri leans against the brick side of a building looking at the camera. He is wearing a maroon graduation gown and cap with a gold stole. He is smiling. Chemical engineering student Yusef Sabri graduated this month with a minor and certificate in Arabic, as well. Photo courtesy of Yusef Sabri Download Full Image

For Yusef Sabri, it’s the minor and certificate in Arabic studies that he picked up while earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Sabri, who graduated this month, said his knowledge of Arabic has “opened up several doors.” He has already received multiple job offers.

The attractiveness of a job applicant with foreign language skills extends past just their knowledge of the language, Sabri said.

“You’re showing employers you’re good at whatever discipline you’re studying and that you speak another language,” Sabri said. “But you’re also showing them that you’re good at working with people of different backgrounds and different cultures, and that you’re more of a culturally and globally exposed individual.”

He credits the Fulton Schools of Engineering Career Center with helping him look for jobs, polish his resume and practice interviews. Where most students would go in for one or two mock interviews, Sabri said he completed at least a dozen.

“Most of my time that I spent at ASU, surprisingly, has been at the career center,” Sabri said. “I’ve been pretty successful at getting interviews and getting job offers because of the career center at ASU, I would say. … In the long run, I want to find a job that I can use both my engineering skills and also language skills.”

As part of his chemical engineering studies, Sabri worked on projects for NASA and the AZ Water Association. He was also involved with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The culminating experience of his Arabic studies was an internship this semester — an opportunity his mentor, Souad Ali, recommended he pursue after he took several classes that she taught. Sabri chose to complete his internship with A Foreign Language Service, a Mesa-based company. He worked in their office a few hours every week doing technical tasks, but also went out on what was called “interpreting assignments.”

“Being an engineering student and also learning Arabic, I was able to use both,” Sabri said.

He interpreted for clients in medical and legal settings. Of the two, he said medical situations were less stressful “because you don’t have a judge and a jury and a whole courtroom looking at you.”

Ali, the head of Classics and Middle Eastern Studies for the School of International Letters and Cultures, said Sabri was a strong candidate for the internship whose knowledge of Arabic — and particularly his translation and interpretation skills — expanded with every class he took.

"He has done an outstanding job and we are very proud of his achievement as part of a long line of our students' and Arabic graduates' success stories through the years," Ali said.

Sabri said interpreting offers him a practical way to use the language skills he worked hard to master in his courses.

“I like that I’m actually able to apply what I learned in class and actually use it to help people that really need to understand what the other side is saying,” he said. “It makes me happy to be able to sit there and help both parties understand each other.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures