Commencement Remarks 2023

Sunday, May 21, 2023
by Leonard Versola ’23, Senior Class Council President

Hello, everyone! My name is Leonard Versola. I am from Las Vegas, Nevada and Manila, Philippines, and I am a graduating senior with a double major in Education and Music and a correlate in Sociology.

For many of us, that is very familiar, but for those unfamiliar, that was the well-rehearsed script of a Vassar student introduction. We each have spouted this introduction countless times at the beginning of each semester, at the start of org meetings, in our StuFel groups. And although it can be tiresome or repetitive, I still love it and find it so interesting because I think it represents not just who we are as students, but who we are as a community. Today, as we sit on this hill and wait for our names to be called, I urge us to remember how we introduced ourselves throughout our four years on this campus, for it holds within it our stories and our journeys from matriculation to graduation. Allow me to elaborate.

The first part: the name. When we begin our introductions with our names, it’s not just because of convention. I truly believe that every time we share our names, we are opening ourselves up to multitudinous possibilities of being a member of the Vassar community. We are reaching in, holding on, and showing that we are willing to build, engage, and sustain community with each other, something I’ve always admired about Vassar students. When we share our names, it shows that we are present and gung-ho. We are always pushing forward. We are always willing to try new things because we know that the community will be there to catch us and lift us up. And I hope we all know that even when we graduate and move forward that this community does not end here.

The second part: where we were before Vassar. We are rooted to many things, for space holds so much more significance than just place. We share where we were before Vassar to acknowledge the people, the places, and the communities that made us who we are. When we share where we were before Vassar, we are sharing not just ourselves but the village who raised us to be ourselves. We give back to that village by bringing them here with us. We recognize that we as individuals contain within us the teachings, the wisdom, the care, and the love of many. Whether it be our family, our teachers, our mentors, when we share where we were before Vassar we pay tribute to not just our own personal pasts but the pasts of those who helped us stand proudly here today.

The last part: the major. We hold our majors close to our hearts. It is what we devoted our blood, sweat, and tears to in our time here. Yes, it tells us what you studied, but it tells so much more. It shows how we approach and express our endless curiosity. It shows us how we’ve grown and evolved. It shows us how we move through the world wanting to learn as much as we can. It shows us that we want to learn not just for ourselves but for our community. When we share our majors we show that we studied hard not just for the sake of studying, but in the hopes that we can shape the future. When we share our majors it shows, in each of us, the want and the need to better the world for ourselves and for others. As we move forward in our lives, I hope we keep that want and need for a better tomorrow.

Although it may seem simple, the Vassar introduction gives not just information, but a promise to our community that we will practice a culture of care. Although it may seem trivial, the Vassar introduction is how we meet our chosen family on campus. It is how I met Kelly, Presley, Kayla, Estella, Anabel, Gaia, Laury, Majella, Jenny, Kevin, Professor Rueda, Professor Del Razo, Professor Williams Brown, Professor McCloskey, Professor Lowe Swift, and many more who became my village and helped me get through. Although it may seem mundane, it is how I get to bring with me my sister, Leah Ann Versola, and my father, Leonardo Versola, and my mother, Ramona Versola, who sacrificed so much of themselves for me to stand at this podium today.

And so, I hope to close with a little exercise. Let us introduce ourselves to our futures. Please repeat after me with your introductions:

Hello! My name is…
I am from…
I studied…

And I am a Vassar College graduate of the Class of 2023!

Thank you and congratulations!!