Commencement 2024
Alumni News

Graduating Student Reflection 2024: Cori Franco

Our Graduating Student Reflection Speech at the 56th Convocation Ceremony of California Institute for Integral Studies

Cori Franco, M.A. Transformative Leadership Alumna May 18, 2024

Cori Franco, M.A., is a graduate in Transformative Leadership with a focus in academic writing. Cori hopes to create positive change through the application of the written word.

Good afternoon and welcome to all of the friends, families, faculty, and students here to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishment of our graduating class of 2024. I am honored to be able to speak to you all today. I'd like to start by offering a beautiful quote by queer Chicana poet, writer, and feminist theorist, Gloria E. Anzaldúa. She writes, "For a woman of my culture, there used to be only three directions she could turn: to the church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute, or home as a mother. Today some of us have a fourth choice: entering the world by way of education and career and becoming a self-autonomous person." As our graduating class gathers here today with our loved ones to witness this momentous occasion we recognize we have undergone a profound transformation. Education is the foundation that encourages our creative intellect to pave better futures for ourselves. In this future we acknowledge our resilience to overcome a global pandemic together. As we unite here together in this room let us honor the heartbreak, struggle, and fear that was not strong enough to overpower our nature to care, embrace, and love one another.

We can handle heartbreak and struggle. Today, let us collectively extend our love to the lives being directly impacted by the Israel-Hamas War. The complexity and hardship that is entangled with the experience of being human, often can feel daunting to speak about, in fear of not having the proper words to match the way our hearts intend to share our grief, confusion, and frustration. When I work with our students in the writing center, they are passionate about advocating for accessibility in education, supporting community well-being, providing compassionate mental health resources, and many other endeavors. However, when students come to see me about their writing, they are perplexed on how to articulate the darkness they have chosen to confront into a well-written reflection paper, thesis, or dissertation. My response to these students is typically a question. The question I ask them is "Do you know what makes writing so beautiful?"...tension.

Tension within a writer's work is the simultaneous acknowledgment of human suffering and the deeply profound sense of liberation. German diarist, Anne Frank, wrote these words while hiding in an Amsterdam attic under Nazi persecution. She writes, "I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."

So, I ask you, what does the sky hold for you as you navigate your unique, individual human experience? Can you imagine things will change for the better and that peace and tranquility will return once more? As I look out into this amazing audience, at the remarkable scholars graduating here today, I humbly say, yes. The California Institute of Integral Studies is unlike any other school in the entire world. It is an academic institution encouraging students to expand in consciousness, embody self-love, and lead in transformative ways that promote healing, self-accountability, and thoughtful consideration of others. We are the emerging clinicians, activists, writers, and leaders prepared to stand up and ask one important question: How do I make someone else’s life a little bit easier?

Do not waver in the face of opposition, but instead plant your feet like roots in the Earth and trust peace and tranquility will return once more. We are all humans of this Earth: created from the same goodness that intended the Sun. Today, as we celebrate, let us express gratitude to those who helped us flourish while on our academic journey. To our professors who graciously read our essays that may or may not have been written the night before, we thank you. To our librarians, the CWS, student services, and other valuable CIIS departments, we sincerely thank you. To my extraordinary cohort, our late-night study sessions, freak out moments, and comical outbursts made our journey rich and abundantly welcoming. You are forever in my heart as the adventure we have been on together has been glorious. To my siblings and wonderful mother, Cynthia, thank you and I love you very much.

As I come to a close, I would like to offer one final uplifting quote by poet and civil rights activist, Dr. Maya Angelou. She writes, "I have great respect for the past. If you don't know where you've come from, you don’t know where you're going. I have respect for the past, but I'm a person of the moment. I'm here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I'm at, then I go forward to the next place." As our graduating class emerges into the present, allow your courage, integrity, and most importantly your heart guide you into peace and prosperity. Congratulations class of 2024!

Thank you and many blessings to you all!

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