Alumnae/i share wisdom, advice with the Class of 2017!

“Congratulations! Be proud of everything you’ve accomplished and let everyone who helped you get here know how grateful you are. The most important thing you can do after graduation is to find work you love to do, and pursue it with all the passion and ambition you can muster. Don’t be afraid if you have to start small, and don’t be worried if you feel like the work you’re doing initially falls short of your highest expectations. Anything worth doing takes years of practice and experience to master. New opportunities will present themselves if you work hard and treat everyone around you with kindness. Measure your success by the improvements you make in the lives of others. You have a great education—let it be a force for good in the world.”

—Steve Reilly ’09, Investigative Reporter at USA TODAY and finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting

“Sometimes your first job—or even jobs—out of college can be anything but dream employment. I was once ordered to clean the mold out of a refrigerator and later asked if I would take free food instead of a paycheck. So while you’re putting in the grind and dealing with bosses you don’t love, assignments that are mind-numbing, and salaries that could use a few more zeros, try to evaluate if your job is a means to an end or just a dead end. Is there someone in the office that you would love to be one day? Or did someone who has your dream job once find themselves in the same situation? Are you in a company you would like to grow in? As long as you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, all the grunt work is worth it. Also, your twenties fly by. Feel free to have one hell of a good time—at least on the weekends.”

—Karin Tanabe ’02, novelist, author of “The Gilded Years: A Novel” about the first Black Vassar graduate

“You may think you can lay out your life according to a plan, as if you were drawing up plans for a dream house. Most people can’t. You build your life from decisions big and small. Attend to opportunities as they present themselves. Certain choices will have enormous consequences, but you might not realize which ones until much later. When you take responsibility for your own decisions, you might find it easier to accept— with grace and courage—the moments when you have no choice. Be polite and respectful to everyone. It isn’t that hard, and it matters.”

—Elliot Shapiro ’87, Senior Lecturer, Knight Foundation Director of the Writing in the Majors program and Director of Instruction for University Courses at Cornell University

“My advice for graduating seniors, especially for those pursing a career in medicine, would be to be your own advocate and never say no to a professional opportunity. Also, seek out clubs or teams in whatever city you move to…it is a different experience trying to make friends in the real world than college, specifically if you work in a small lab. But most importantly, always remember one door always leads to the next.”

—Cecilia Rosenbaum ’15, Clinical Research Assistant at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“Congratulations to the Class of 2017! You have all worked so hard to get where you are and you deserve every wonderful thing that’s in store. Essie, Calvin, Abby, Aleena, and Apoorva, you are all so dear to my heart and I’m so thankful to have spent 3 years at Vassar with you. To you and the rest of your class, I wish you the very best. Life outside of that beautiful campus is much different, in ways both good and bad. It’s unlikely you’ll end up completely surrounded by so many like-minded people again, but Vassar has prepared you well to connect with a lot of different kinds of people. Since graduating, I’ve come to appreciate my time at Vassar more than ever, and I hope you’ll find the same. Your core values will be tested as you venture out into the world, and I hope you’ll find that your time at Vassar has left you with a strong sense of who you are, and that you will take that with you into the many situations that will challenge and shake you. I’m so proud of all of you. Congratulations again, and good luck!”

—Ramy Abbady ’16, Assistant Community Coordinator at Sonoma State University, pursuing an M.A. in Higher Education & Student Affairs at the University of San Francisco

“I graduated from Vassar in 1949. In the four years that I was there the cost of tuition and room & board rose from $1200 to $1600 a year. When we graduated, we thought that the world was our oyster. We could travel, get married or get a job. Living was pretty cheap. Today I would like to say the world is still your oyster, but to follow your dreams and pursue your passions is very different. Many of you are saddled with huge debts, and the cost of living has skyrocketed. For those of you who are not going to graduate school you are probably going to have to find a job. For those of you who have majored in history or philosophy, as I did, or English, or music or literature, you will probably not be able to find a position in those fields with high salaries. You chose these courses knowing they would enrich your life but not necessarily in salary. When you do look for a job, you needn’t think of it as forever. Hopefully, you will be able to earn enough and also find gratification. Then you may eventually decide to go to medical school, or to teach, or become a farmer. We know there’s no free lunch. So how can you do what will make your life happy without compromising your values? First of all, take care of yourself, so you will have a long and healthy life. You will want to sustain yourself and still have time left for the things that give you pleasure. And always be sure that there is some sweet honey on your plate!”

—Marjory Popky Blacher ’49, violinist and music teacher, mother of Martha Hausman ’84 (below)

“What I perceived about Vassar when I chose it as my early decision target was that it valued individuality and community, without one detracting from the other. The ability to hold two values, two truths, live them and honor them in others, was mandatory for admission and graduation, even if not stated in so many words. My understanding from my aunt (1945) my cousins (1975 and 1981) and my ‘little’ cousins (2014 and 2019) is that this has always and will always be true. So, you are self-selected, and selected by Vassar, to embody these values. What does that mean? It’s not about you. It is all about you. As a Talmudic story portrays, Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pershyscha(!) carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one was written ‘For my sake the world was created.’ The other said, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ Be brave, for the world was created for you… to keep creating it. It is your world. Beautify it. Protect it. Walk with dignity, purpose and entitlement. Be brave in love, and work and service. But listen and wonder. You are only one part of a community of humans who deserve as much respect and compassion as you do. Congratulations Vassar Grads. You are so lucky!”

—Martha Hausman ’84, lawyer & mediator for clergy and religious professionals, Martha Hausman Negotiation, daughter of Marjory Popky Blacher ’49 (above)

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