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2013 Commencement Address


SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck

Class of 2013, good afternoon.

Some time ago each of you was making a decision about your next educational step. No doubt you had many options and goals to consider. We’re glad that AU was on your list. And as it turns out – given that we’re all here today – you were on AU’s list as well. I suspect that you chose AU because of your desire to have an impact on the world, and I imagine that AU chose you because you demonstrated the potential to engage and excel. Both you and AU were looking for a perfect fit; we were both looking to make a match.

Messages to the Class of 2013

Graduating seniors and grad students share experiences and some advice with their classmates.

Douglas Bell
Jennifer Haining
Deniz Sonmez-Alpan
Kelsey Yonce

So let’s first take a brief look at how YOU did:

You built on the persuasion and campaign skills you learned in the classroom to raise tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profits;

You leveraged SOC’s deep relationship with the National Park Service to create award-winning videos that document climate change;

You amplified AU’s public-purpose mission by founding AU’s AmeriCorps Alums Chapter while developing a grassroots volunteer network at ServeNext;

You co-founded an international non-profit that was featured on C-SPAN and received Congressional recognition; You have led the charge to create more accessible political websites;

Hundreds of pieces of your work were published and aired by the likes of The Washington Post, NPR, The Huffington Post, US News, USA Today, WTOP, ABC News Online, Maryland Public Television, and MANY more

You have done internships. Lots of internships, at places such as Animal Planet, the BBC, CBS News, CNBC, Consumers Union, C-Span, DC United, Discovery Channel, Discovery Communications, the Environmental Defense Fund, Fox News Channel Radio, the Humane Society of the United States, Living Social, The Kaiser Family Foundation, Meredith Communications, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, The National Aquarium, National Geographic, The National Museum of American History, The National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Park Service, NBC’s Meet the Press, New Media Strategies, the Newseum, the NFL Players Association, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Pivot Point Communications, The Recording Industry Association of America, Simpson Scarborough, SiriusXM, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Redskins, The Women’s Collective, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Universal Music Group, The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Variety Magazine in London, VH1, Voice of America, and WTOP – to NAME JUST A FEW

You have studied abroad in Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.

I have it on good authority that one of you had 4 internships and traveled to 21 counties, while still making it to all of your classes.

You have done strategy and planning work for the likes of Ayuda, Project STRIPES, MicroGreens, Johns Hopkins University, Sikanmar Interactive, Animal Planet, The South Asian Arts Festival, Honest Tea, Generation Wags, Girls Inc. DC, Food for Others, The Richmond 34, Rock Recovery, Girl Up, Nepali, SoapBox Soaps, and many others

You filmed President Obama in the Oval Office

You have followed the example of your award-winning faculty and earned dozens of awards and accolades yourself: the Fulbright, the Rangel, the Presidential Management Fellowship, the Merriman Prize, the Charles W. Van Way Award, the Bruce Hughes Award, the University Student Awards for Outstanding Service to the University Community, you took home awards from the East Coast Student Film Festival and the Hartford Flick Festival, and many more

And you’ve had your short film accepted at the Cannes Film Festival!

This brief accounting shows that you have, indeed, done well. And how about AU? Our faculty and staff have dedicated their lives to empowering you. Through the excellent work you have done, through the steadfast dedication you have shown, we at AU know that our work has been done well, too. For it is through your efforts and accomplishments that we measure our success. We are tremendously proud of all that you have done so far, and we look forward to hearing about all that you will do in the future.

But let me briefly tell you about another dimension of this perfect fit, this match made in DC -- THIS is a match made for life. As your careers and lives progress, and as AU’s influence and reputation continue to grow, you will realize that our futures are inextricably linked. When you receive that diploma you will be joining the ranks of the 11,692 SOC alums and the 100,000+ AU alumni who are out there in world making things happen. And it is my sincere hope and desire that you stay connected with us and remain involved with your worldwide AU family.

I will finish my remarks with this observation delivered last week to one of you sitting in the audience today by a senior executive at The Washington Post. He said as he praised your stellar work, “You get what you earn in life, and you’ve earned all that you’ve accomplished here.”

Congratulations Class of 2013! THANK YOU

And now it is my pleasure to introduce SOC graduate student Kari Barber. Kari is graduating with an MFA in Film and Electronic Arts. Kari has interned for the Investigative Reporting Workshop and Frontline. She has been a finalist for the Roy W. Dean Film Grant, an AU nominee for the Princess Grace Award, and a graduate assistant for AU’s Digital Media Skills Certificate Program. She has just recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada-Reno. Watch video /Read speech

I am thrilled to introduce this year’s undergraduate commencement speaker Sylvia Brookoff. Sylvia is graduating with a BA in Film and Media Arts. During her 4 years at AU she completed, get this, 14 internships at places such as The Washington Post, NBC 4, PBS Kids, and ABC News. You will hear for yourselves soon enough that Sylvia is an accomplished and articulate storyteller. She’s heading to New York after graduation for a job with Nickelodeon. Watch video / Read speech