Graduations always bring students a mix of emotions. For some, there’s a sense of excitement; for others, there may be some trepidation. The commencement ceremony, though, represents an opportunity for the students to celebrate their accomplishments. I was glad to be able to attend the recent graduation of the 2013-2014 class of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at the University of Maryland in College Park, and be able to acknowledge this group’s impressive achievements.
The class at Maryland represents one of 17 cohorts totaling 180 Humphrey Fellows at universities across the United States this year. The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program provides professional enrichment and non-degree graduate-level study in the United States for outstanding mid-level and young professionals from developing countries. Fellows learn and work in professional fields critical to U.S. engagement with the developing world.
Journalism and communications was the professional focus of the nine Fellows placed at the University of Maryland. They are from Bangladesh, Bosnia, Burundi, Egypt, Liberia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
People everywhere count on a free press to keep us informed and hold leaders accountable. The work journalists do is truly critical, and the Humphrey Fellows at College Park gained valuable professional experience in feature writing, news gathering, and editing. Others developed communication strategies and conducted journalist trainings, in which they shared their unique perspectives with American audiences.
In my remarks to the Fellows during their graduation ceremony, I said, “As Humphrey Fellows in journalism and communications, you’re not only trying to make sense of what you’re seeing for your own understanding, but also helping others to understand through your reporting and storytelling.
I think that it’s important for Humphrey Fellows to share what they have learned, so I encouraged them to, “Go out and tell your stories like only you can. Dig deeper to seek the truth and help us dig deeper as well.”
I do not know whether or not the graduating Fellows will remember the words I said to them. The truth of the matter is that, by no fault of their own, not many graduates remember what their commencement speakers say during the ceremony, let alone the various pieces of advice or wisdom others give them on graduation day. But, I do hope the graduates remember how much we believe in them and in the value of the work they are about to set off to do. If my words did not convey that adequately, I believe the graduation certificates signed by President Obama and Secretary Kerry testify to how seriously we take this program and the Fellows’ efforts!
I could not attend all of the Humphrey graduation ceremonies this spring, but I congratulate each of the Fellows for his or her accomplishments this year. And as I applaud their accomplishments, I am also reminded that graduation ceremonies mark not only the end but also the beginning. These exchange participants will now be starting the next chapter in their lives and careers, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. They will be using new skills learned outside of their home communities to make an impact on the world around them, and that is what exchange programs are really all about. I encourage you to visit exchanges.state.gov to learn more about our educational exchange programs. Opportunities exist for both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens, and for learners at all levels in their education.
About the Author: Paul Schelp serves as a Program Officer for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at the U.S. Department of State.