UNC 2011 graduates encouraged to be public assets

Video by Erin Hull and Mike Rodriguez / The Daily Tar Heel

While waiting for the rain that never came, members of the class of 2011 waved colorful umbrellas and Mother’s Day signs in an effort to attract the attention of family and friends who attended the May 8 commencement.

But the emphasis at Kenan Stadium was placed on fueling individual drive towards bettering society rather than sticking out.

“Our founders believed that an educated person is a public asset,” said Bob Winston, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Chancellor Holden Thorp pointed out the spirit of service within the class, noting that it passed its private giving goal of 43 percent participation.

The commencement speaker, Harvard University professor emeritus and biologist E.O. Wilson, revived the theme of fusing knowledge and action in a short speech about the changing environment.

“The 21st century is going to be the century of the environment,” he said.

Wilson said the graduating class will need to carry the torch in solving the environmental problems being faced by the planet due to the use of “godlike technology.”

“We will have to evolve a better human order than we have now,” he said.

But not all of the ceremony focused on the challenges facing the 2011 graduates.

Senior class president Liz Deane looked back upon the accomplishments and tragedies of the graduating class’s time at UNC in her speech.

She reminisced about the successful men’s basketball team and women’s field hockey team.

She also noted widespread philanthropic efforts and the University’s response to the death of former Student Body President Eve Carson.

“In times of adversity, Carolina rises,” Deane said.

While graduates were urged to use their educations to better society, speakers also emphasized a theme of nostalgia and trepidation about leaving the University.

“We have become a part of UNC just as much as it’s become a part of us,” Deane said.

In his closing remarks, Thorp said that, while the class is heading in different directions, its members share a common bond — the University.

“No matter where you go in the huge world you are changing, you are a Tar Heel,” he said.

As thousands of students end their undergraduate careers, the University expects them to be entering a stronger job market than the previous two classes.

Tim Stiles, associate director of University Career Services, said UNC has seen an increase in the number of employers at career fairs, holding interviews and posting jobs.

“That was definitely a positive of this year’s class versus last year’s,” he said.

Stiles said the University is also emphasizing to students the importance of flexibility and networking when looking for jobs.

“Part of that is simply we’ve got to help them approach people about their job searches,” he said.

Stiles added that he thinks the number of students entering graduate school will decrease this year, as opposed to the past two years.

Regardless of the routes the class of 2011 takes after graduation, Thorp said students can still consider the University a welcoming place.

“You can come home again — and again and again and again,” he said.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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