Graduates reflect on lessons learned—and the ‘incredible people’ who inspired them

College students celebrated for their courage and curiosity at 2022 Class Day ceremony

University of Chicago undergraduate students shared messages of congratulations and pride as they gathered on June 3 for the College’s sixth annual Class Day ceremony. 

Part of the University’s Convocation activities, the event honored the unique accomplishments and contributions of the Class of 2022, and was held in person for the first time since 2019 on the Main Quadrangles. 

Allison Mattessich, one of the celebration’s three student speakers, reflected upon the various interactions, both big and small, that helped shape her college experience. ​​Using a tic-tac-toe metaphor through her speech, she described the “O’s” in one’s life as friends, family and loved ones. An “X,’” she said, is created when two people's lives converge randomly and briefly, but leave behind a substantial impact or long-lasting memory.

“The people at UChicago are truly special,” said Mattessich, who majored in psychology and business economics. ”So, as we graduate and many of us head in different directions, I encourage everyone to think about their X’s. Think about the incredible people at UChicago you’ve crossed paths with, and the ways they’ve inspired you.

“And then, take the initiative to actively meet new X’s, using those lessons learned and new perspectives to inspire new people—to make the world a more open and thoughtful place.”

Class Day was part of a week of Convocation-related activities across the University and its divisions and schools. The University-wide Convocation ceremony will be held on June 4, and diploma ceremonies in the divisions and schools take place on the same day across campus.

Fellow fourth-year students Zara Malik and David Liang joined Mattessich in reflecting on their transformative experiences in the College. In particular, they discussed how learning through difficult times has empowered them to face future challenges head-on.

“The Class of 2022 embodies both the spirit of our generation—that of nonconformity, resilience and boundless creativity—as well as the hope and optimism of all generations before and after us,” said Liang, an economics and political science major. “By the virtue of us being here today, all of us have demonstrated an awesome capacity to transform fear into optimism, and anxiety into creativity.”

In her speech, Malik emphasized the importance of leaning into personal authenticity and vulnerability—lessons that she learned at a young age from her grandmothers, and worked to follow during her time in the College. 

“We discovered that while it takes guts to stick to your beliefs, it takes even more courage to admit when you’re wrong or when you’ve changed your mind,” said Malik, who majored in psychology. “Class of 2022, as you celebrate today, I hope you won’t just recollect your achievements at this school. I hope you’ll remember too that it was by embracing who you are that those very accomplishments became a reality.”

Samira Ahmed, AB'93, MAT'93, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. A New York Times bestselling author, the UChicago alum has written a number of award-winning novels for young adults, as well as a recent Ms. Marvel comic book miniseries. In her speech, Ahmed compared graduating from the College to a culmination of a hero’s journey.

“You stepped forward into the belly of the beast—these very Quads where you were subjected to trials and tests,” she said. “You faced many dark nights of the soul as you pulled all-nighters before o-chem exams and poli-sci finals. You dug deep, you emerged, perhaps slightly bruised, but stronger, ready to grasp your reward and better your world.”

As she wished the Class of 2022 well in their post-graduation endeavors, Ahmed cited the influential UChicago philosopher John Dewey, who once said that “education is not preparation for life, it is life itself.” 

“To be guided by inquiry, and to lean into curiosity … are the values I took with me from UChicago,” she said. “A directive to not merely ask questions but to seek answers, to observe keenly but also to act. To challenge the exclusionary status quo, to break free from old ways of thinking, to question the cultural hegemony, to be agents of change when we must change the things we cannot accept.”

The ceremony concluded with a performance by the Dirt Red Brass Band.