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Dear master’s and PhD graduates:

Dean Suzanne Barbour
Dean Suzanne Barbour

Congratulations on reaching this important milestone! It’s likely there are no advanced degree-holders left alive who remember the pandemic of 1918. Graduate school is challenging, even during the best of times. The progress you’ve made and success your earned during a global pandemic, a contested election, and renewed calls for social justice is nothing short of amazing. Although your path has been tough, the skills you’ve developed—persistence, resilience, patience, and resourcefulness—will serve you well as you move forward. Armed with those skills and your education from UNC-Chapel Hill, I am confident that you are prepared to rise to the occasion and work through any obstacles that impede your future path.

It may seem hollow for someone like me—who completed graduate work three decades ago under very different circumstances—to provide you with words of advice, but I hope my words will be helpful. First, stay positive. The world is replete with setbacks and disappointments. Success comes to those who learn to step back, dust themselves off and try again. Second, find a coping strategy. When the setbacks and disappointments come, you’ll need a strategy to cushion the blow. Plan ahead–develop a network of friends, colleagues and associates; find a hobby or avocation; develop a way to right the ship and get back on your path. Third, take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. As a Carolina graduate, you will be asked to do many things by many people. You will be most useful to others if you take care of yourself first. Finally: do find ways to give back to others. You have so much to give! Please leverage your Carolina degree and the networks and friendships you’ve forged to make room for others, smooth their paths, and welcome them into your personal and professional networks.

The Cambridge dictionary defines commencement very simply as “the beginning of something.” You are at the beginning of a long journey, and the destination is likely somewhat uncertain. Although you may be leaving Carolina and our wonderful campus in Chapel Hill, please know that The Graduate School will be following your progress and celebrating your accomplishments and victories. You will always be part of the Carolina family, and we are grateful to have been part of your path to success.


All best wishes for your future!

Suzanne Barbour, PhD
Dean, The Graduate School
UNC-Chapel Hill

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