Barnard College Commencement
Monday, May 14, 2012
New York City

Photo: David Wentworth/Barnard College

Good afternoon.  My name is Jaclyn D’Aversa and I am the Senior Class President.  [Applause.]  I am here today to deliver greetings from the Senior Class. My road to Barnard was not a straight one.  As a junior in high school, I attended Barnard’s Pre-College Program to see what college was really like. I quickly learned that Barnard is not the typical college, and the women that comprised this school are, anything but ordinary. 

Now, I thought I was successful in high school, but the Barnard women I met during this program were going to rule the world one day.  [Applause.]  And with all due respect, Mr. President, it is a good thing [laughter] that none of the women of the Class of 2012 are running for president this year.  [Laughter – Applause].

At the end of the pre-college program, my parents asked me if I was going to apply to Barnard.  My answer was shockingly, “No.” The Barnard students I met during the program were so talented and so smart. The women who were applying to Barnard were so much more qualified than me. To be honest, I was scared. How could I compare myself to such successful women? I was not sure that I could handle the academic intensity of such an elite school and I was not certain that an all-women’s college was the right fit for me. 

The reasons I did not apply to Barnard in high school were the same reasons why I did apply to transfer to Barnard in my sophomore year.  I finally realized what my parents had always known – I was smart enough and motivated enough for the Barnard education. I wanted to be challenged and inspired in a way I knew only Barnard could prompt. I began to view Barnard’s differences from the average college, as something unique instead of intimidating.  

When I received my acceptance letter to Barnard, my father made sure to tell me that he knew all along that I was meant to go here, and he was right. And I, like many of you, never like to admit when my parents are right. [Laughter.]

In preparing for this speech, I’ve had the opportunity to hear stories from my peers about their distinctive Barnard experiences. My friend, who is a Neuroscience major, gained the confidence to pursue a field historically dominated by men. In her words, Barnard showed her that science is not just for older white guys.  Over a cup of Liz's Place coffee, another friend told me that an Urdu poetry class she took this semester changed her entire life plan. Although she’s an Econ major, she plans to move to India after graduation, to continue her studies.  [Applause.]

One of my favorite stories was from an Art History major. [Applause.] She said that Barnard provided her with so many options, that each semester, she had to make the difficult decision of only choosing one internship out of the many Barnard has to offer. From these conversations, it was clear that there was no one Barnard experience. Barnard is different because the women that comprise this college are extraordinary. 

Let’s be honest, we chose a different type of college because we are not the type of women to settle for average. Because we are diverse, the women of the Class of 2012 have created a community of fiercely intelligent, passionate and driven students. You have all shown me that nothing is impossible. Every woman here has the potential to change the world, make her impact and pave the way for future female leaders. 

These things that make Barnard once frightened me; now, they define my college experience.  Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken” as always reminded me of my Barnard path.  Barnard is not the typical college and because of that, I took the road less traveled by.  We have all been faced with tough choices, like where to go to college, what major to choose, what thesis topic to choose.

The difficult decisions are far from over.  From this point on, we will continue to be faced with diverging roads and hard questions.  I urge all of you to take the path that will inspire you every day.  Wherever our lives may take us, we are united by the fact that we chose Barnard and Barnard chose us, and that has made all the difference.  [Applause.]