Posted on December 11, 2020
On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of the Department of Geography, Environment, and Sustainability, I write to convey heartfelt congratulations on reaching the milestone of completing your degree. Well done and well deserved!
Your course of study has tested you in all manner of ways, and the fact that you persevered despite the added tests of last year is a strong testament to your fortitude. The sacrifices we have all had to make in light of the pandemic were necessary, but that is of little consolation during the last semester or two of what is usually the most intense period of being “present in place,” to use a geographer’s term of art: present in the Lab wrapping up a remote sensing project; present in the capstone course where you share your insights on a pressing environmental issue with your classmates; present at a thesis or dissertation defense where you show off your mastery of the topic that you know more about than anyone else. And of course, present at commencement, the symbolically important moment when you embark on the next stage of your unique life path.
“Presence” has looked very different since March, and it would be a stretch to suggest that your virtual life in the two-dimensional rectangle on Zoom is an adequate substitute. It isn’t! But it makes your achievement of earning your degree even more impressive. We stand in awe of you!
You move on from GES and UNC Greensboro into uncertain economic and political circumstances. I am confident, and I think that you can be as well, that you are well equipped to be change-makers out there.
There are many ways our past graduates have made impressive contributions in a variety of fields: urban planners shaping the future of towns and cities in our state and beyond; environmental NGO leaders seeking to repair what humans have done to our planet and prevent future damage; educators armed with a heightened awareness of the complicated relationships between humans and their environments; and scientists seeking answers to some of the key questions that will shape the future of the planet in so many important ways.
You join this impressive cadre of GES alumni, but in some ways, I am even more optimistic about your prospects to be agents of change making than those who have come before you. First, the societal needs for the critical thinking, empathy, and understanding of the issues facing us have never been greater. Second, you have had your mettle tested in ways that many of us who graduated a few years or few decades ago simply have not. We need you!
Bravo, bravo, bravo! Now get out there and raise some hell. Don’t forget to let us know from time to time about what you are up to.
Heartfelt congratulation to you. We are proud, and you should be as well.
Corey Johnson, Ph.D.
Department Head, GES