The hallowed academic tradition of holding commencement exercises is one of academia’s most cherished rites of passage. It serves as a culmination of years of toil and hard work ceremoniously crowned in one symbolic event ushering in at once closure and b
  President’s Forum: Notes from Dr. Mawad  
Michel E. Mawad, M.D.

What’s in a Commencement?

The hallowed academic tradition of holding commencement exercises is one of academia’s most cherished rites of passage. It serves as a culmination of years of toil and hard work ceremoniously crowned in one symbolic event ushering in at once closure and beginning. A commencement ceremony is a celebration of achievement, and to the same extent, the onset of a professional career and a life of contribution in the workplace.

For LAU, the commencement(s) of June 2022 is all that and more. It speaks of hope overcoming despair, resolve triumphing over surrender, and life budding back after an extended period of uncertainty. It also signals resumption of the full pursuit of our mission following a relentless crisis. In a few words, the commencements of 2022 have a healing effect that we are so much in need of.

LAU and its graduates with their families have every right to rejoice today in completing their final run against formidable odds. Many were the days when we thought we may not make it for one reason or another – all beyond our control. The pandemic was merciless, the economic/financial crisis was crushing, the logistics were forbidding, and the collective will to fight at times gave signs of waning. What kept us going during all this was a leap of faith leading to an act of defiance based on a mission that calls on the best of us to do the best we can.

True as it is, however, this upbeat picture does not hide the fact that the commencement of 2022 is fraught with challenges of another kind – challenges that each and every one of our graduates will face with a profound impact on their individual and collective future.

Many as they are, I will focus on three such challenges: Finding personal meaning in a complex and often cruel world around you, staying relevant in a world changing “at the speed of thought,” and sharing your success through service to your community. 

The Pursuit of Personal Meaning

Among other things, graduation means crossing the gate from campus life to a “brave new world” out there that goes by a different set of rules, and often seems not to have any. It is complex, confusing, contradictory, and at times overwhelming. By the same token, it is a land of opportunity, a universe of infinite possibilities, a story which is for each of you to write, and a platform you can potentially use to launch yourselves to heights you may never have imagined. It is up to you to make sense of this world, get out of it the finest it can offer by offering it the utmost you can give, and to carve your niche by adding value to all that you touch.

A sure guide to making your mark in this world is to remember that the measure of a human being is not only the ends achieved but also the means employed. You are, of course, as good as your record but your record covers both what you have to show for your actions and the ethical scruples you have shown. What defines you and gives meaning to your life is first and foremost moral fortitude built on a bedrock of ideals. Passing this test is the essence of the education you have received at LAU. 

On Staying Relevant in a Changing World

As you walk past the LAU gate after your commencement, you should feel proud knowing that your alma mater has equipped you with state-of-the-art knowledge in your respective fields. What you should realize at the outset, however, is that this is unlikely to serve you for a long time. The information life-cycle of most specializations is barely five years. Beyond that, even earlier, you will have to reinvent yourself, replenish your knowledge, immerse yourself in de-learning and re-learning, and practice self-learning for a lifetime. LAU has equipped you well for this task through critical thinking skills, sharpened reasoning faculties and emotional intelligence competencies. Few threats you are likely to face as mature professionals are more menacing than obsolescence, which can be combatted only through constant upskilling and cognitive retooling.

The challenge of staying relevant is a personal challenge for each of you and an acid test you will have to pass. Passing this test in flying colors is what I am sure you will do through a three-stage process: 

a- Building awareness
b- Mapping a learning strategy
c- Monitoring your learning curve

Managing the learning process over a lifetime is a hallmark of an LAU graduate in a world whose pace is accelerating exponentially. 

Sharing Success through Service 

A core value deeply embedded in LAU’s mission is a service ethic that has over the years reflected itself in our level of commitment to our community. This was best translated through our readiness to help others to the very limit of our ability, be they students, parents, patients or members of our extended family at large.

A major component of LAU’s education philosophy is to inculcate this service ethic in our students as a defining factor guiding their conduct over a lifetime. I am certain that our graduates will always be shining examples of dedication to ideals imparted to them during their years at LAU. They will lead their lives based on the principle that success is an asset to be shared, true leadership is reproduced by creating other leaders, and the best reward for a job well done is a job well done.

This is no small feat in the world you will live in where materialism reigns supreme and commercialism is an all-consuming current engulfing every aspect of our lives. As significant citizens in a world like this, your moral fortitude and service ethic will distinguish you, guide you, and turn you into role models and beacons of light in your community. You owe this to your families and, to the same extent, to the university that has transformed you into what you are today and what you will be in years to come. 

 But Then Again, What’s in a Commencement?

As your commencement is bound to leave an indelible mark on your memory, please also remember what your alma mater stands for: Uncompromising excellence, the will to prevail over adversity, togetherness in pursuit of shared ideals, and humility in serving our community at all times.

To be part of an LAU commencement as a proud alumnus/a is to wear your LAU identity as a badge of honor today, tomorrow, and for all time. 


Michel E. Mawad, M.D.
Lebanese American University