"You've learned new skills, met new people and faced your fears in ways you did not expect"
An edited extract from Professor André Spicer's Bayes Business School Graduation address.
"It is wonderful to be able to welcome you and your families and supporters here in person today to celebrate your achievement. Graduating from a degree is a great accolade, but doing so during a pandemic is especially commendable. I know many of you have waited a long time for this day.
"Today our graduates here stand on a threshold. It’s like you are standing in a doorway, between two rooms, in the house that is your life. Behind you lies the person you were before you came to join us at Bayes. In front of you lies your future.
"Before you take that next step into the future, let’s all pause for a few minutes for a moment and look backwards into the past, and see what you have been through.
"Each one of you has had a unique experience. You’ve studied different things, learned varied knowledge, developed different skills. But there is one thing which I think each and every one of you share. That’s the experience of change. In fact it’s a very particular experience of change. It’s what anthropologists call a ‘liminal experience’.
"Liminal experiences are the elaborate and drawn out rituals that happen when someone in a tribe changes from being one kind of person to being another.
"In some Australian Aboriginal societies for instance, when boys are on the edge of manhood, they are sent off on walkabout. The boy walks off into the desert to live and has to survive on his own - often for six months. During this time he would need to learn to fend for himself. He would learn how to forage and hunt, how to communicate with people outside his tribe, how to find his way, and much more.
"The boy would face serious challenges, some life threatening. But he would learn. When he returned home, he would be greeted with a great deal of ceremony. He was no longer treated as a boy. He had become a man.
"Similar things happened in other societies. In ancient Sparta, young men were sent to a special camp where they would go barefoot and sleep outdoors during winter. In most modern militaries, new recruits are sent to a boot camp. In the 19th century English upper classes, young women spent months preparing to come out ‘in society’ at debutante balls.
"Often these changes were physically and emotionally taxing, They also very confusing. At the end of it, when the goal was achieved, there was usually some big celebration. The person who had been through trials and tribulations are welcomed back into their new role. They are celebrated and given symbols of their new status in their tribe.
"So what has all this got to do with you? I’m sure you see the parallels. All of you have just been through a liminal experience.
You left a normal life behind when you started your degree. You were put through trials and tribulations. At times you were probably pushed to your limit. At times you were probably exhausted and confused. You probably asked yourself, “Can I get through this?” But you fought on, got through it and proved yourself. You learned new skills. You met new people. You faced your fears. You grew – perhaps in ways that you did not expect.
"Now, you have made it to the end of what seemed like an endless trial. It is a great achievement for which we congratulate you. Now we have arranged a special ceremony, with odd clothes and symbols the celebrate your success. But this ceremony is also a way of thanking your family and friends who have supported you through what has been a very tough journey.
"There is one important aspect of rituals - like this - which mark the end of a liminal experience. They are design to remind the new imitates – in this case our graduates – about the values which they should take with them. So before we send you step into your future, I want to remind you of three values which we at Bayes hold sacred.
"The first values is caring. Take time to care for people and the world around you. But also make sure that you take time to care for yourself. As Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care’. Ask yourself each day what’s one small act which you can do to care for something or someone. It could be picking up a piece of litter, sharing a kind word with someone, or just giving yourself a break.
"The second value we at Bayes hold sacred is learning. Try to see every experience you have – good, bad or indifferent – as an opportunity to learn. It will open your eyes and fill your life. At the end of each day, ask yourself “What did I learn today?”. Just asking the question will help you to see the small lessons life brings. It will make your life richer. And if you ask this question enough, it will drive you to seek out opportunities to learn each day.
"The final value we would like you take away from us is being courageous. Be willing to have the courage to try things out and take things on. To quote the actor John Wayne, “Courage means being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”. A little courageousness can make all the difference. It will mean you push on open doors you thought were closed. Some will stay shut. Others will open. Courage is important. “Courage is the most important of all virtues”’, the American writer Maya Angelou says, “because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue constantly”. We can each develop our courage by doing a simple exercise. Try each day to do something which is 10 per cent out of your comfort zone. You’ll soon find your comfort zone growing as you develop courage to take on things you didn’t think were possible.
"When you have been through a liminal experience you join a community. As graduates of Bayes Business School, you have joined our alumni community of more than 50,000 former students from 160 different countries. This community is there to help and support you, so stay in touch.
We hope you will join us at alumni events in London and around the world, tell us of your achievements, and share your expertise and connections with the next generations of Bayes students. As a community, we lift each other up and everyone benefits if we do well.
"So now you can step into your own future. That future might look uncertain. It might be buffeted by the winds of change. If these winds make you shiver, just try to remember this: the winds of change and the breath of life are the very same thing.
"Dear graduates, once again, congratulations to you all!"