Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Haley Brown ’22: 'The Unexpected is Nothing More Than an Opportunity'

May 24, 2022

Haley Brown
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Haley Brown ’22 delivered the undergraduate student address at Commencement on May 22.


How's everybody feeling? Yeah, we just graduated, that's pretty cool. I didn't know we got a free sauna with our tuition, so I'm grateful for that. 

Thank you to President Liebowitz, members of the board of trustees, honorary degree recipients, our commencement speakers, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, family, and friends for joining us today for this year's commencement ceremony. And to the class of 2022, congratulations. 

Today is a day about reminiscing, just as much as it is about looking forward, so I want to start by taking a little trip back in time to the same gym four years ago for admitted students day. A day I think marks the beginning of a very unexpected journey for all of us. 

For those of you who may not have joined us on this particular day back in 2018, I'll try to paint a picture. It was smack in the middle of April, when here in New England we're finally starting to put away our shovels and winter coats and what happened? A snowstorm, sounds nice right? Sure, it was no worries there, but it was unexpected, a day memorable for the way it stood out from every other new spring day. 

But we are the class of 2022. Snow on a spring day cannot stop us from recognizing the beauty in this school and the humanity in each other. We were met by volunteers, already Brandeis students, standing out in the snow with positivity and welcoming smiles, it's the Brandeis tradition. Commitment to community, respect, civility and by now I think it is safe to add, overcoming the unexpected, to the list of our core values. 

In some ways, my journeys to Brandeis was well, maybe closer to the expected than the unexpected, and I say this because my parents met at Brandeis when they were undergraduates and my sister graduated from Brandeis five years ago. 

I've been roaming the campus since I could walk. At five-years-old, I would leave my drawings in my dad's office in Rosenstiel, where he worked as a protein crystallographer. At 13, I spent time in my sister's room in Massell, befriending her hall mates who were so kind to me, an eighth grader whom they could have so easily ignored. 

I've had the uncommon experience of growing up in and around Brandeis, which has exposed me to the qualities that make Brandeis so special. The kindness, the connection, the genuine curiosity. No matter how familiar I was with Brandeis, I quickly realized I would find my own people, opportunities, interests, and grow even more. 

It was through my own journey at Brandeis that I found a home in WBRS, the Brandeis Radio Station, it got some of us. Where I worked with the team committed to sharing broadcasts with the Brandeis and larger communities. Conducted research with Professor Dan Breen. Dan Breen gets a lot of those. Eventually presenting our paper at the Law and Society conference and had the opportunity to teach a class on creative writing at a jail in Boston, where I was committed to sharing not only what I have learned, but also the learning experience with the community outside of Brandeis. 

While I was discovering my passions, my friends in the class of 2022 were discovering theirs as well. Competing in athletic tournaments all over the country, developing Branda, in all-in-one Brandeis app, fighting for climate justice and making a successful impact on this campus, and all the while finding time to support each other. 

I thought I knew everything about Brandeis that I could know before coming, and I couldn't have been more wrong. As many of you might have felt, no matter how much research we had done beforehand, no matter how many visits we may have gone on, no matter how many movies about college we may have watched,mine was Pitch Perfect, I liked that one. 

Becoming a college student, becoming a Brandeis student cannot be predicted, for it was unique to each of us. But from the very beginning of our Brandeis experience, from that first April snow, we have shown ourselves that the unexpected is nothing more than an opportunity. That's why by our sophomore year, when we were told we had to pack up our belongings and leave in the middle of yet another unexpected spring, due to the pandemic. We never abandoned our commitment to the values that make us all Brandeis students. 

In those hours before we left, we turned to each other. And much like what many of us may be feeling today, leaving was hard. We can look back and remind ourselves that leaving does not mean forgetting, we've been forever changed by Brandeis. The people we've met, the classes we've taken, the traditions we found spirit in, they don't leave us when we pack up our belongings, they are amongst the boxes we take with us. 

When the world turned upside down, the entire institution of Brandeis turned with it. Brandeis faculty and students adapted to new technologies. Administration adjusted policies. Staff kept the university operations running and we continue to find opportunity in the uncertainty. 

When the pandemic first hit, members of the International Business School worked to create and donate PPE to local organizations. The Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts, devoted to coalescing the community around art, made their renowned showcase virtual in 2021 for the whole community to safely be a part of. Students in the class of 2022, dedicated to lifelong learning and sharing their perspectives with others, led discussions on important social and political issues impacting Brandeis and beyond every facet of Brandeis, marched on, adapted, adjusted, and overcame the unexpected. 

Now, four years since our Admitted Students Day, we are again gathered in this Convocation Center. We come from different parts of the world, backgrounds, life experiences, academic interests, levels of snow tolerance, maybe levels of heat tolerance. But what we will forever share is that Brandeis is our alma mater, that we got through these four years together, despite sometimes feeling like the world wanted to tear us apart, we are now officially Brandeis graduates.

And as we move on to whatever is next for us, whether it is planned or still unknown, we know two things for certain. That nothing is certain and that we can and will find opportunity in the uncertainty, we are the class of 2022. Resilience, adaptable, motivated, and, as long as we always recognize the humanity in each other, there's nothing that can stop us from improving the world around us, not even the unexpected, not even 97 degrees in May, not even snow in April. Thank you.