Commencement 2012: Graduates Look Forward to Careers as “Community”
June 26, 2012 - Along with offering her congratulations to the Class of 2012 and the graduates’ families and friends, Dr. Aimée Dorr, soon-to-be-former dean of the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA, noted that the students’ investment of time, energy, and financial resources paid off in “greatly increased knowledge and skill, tremendous personal growth, and relationships that will last the rest of your life… To use academic language, your social capital has increased, and permanently.”
Dorr, who is moving on to serve as University of California provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, also stated that the quality of GSE&IS graduates illustrates the truth of a Mexican proverb.
“Al Martinez, who I have quoted before, was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times,” said Dorr at the May 16 ceremony held at Wilson Plaza. “He wrote one column that was all about a Mexican saying: Dime con quien andas y te diré quien eres. In other words, ‘Tell me who you go around with, and I’ll tell you who you are.’
“You graduates have… associated with GSE&IS. So, those of us around here all think we know something about who you are likely to be and what you are likely to be like. As GSE&IS graduates, you combine the scholarly and the professional… depending on your degree, and you add to it a commitment to equity, excellence, and access in a very diverse society. You are interested in action as well as reflection, improvement of the education and information enterprises, and change that results in a more just society for everyone in it.”
Two representatives from among the undergraduate minors, master’s and doctoral students also addressed the assembled graduates and their guests. Lynn Irene Kysh, a candidate for the Master of Library and Information Science degree, spoke for the Department of Information Studies, and Aldrich Sabac, Jr., a candidate for the Master of Education degree and the preliminary teaching credential, represented the Department of Education.
Kysh, who currently provides library services and programs at the Children’s Institute, Inc. and the National Network of Library of Medicine Pacific Southwest Regional Medical Library at the UCLA Biomedical Library, shared her connection to the main character in the children’s book, “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney. In the story, said Kysh, the elderly Miss Rumphius recalled her three goals as a young woman: to visit faraway places, to grow old living by the sea, and to do something that would make the world more beautiful.
“That last goal resonates with me: How can I make the world more beautiful?” asserted Kysh. “I believe that being a librarian, the kind of librarian I want to be, will make the world more beautiful.
“I can kind of see how that might sound a little over the top. But during my time here in the program, I have already started. I have been able to show a new parent that it is never too early to start reading with your child when I gave her baby with arms outstretched, a board book. I’ve given a detained youth the first book that he’ll ever read from start to finish. We can’t forget the impact that reading and information has on people. Information changes people; it empowers them. And I believe that makes the world more beautiful.”
Alumna Danielle Salomon (Class of ’10, MLIS) participated in the student organization Books Beyond Bars (BBB) with Kysh, who served as founding president this past year. Formerly known as the Nidorf Collective, the group of students and librarians from the Information Studies program solicits book donations from friends and family, libraries and schools and delivers them to the juvenile living units at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Detention Center in Sylmar, which houses approximately 650 children and teens ages 12 to 17.
Salomon noted that her friend and professional colleague is “truly dedicated to providing library services to underserved populations.”
“Lynn’s leadership of the Books Beyond Bars student group has resulted in hundreds of incarcerated teens receiving brand new books to read and keep,” stated Salomon, who serves as the Teaching and Learning Services Librarian in UCLA’s Powell Library.. “She has encouraged other students to join her in the endeavor, and the BBB group has grown stronger and larger under her leadership. I have no doubt that she will continue to make a difference in other people's lives as she moves forth in her career.”
Kysh, continues to volunteer for Books Beyond Bars with weekly visits to the facility to give reading materials to the incarcerated youth and aspires to a full time career in one of her current professional fields. When confronted with skepticism about the relevance of the library and archival professions, Kysh urged her classmates to “Prepare your elevator speech now and be ready to explain that librarians are important to creating healthy communities.”
“Archivists are essential for preserving our memory, our heritage; and informatics is here to tie in information theory to the increasing[ly] fast-paced changes in technology,” Kysh pointed out. “You might also want to remind people that we’re pretty much everywhere: public libraries, academic libraries, museums, corporations, law firms, hospitals, film and television studios, technology start-ups, and more. Be prepared to remind people that just because they don’t remember we’re there, it doesn’t mean that we’re not making a difference.”
Kysh also emphasized the value of library professionals remembering that they serve “a community of users.”
“If you find yourself struggling, just remember your community of users, because part of your career will be advocating for their needs and their rights,” she asserted. “Don’t make assumptions about members of your community. Often you’ll only find what they need by talking to them. Whether it’s scholars and students, museum visitors, the end-users of a data base, or the children in your story time, remember we are here to meet their unique information needs, and… that our profession is nothing without our communities.”
Sabac, a native of Stockton, California, spoke about another facet of community. Congratulating his classmates, particularly those in the Teacher Education Program, he gave partial credit for their success to their personal networks of support.
“Family, friends, GSE&IS teachers and mentors: As much as this day is about us graduates, it is even more about you,” Sabac emoted. “We stand on your shoulders.”
Sabac broke into a rap, invoking the names of programs in TEP and icons of social and educational equity such as Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Friere. Sabac described the vocational aspects of teaching, particularly in misrepresented communities throughout the state and the nation.
“Thank you for all that you do,” he rhymed, “because everyday you save the life of another youth.”
Continuing with his speech, Sabac addressed the importance of graduation for students who, like him, were first in their families to earn a college diploma, let alone a graduate degree.
“My fellow graduates – this is the real part of the speech – you are important,” said Sabac, who looks forward to teaching kindergarten back home in Stockton. “I stand before you not as an individual, not as an all-knowing scholar, but as a member of our community. We come from farmworkers, immigrants, calloused hands, sun-kissed skin, and loud, organized voices. We come from hope.”
Sabac, who was cheered on by approximately 40 family members and friends – many of whom had traveled from Stockton to be present that day – described the real motivation for students from backgrounds like his to seek higher education.
“In front of me are mothers, fathers, mentors, artists, organizers, warrior scholars, and healers in our community,” Sabac pointed out. “We came here for our students, our sons, our daughters, our siblings, our cousins. I borrow from bell hooks when I say though our communities may be faced with limitations and never-ending challenges, we know our communities are places of possibility.”
Jessica Teczon, Michael Macato, and Brian Batugo were among those in the audience cheering for Sabac, waving oversized signs, one bearing his portrait and another, a neon sign that read, “Stockton.” Macato, who has known Sabac since their freshman year of high school, described his friend as a positive influence on the youth in their community.
“We grew up in Stockton,” said Macato. “Right now, it’s really bad with crime. Having someone like Aldrich [who will] come back and try to change it, it’s really made me proud.”
Teczon, who met Sabac in kindergarten, attributed his commitment to serving the underserved to the mentorship of their youth minister, and to their participation in community service and activities at St. George’s Parish.
“Our youth minister would say that if you are in a dirty house, you don’t just look around and say, ‘This house is messy,’ you clean it up,” she recalled. “I think that’s one of the things that stuck with all of us. You have to change [things] yourself, you can’t wait for anybody else.”
Batugo also emphasized the charge they received from their church to better the entire community.
“It was always about coming back after we did what we needed to do in the world, to come back and feed the community with our knowledge,” he said.
The three, who all graduated with Sabac from Edison High School, agreed that their friend was “going to rock” at his profession.
“He can do anything,” enthused Teczon. “He’s really talented. He can sing, he can make beats, he can [work] with electronics. He’s just all around great. We can’t say stuff like that around him because he’s too modest.”
“He’s going to fly with [teaching],” said Batugo, a graduate of UC Berkeley who is earning his teaching credential and is also looking forward to teaching in Stockton. “I feel like he has the ability to capture the attention of anyone he’s around. He has a really bright future ahead of him. We’re all proud that Stockton has Aldrich.”
- Joanie Harmon
Pictured above: Brian Batugo of Stockton cheers for his friend and TEP graduate, Aldrich Sabac, Jr. (pictured on sign).