Crystal Olalde-Garcia gives remarks on behalf of graduating MPP/MPA class at the 2022 Ford School Commencement. April, 2022.
Thank you so much, Gerald. The MPP/MPA class of 2022 elected Crystal Olalde Garcia to speak on their behalf. Crystal earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science at Rice University. After Rice she joined Teach for America and went on to administrative and strategy roles with a number of school districts. Here at the Ford School, she earned a prestigious Ford-Rackham Merit Fellowship and she’s been a first-rate student leader in her role as co-chair of the graduate student government, the Student Affairs Council. Crystal will be joining the Deloitte Government Public Services team in Austin after graduation. Crystal, it’s an honor to welcome you to the podium. Good afternoon y buenas tardes. Whether you're in person or watching virtually, thank you for celebrating the 2022 MPP, MPA, and PhD graduates of the number one social policy school, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. My name is Crystal Olalde-Garcia and I'm both honored and nervous to be standing before you today. I am a proud Mexican-American, first-generation college graduate, and I want to begin with gratitude. Gracias a mi mama, papa, y familia por el apoyo y amor incondicional. I am grateful to my fiance Kyle for his unwavering support. Thank you to my peers for providing more leadership development than I could have ever imagined. And I'm grateful to the staff and faculty for your commitment and dedication to our collective learning. This cohort includes students who had one in-person semester before the pandemic, and the rest of us, who committed to a graduate school program knowing that we would be in Zoom university. We all came to Ford eager to influence policy and policy outcomes. We may have changed interests or concentrations along the way, but we remained committed to learning how we can play a role in the policy-making process. While I could not possibly capture or speak about everyone's experience in 4 minutes, I hope the lessons I'm about to share resonate with you in some shape or form. First, communication is critical. A virtual year challenged us to find new techniques to provide insight into our personalities, passions, and strengths. From Zoom backgrounds to Instagram stories and Slack reactions, we found ways to show empathy, support, and humor to one another to connect even at a physical distance. The resourcefulness we had to summon in these conversations will help us address the challenging issues of the changed world that we are now heading back into. Second, community is needed. We began building our community virtually and were eager to meet one another in person. During orientation, we found ourselves in an unprecedented and hopefully never repeated moment: under the tent, 6 feet apart, screaming through our masks trying to learn each other's names. As we proceeded through the core curriculum, we continued forming friendships and connections. Allmendinger Park and York became frequent spots with our weekly park days and sanity checks. The gap between people's Zoom energy and in-person presentation was a common topic in the early days; I know I surprised many of you with my height. In addition to the crucial importance of communication and community, I've been especially impressed by the power of questions. Some of the questions we asked each other in the early days were as lighthearted as Can you show us your pet? We soon transitioned to the more consequential Do you have hand sanitizer? And increasingly over these last two strange and important years, our questions have communicated the depth of the community we've built together exploring, for example, our various individual and shared reasons for deciding to pursue a graduate degree in the first place asking: Why is this the norm? What can change? What can I do? Questions posed by professors and peers contributed to our policy toolkit. These included: Are there inequitable outcomes? What are the racial implications? What are the measures of success? Questions like these have equipped us to challenge existing policies and propose better ones. I know these and many other important questions will be posed throughout the country and internationally across various fields, in the years to come by this cohort. As we prepare for the next chapter, I'm deeply grateful for the time I've spent in this special place surrounded by such intelligent, brave, caring, and dedicated individuals. And it gives me hope to know that each of us will carry all the skills, connections, and guiding questions we have built and shared together. We did it y'all, congratulations to the class of 2022, and Go Blue!