The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures honored the graduation of undergraduate and graduate students with a celebration at UB's Center for Tomorrow, May 20, 2022. Class of 2020 alum Jaycee Miller spoke to the graduates' resilience, flexibility and determination to succeed throughout the pandemic, excellent preparation for life in the "real world."
Before the speeches: Introduction of commencement speaker Jaycee Miller (front right), class of 2020 French and Political Science graduate.
Jaycee Miller: ..."This big old experiment of remote education and your successes therein, are testimony of not only your drive and determination, but the grace and dignity with which the Romance Language and Literature Department grants its students...I believe we all would be better off if we treated each other the way my professors in undergrad in this department treated me."
Graduate award recipients: Ashley Byzckowski, PhD; Valentina Marluanda, Samantha Schifano, Master's; Marie Céline Dufay-Verbié, Neil Gablenz and Marietta Fernández-López, Excellence in Teaching. With director of graduate studies Paola Ugolini.
French graduates, L to R: Mikayla Addis, Chika Alaka, Michelle Eubank, Abdullah Islam, Sophie May, Bianca St. Cilien.
Spanish graduates. Standing: Caroline Williams, Ana Wienclawski, Sabrina Turek, Mackenzie Smith. Seated: Jay Carreira, Mara Dingman, Leydi Hernández Fernández, Liam Kelly, Gina Mersereau, Deidra Mitchell, Stephanie Padilla.
RLL Faculty. Standing, L to R: Margarita Vargas, Emanuela Pecchioli, Maureen Jameson, Colleen Balukas, Melissa McCarron. Seated: Jean-Jacques Thomas, Amy Graves Monroe, David Castillo, Paola Ugolini, Elizabeth Scarlett, Mary Lorene Thomas.
PhD graduate Ashley Byczkowski and major professor Jean-Jacques Thomas. Ashley's father Robert and step-mother Angela Byczkowski at left, Ashley's partner William Morella, right.
Department administrator Judy Edmister, alumna and commencement speaker Jaycee Miller, and associate professor of French Maureen Jameson enjoy a chat and hors d'oeuvres.
TAs Juan Sebastián Basallo Gómez, Valentina Marulanda Ospina, Marietta Fernández López and Neil Gablenz with Chris Davis.
BoSeated, from bottom left, clockwise: Annika Smith, Michelle Eubank, Chika Alaka, Sophie May, Bianca St. Cilien, Abdullah Islam, Leydi Hernández Fernández and friend. Standing: Ashley Byczkowski, Maureen Jamison, Amy Graves Monroe.
2022 Melodia E. Jones Endowed Chair-sponsored high school French dictation competition, coordinated by the Buffalo Alliance Française. L to R: French teaching assistant Théo Ricardo; winners Andréa Damperon (first place, Williamsville East); Zoë Curtis (second place, Orchard Park); Michaela Staskiewicz (honorable mention, Starpoint); Mary Ellen Gianturco, Alliance Française.
French TAs and Jaycee. L to R: Samantha Schifano, Théo Ricardo, Jaycee Miller, Nolwenn Godbillon, Marie Céline Dufay-Verbié.
Part of the French contingent. L to R: Maureen Jameson, Sophie May, Michelle Eubank, Chika Alaka, Bianca St. Cilien.
Inspiring words of encouragement from Jaycee's real world experience:
Create meaningful ways to integrate the skills you gained in the classroom into whatever comes next for you. For some of you, it might be working, or graduate school, or starting a family. The skills you have in communicating and creating cross-cultural understanding are indispensable to community resilience. The ways we put these skills to use might not always be direct, and they might not always be inherently altruistic. Sometimes, knowing French or Italian snowballs how quickly you’re able to learn another language when it might be needed. Or maybe, that next series on Netflix you want to watch is just better in Spanish. We should cherish the things we learned, the professors who inspired us, stood by us, and rooted for us, and we should try to leave this place called Earth better than we found it.
Secondly, and this might be the most challenging part: Find the sweet spot between planning each of your goals down to the micrometer and burying yourself in them, and simply navigating life’s doors as they open and close. A friend once told me that when we plan, God laughs, and while that might be more cynical than I am willing to accept, the plan in question did not come to fruition, and I found myself better off in retrospect. You’ve already demonstrated your strength and flexibility as you adapted to an ever changing landscape of higher education, along with all the other enormous societal changes that the last few years have brought upon us. The “real world,” has kind of been with you all along.