By Shane Donglasan
Eleni Spanolios delivered the student commencement speech for the graduating class of 2019. Nominated by her fellow graduating students, Spanolios said she was excited and surprised to have been chosen.
During her time at New College, Spanolios studied chemistry and was also a student admission representative (STAR), resident advisor, editor of the student-run research journal, Aeolus, and involved with the New College Student Alliance.
“Being at New College taught me to be a lot more self-sufficient.” Spanolios said. “I understand what it’s like to work with a variety of people in order to make something happen.”
Her speech to the graduating class was inspired by a sociology course she took this semester called “Intergroup Dialogue” which focused on learning how to communicate, understand and empathize with others.
“This class gave me the confidence to feel ready to navigate the different social environments I will meet outside of New College,” Spanolios said in her speech.
She touched on sociology’s concept of the cycle of liberation and the processes of oppression and ways to dismantle it.
“It gives a summary in which we can live our lives in ways that attribute to rebuilding ourselves, our communities, and ultimately, larger institutions,” she said in her speech. “In order to enter this cycle of liberation, you need to have a moment where you wake up and realize the world isn’t what you thought it would be. For me, attending New College, was a major contribution to have this moment.”
At the core of this concept is practicing self-love in order to have an authentic love of others, which Spanolios encouraged her fellow graduating students to carry out into their journeys beyond New College.
“I hope [the graduating class] feels like their time here meant something,” she said. “Even if not everything went the way they hoped it would, I hope they see their experience as good and will continue to progress moving forward.”
– Shane Donglasan is the marketing writer/project coordinator at New College of Florida.
2019 Commencement address delivered by student Eleni Spanolios
Good evening everyone,
You know, even at this institution, I never took a class that discussed sociology until this semester. I took a tutorial called Intergroup Dialogue, and in it, I learned about social justice, about how to conduct conversations with people whose views conflict my own, and I studied and reflected on my own multitude of identities. I won’t be here next year to use these dialogue skills on campus, but this class gave me the confidence to feel ready to navigate the different social environments I will inevitably encounter outside of New College.
The major aspect of this class that led to my increased confidence was learning about the cycle of liberation, a concept developed by sociologist Bobbie Harro. This cycle describes a way in which we can live to actively fight the oppression that we are all subject to. It gives a summary of the small ways in which we can live our lives that will attribute to dismantling and rebuilding ourselves, our communities, and ultimately larger institutions. And in order to enter this cycle you must experience a moment when you wake up and begin to question the world you live in.
For me, attending New College was a major contribution to me entering the cycle of liberation. I remember being a really confused first-year who was called out on the forum a couple times for using content warning wrong and forgetting someone’s pronouns, but I was anxious to learn.
This cycle has quite a few parts, but the most integral are those at its core. And two of those characteristics are security and support. Both of which tie into having a strong community.
Now I know that we Novo Collegians love a good forum war, but I truly feel that we come together more often than we fight. Just this year we have come to together as students, faculty, trustees and staff to defend institutions close to us, such as the Four Winds, the Catalyst, and we banded together in opposition of discrimination.
I know that how quickly and drastically New College may be changing scares many of us, myself included. However, we will always have our community. It is the students, faculty and staff as a whole that create and uphold our core values.
In the face of tireless adversity, our New College community is confident and secure. We are still joyful in the present and hopeful for the future. These attributes are other factors at the core of the cycle of liberation.
Looking forward, I think it is important to remember that in order to push forth liberation you must also try to exhibit an authentic love of others which in turn requires you to have a great deal of self-love. I believe these two attributes of this cycle are the most important. I know I will hold this fact dear to my heart as I begin my journey after New College and I hope that you all will do so too.
Thank you so much, to my wonderful classmates and to all of the influential professors and staff members that made these four years so wonderful. I am really proud of all of us.