Bestselling Author, Professor and Entrepreneur Traces Path to Self-Discovery For New Graduates
BURBANK, Calif. (May 10, 2017) – “We don’t need a commitment to success — we need a commitment to our own personal journey.”
So declared bestselling author and women’s empowerment advocate Angella Nazarian, delivering the keynote address to Woodbury University’s Class of 2017 during graduation ceremonies, held Saturday, May 6, on the Burbank campus. Two hundred sixty-six undergraduate and 55 graduate students received diplomas.
In her address, Nazarian briefly chronicled her own remarkable personal journey, highlighting poignant touchpoints with Woodbury University extending back to her childhood, and calling on the Class of 2017 to embrace the value of commitment as the surest path to self-discovery.
“Millennials are said to have a hard time committing to anything – whether a car or a home or rethinking marriage – but my theory is that’s because they have so many choices,” Nazarian said. “What I believe is that you are trying to do commitment more wisely. I believe there is an evolving consciousness of exploration of choices, which gradually brings you closer to committing to your own truth and ownership of your values and self. This is important work and it is not a straight road. And often times it means a lot of transitions and ambiguities.”
Woodbury University identifies itself as the center of creative transformation, Nazarian noted, “because this is a core value that it wants to instill in its students — the ability to adapt and to weave varied experiences as transformative moments for growth. As you venture out together, the world will be your school. This university truly honors and values diversity. Your interaction with people from different walks of life is yet another important learning opportunity outside of the classroom. Be committed to each journey you undertake and open to the lessons that help you in becoming who you are meant to be and the work that you are meant to do.”
Nazarian is co-founder and executive committee member of Visionary Women, a non-profit women’s leadership organization in Los Angeles that brings together dynamic thought leaders from around the nation for in-depth conversations. She is also co-founder of Looking Beyond, a charitable organization that promotes awareness and creates advancement and enrichment for children with disabilities. The author of Life as a Visitor and Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World, Nazarian was a professor of psychology and faculty member at Mount Saint Mary’s College, California State University/Long Beach, and Los Angeles Valley College for more than a decade.
Nazarian recounted her experience as a part-time faculty member in Woodbury’s Psychology Department. “I know the exact year – it was the year that most of you were born, because I was pregnant with my second son at the time and he, like all of you, is graduating from college this year.” She went on to recall “another, even more, important connection between Woodbury University and my family. I was 11 years old when, one day, my older sister rushed into the family room and proudly announced that Woodbury University had accepted my older brother, David, as an undergraduate.
“Of course, you all remember getting your acceptance letters from colleges and it is a cause for celebration,” she said. “But in our family, it was much more than that. It meant that our brother, who was precariously stuck in the middle of a revolution in Iran, was granted permission to leave the country with his student visa. This was nothing short of miraculous. So, if it weren’t for Woodbury, my brother would not have been allowed to join the rest of us siblings in the States. My parents were still in Iran, but us kids dressed up in our finest and attended his commencement. It is quite surreal to find myself speaking at Woodbury’s graduation while my brother is seated in the audience today.”
Sharing the podium with Nazarian were student speakers Mariana Gaviria, a business management major from Colombia, and Kandy Rodriguez, an interdisciplinary studies major. Gaviria spoke about the family she had found on Woodbury’s campus, and noted the sacrifices her family had made to offer her the opportunity to succeed. She spoke of the bravery of her family, who had loved and supported her from afar. “God gave children,” she said, in order to teach us how to “love unconditionally.”
Rodriguez spoke about the struggle between “who we are and our own expectations for who we want to be,” and recognized those in their families who were first to graduate with a college degree. “[W]e came as pioneers, with an amplified hunger to overcome all of the hardships we faced and honor all of the sacrifices made on our behalf along the way.”