Lauren Crepeau '16 delivered the following address at St. Catherine University's 2016 Winter Commencement on December 21. A double major in communication studies and English, with a minor in women's studies, Crepeau is a DupliKate and the fourth in her family to attend St. Kate's. After graduation, Crepeau intends to "move people to action" and always stand for social justice.
Good evening students, faculty, staff, family, and friends. Thank you so much for welcoming me home one last official time.
St. Catherine University has been my home away from home for the past three-and-a-half years. Even as a commuter student, I had no problem making the hour commute back-and-forth from Stillwater, near the St. Croix River, every day, for I knew I was coming to a place where learning was thriving and minds were growing. My St. Kate's family not only included my peers, but my coworkers, professors, and numerous staff members as well. All of them supported me in countless ways along my educational journey.
St Kate's is a home where the hard stuff is not brushed under the rug or glossed over. Topics like racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and other injustices against humanity are discussed because they are real, tangible issues that affect our whole family here at St. Kate's. In communications classes like Gender & Rhetoric, we talked about gender stereotyping and how it is often used to isolate groups of people. In English classes like Global Writers, we explored white privilege and the canonization of white writers. These biased norms are explored and acknowledged because to ignore them would be dishonest and unjust.
St. Kate's was built upon the idea that women should be educated and that they could be valuable contributors to society, and not just to the home. Mother Antonia McHugh, our first dean and president, was committed to the idea that St. Kate's was not to become a finishing school, and thank goodness for that, because look where we are now! In today's world, a woman can run for president! In fact, we've had eleven female presidents right here at St. Kate's.
We stand here today as educated women and men, sisters and brothers, ready to stand side-by-side to lead and influence the world. We will change the world to be a more just one. We will be the ones initiating new bills in the U.S. Congress, new business and economic policies in this increasingly globalized world, and creating new social norms like those that allow, for example, gender-neutral bathrooms to be commonplace in our public spaces.
In my time here at St. Kate's, faculty and staff taught me how to initiate these changes by thinking critically about the information given to me by the accepted institutions of power. They taught me how to engage in discussions and write papers and to ask questions about these issues. And I've learned something new with each experience: a new point of view, a new way to approach a problem, a new statistic — did you know that in 2015, Minnesota only graduated 66% of Hispanic students and 52% of Native American students from the high school level? We're ranked at the bottom — 50th and 45th respectively — among all U.S. states for our ability to graduate students of color on time.
We have to do better! Therefore, I've added this startling fact — and many others — to the plethora of critical thinking skills, theories, and ideas I carry in the toolkit I assembled here. I hope you, my sisters and brothers, will retain your toolkit, so that you will be right there, beside me, when we create a more equitable social system for all.
Ever single faculty and staff member, in my humble opinion, has worked tirelessly to help us develop these tools. It would probably make sense to compare them to parental figures, but that might get a little weird. No, they have guided us in different ways. They have been more like older siblings, people we look up to despite them challenging us in difficult ways. Whether it was shaking the ground we stand on by making us back up our beliefs and opinions in presentations or final papers with sound evidence. Or assigning Gertrude Stein's 925-page monster of a novel, The Making of Americans, which most academic scholars can barely get through. Our professors pushed us because they wanted us to be solid and resilient. Or, this could just have been from evil intent. Either way, we are better, stronger people because of them. The faculty and staff at St. Kate's have stood by us through thick and thin, and they will remain a support structure long after we have left.
Going forward, we are leaving most of our St. Kate's family behind. We may not stay in close contact, maybe just grabbing coffee in between busy schedules, but I believe we will continue to be there for one another. Always. And I hope that you, my St. Kate's family, will continue to push me, and I you, to go beyond the comfort zone of our home here at St. Kate's.
At the same time, my fellow graduates, I hope that we are ready to become the next generation of older siblings. To help and guide others, as we have been guided, to become the brilliant leaders and movers and shakers we need right now. I have already promised to help the St. Kate's Communication Club with professional networking in its Minute Mentoring program.
What about you? Who will you mentor, and where will you do it? Will you become a big sister or brother to a next-generation Katie? The ones who just went home for winter break, the ones who will take our place when we leave tonight. Or will you counsel a young intern at the non-profit or corporation you work at or help guide a youth group at your place of worship? The possibilities are endless when we decide to mentor others. As St. Kate's President Becky Roloff said recently, "The mission of St. Catherine University has never been more important or relevant in the world as it is today. The world demands, needs and expects our leadership."
And so we will lead!