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Message to Class of 2020 Graduates from Provost Stacey Robertson

Message sent to SUNY Geneseo seniors on May 13, 2020

Dear seniors,

You are giants. Do not underestimate or undervalue what you have achieved.

COVID-19 arrived quickly, like a storm, and you responded with determination. The strength of the disruption was frightening and unexpected. Some of you encountered challenging situations in your home communities and among families and friends. Illness, unemployment, and uncertainty became the backdrops of your new educational environment. Feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and loneliness seemed overwhelming at times.

But soon we began to rebuild our community. What seemed impossible became achievable. Perhaps a caring professor reached out personally to check in on you. You created virtual study groups and began reconnecting with other students. You sought help through online tutors and peer mentors. You began chatting with friends and family through FaceTime, GoogleMeet, Zoom, Houseparty, Discord, and other avenues of virtual communication. Perhaps you finally became comfortable studying amidst the chaos of home life, or the quiet of a solitary apartment. You managed to complete that group project, essay, lab, internship, research assignment, or volunteer commitment. You took your last online quiz. You felt satisfaction and pride.

The lessons of this semester intensified and changed for all of us with COVID-19. You will find the skills and values of a liberal arts education are life-changing. But even as you celebrate the awe-inspiring accomplishment of earning a Geneseo degree, there is much more to honor. 

You learned to pivot. You had to adjust everything in a matter of days—from how you studied to where you lived. Sudden change is incredibly difficult. Do not underestimate the skill of thoughtful adjustment to unexpected encounters.

You learned resiliency. You bolstered your ability to fall and rise again. This lesson will prove invaluable throughout your life. The world is different. Your post-graduation plans may have changed. Uncertainty is now a certainty. Resiliency will sustain you as you head down new and unexpected paths.

Perhaps most important, you learned to appreciate vulnerability. This pandemic has made us all feel, at times, exposed and helpless. You learned that vulnerability is a strength because it allows us to meet our worst fears and know that we will endure. It gives us permission to be our authentic selves—frailties and fears laid bare—and know that we are accepted by our true community. Always embrace and welcome vulnerability.

I hope that you will take the opportunity to join us in a virtual celebration of all that you have achieved this semester. Your friends and family have united with the entire Geneseo community, including our passionate alumni, to wish you well through a series of videos. These heartfelt messages will leave you feeling appreciated, inspired, and energized. Please join us on May 16 at 10 a.m. to pay tribute to all that you have accomplished.

Do not forget, you are giants.

Be well and stay in touch.

All my best,


Stacey Robertson, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs