Photos: Jim Young/College of Engineering (top row) and UIC Creative and Digital Services
Weaving narratives about Chicago’s history with a light influence of R&B and old-school hip-hop flow, Chicago businesswoman Andrea Zopp encouraged students at the UIC Graduate College ceremony Dec. 14 to contribute to the continued transformation of Chicago.
“I want you to know that Chicago needs you,” said Zopp, president and CEO of World Business Chicago. “We need your talent, your commitment and your engagement. You are the key to what makes this city great and to what has helped us become a leading global city.”
Zopp cited facts about the city’s economy to make her case.
“I know that when you stay and continue to contribute to this city that working together, we can, and we will, build on our history of innovation and reinvention and bring transformational change to our neighborhoods and residents,” she said. “And when we do so — not if, but when we do so — we will be not only a leading global city, but the leading global city, because ‘Chicago’s got it going on.’”
Thousands of family members and friends attended the two ceremonies at Credit Union 1 Arena, where UIC honored an estimated 2,900 students who earned degrees.
Reflecting on his experiences as a student and athlete, Major League Baseball outfielder Curtis Granderson said he drew inspiration from his UIC coach.
“My head coach, Mike Dee, gave me some very important words, which I still live by today,” said Granderson, philanthropist and UIC Business alumnus. “He told me, ‘You’ve been studying, you’ve been practicing, and you’ve been doing everything you need to do as a student. You’ve built that trust in yourself. So don’t overthink it. Have fun.’”
Granderson said he used those words when he was playing baseball at UIC.
He wrote it underneath his baseball cap as a reminder, even today, to have
trust in himself before he steps onto the field.
In his closing remarks, Granderson reminded the undergraduates: “You come from one of the most diverse universities in the college system. You’ll be ready when you walk outside these doors. You’re part of an amazing legacy of this awesome university.”
Amy Renguso, a graduating Master of Arts in Teaching of Spanish student from Schaumburg, said she will remember the relationships built and the camaraderie at UIC.
“Everyone has worked so hard to get here,” she said. What I’m most looking forward to is celebrating with everyone else.”
Stanley Eneogwe, a graduating Master of Science in Health Informatics student from Chicago, said he felt inspired by the event.
“I wanted my friends and family to see that it is possible, with a little bit of hard work, you can achieve a lot of things,” he said. “I value education. I always wanted to be educated and to be spoken about highly when people discuss my name.”
Destini Hall, a graduating Bachelor of Arts with a Major in English student from Chicago’s West Side, said she appreciated how UIC helped and guided her as a first-generation college student.
“I’m getting to walk the steps they [my parents] could not walk,” she said. “I’m doing this for them and anybody else who did not have the chance to do this.”