USM Graduation 2007: A Soul-Centered Ceremony Filled with Joy and Celebration!
Here We Are Again!
The University of Santa Monica held its 26th graduation ceremony on Sunday, August 26, 2007, with 198 graduating students receiving their Master's degrees in Spiritual Psychology and Counseling Psychology on this glorious summer day.
“We love this time of year," shared Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, President and Chief Academic Officer of the University. "USM's Graduation ceremony is a joyful, Spirit-filled celebration of the students' remarkable educational achievements. We love seeing the hall overflowing with friends and family members, as well as those individuals who support the University by attending this celebration in acknowledgment of the graduates. The beauty and dignity of the event is only surpassed by the levels of joy and heartfelt gratitude that the students express.”
Royce Hall, located on the UCLA campus, was the venue for the graduation ceremony, and the 1,850-seat hall was filled to capacity with graduates, faculty, trustees, students, graduates, volunteers, and honored guests. In other words, in the USM community, this was the most important place to be in this particular time, and the blessings of being present for this event were showered upon us all.
Faculty member Dr. Sherry Phelan welcomed the audience with opening remarks from the podium, and the soon-to-be graduates glided gracefully into the auditorium to the majestic strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" played on the hall's massive pipe organ by graduate Estelle Day (Class of 1987).
The Presence of Spirit
Candace Wheeler, Class of 1994, sang an exquisite song titled, "Spirit," as the invocation. Accompanied by Chris Hardin on the piano and who provided vocal harmony, Candace's sweet notes came straight from her heart and into that of each listener. Her evocative lyrics brought present the feeling of oneness with, and the availability of, Spirit in our daily lives: "I breathe you in like the air . . . you're everywhere.”
The ceremony continued as Sherry Phelan returned to the podium to welcome USM's President Dr. Ron Hulnick to the stage. "Ronald Hulnick is beloved by students and graduates alike. I know of no one who does this work with more love, more integrity, more Soul, and more humor than Dr. Hulnick. He is a magician in the classroom as well as at the Magic Castle."
After enthusiastic applause from the audience, Dr. Hulnick began his remarks by acknowledging USM's Board of Trustees and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, John Morton. "Although he is not able to physically be present with us this afternoon, I especially want to acknowledge the man who has made all of this possible, our Chancellor and Founder, John-Roger."
A Message of Peace
"God, Spirit, compassion, love, peace—all of these are present, right now, in infinite supply. On the other hand, one of the properties of hostility is that it is finite. There is a beginning and an end to it. As such, hostility is contained within the fields of compassion, love, and peace. Peace is the reality that is waiting to be revealed as we learn to choose it.
"In any moment, it is within our power to choose between hostility and compassion, between withholding and expressions of loving. Instead of hoarding, we can choose to share. We can either choose to judge someone or ourselves, blaming and condemning, or we can move into acceptance and forgiveness."
Dr. Hulnick used a story to illustrate the way choice works: "Inside of each man are two wolves who are fighting each other for dominance. One is the wolf of peace, and one is the wolf of conflict and war. We have the choice when we decide which wolf we will feed." He asked, "Which wolf will we feed?"
USM has taken its teachings from the classroom into the Women's State Prison in Chowchilla, California. Ron shared with the audience more about how this work has been making a contribution to raising the sum total of peace on the planet. "What we have called the 'Prison Project' has been going on for about seven years. A group of graduate volunteers has come forward each time to travel to the prison and offer the workshop 'Freedom to Choose' to inmates over the course of a weekend. The name and approach used in the workshop comes from the principles and tools of Spiritual Psychology as taught at USM and from the work of Viktor Frankel, world-renowned psychologist and author.
"Frankel says it like this: 'Between stimulus and response there is a space . . . In the space is our freedom to choose.' Inmates in the prison system are living with the consequences of choices that they have made. The impact that the USM Prison Project has had upon the prison population has been remarkable. The women who are involved in the workshops are now learning to claim that space for themselves, to create choices that have an affirming, positive effect on their lives, rather than continuing to make negative choices out of reaction. I say, if we can do this work there, we can do it anywhere in the world where there is a need for peace."
Dr. Hulnick concluded his remarks to the graduates in the form of a challenge: "Dare to be a bringer of peace wherever you go. Demonstrate your peace in the world. And always start with your name, and do your homework early!!!"
The Degrees Are Granted
Following this thought-provoking and inspirational address, Dr. Hulnick welcomed his wife and the University's Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Mary Hulnick, to the stage. As she beamed a radiant smile to the graduates and guests in the auditorium, Dr. Hulnick spoke about the Spiritual Psychology Programs and commented that this year's class was noted for the tremendous loving and support that they have given each other throughout the two years of the Master's Program.
Speaking to the graduates with loving reverence, she shared, "This is a celebration of you and your Soul-Centered education at the University of Santa Monica. The Founder, John-Roger, said, 'When you get a degree from the University of Santa Monica, it won't be that you just passed a prescribed line of curriculum, it will be because you can do what the degree says you can do, 'and you have all demonstrated that! You truly know what that means and all of you have certainly earned your place in this auditorium today!"
Master of Arts Degrees in Spiritual Psychology were conferred upon 160 students, with 17 more receiving Certificates of Completion in Spiritual Psychology. Those receiving Master of Arts degrees in Counseling Psychology numbered 21. Master's Degree recipients were honored with the traditional hooding ceremony after which they received their degrees and stepped to the front of the stage to move their tassel from left to right, signaling that they were moving from the realm of "student" to "graduate."
After the 198 graduates of 2007 received their certificates and degrees, there were special awards given to the Students of the Year, Angels of the Year, and Ambassador of the Year. Next, Dr. Jean Houston took the stage to deliver her address to the graduates.
A powerful and dynamic speaker, Dr. Houston's ability to inspire and invigorate people enables her to communicate her vision—the evolution in consciousness as the finest possible achievement of the individual potential, or what she refers to in her work as the "possible human."
USM's Glorious Graduates
"Glorious Graduates" is how Dr. Jean Houston began her warm, passionate, often funny, and certainly inspirational talk to the 2007 graduates and guests. She has authored 26 published books, "I've actually written over 200 unpublished books," she quipped to the audience in her opening remarks as an example of her down-to-earth sense of humor. Her comment, "In all the many graduation ceremonies I've attended, I've never seen a class like this, "received uproarious applause and vigorous head nods from the group.
Dr. Houston affectionately addressed the crowd as "Morris" after regaling them with the story of Mrs. Rosen who went to visit the visionary spiritual leader, who turned out to be her son. It was very funny, and quite engaging. Jean Houston's talent as a storyteller and speaker are legendary, and she used the hour spent on the Royce Hall stage inspiring the audience to answer the call to service.
"Peace Should Be Sexy"
Picking up on the thread of Dr. Hulnick's remarks about the infinite qualities of peace and compassion, Dr. Houston embellished upon this saying, "Peace should be sexy. When peace works, it is rejuvenating, regenerative, juicy. It is the entelechy of the species."
In the past three years she has been working with the United Nations Development Program training leaders in developing countries throughout the world in the new field of social artistry. She spoke about what she means by the term "Social Artist" by remarking to the USM graduates, "You have been uniquely trained as the Social Artists of the future. You know how to counsel people, to help them open up to the larger story of their lives. What is needed in our society is to grow our archetypes—and this is a job for you, the Spiritual Psychologist. Every one of you is highly creative. You have an incredible availability to each other. We need to partner with each other in this work of radical empathy."
She further challenged the graduates by saying, "Now is the time when peace can be achieved—it's time to press the reset button of history. Your role is to help the cultures of the world to evolve to the paradigm of sharing and partnership. The world can only survive if we all grow. You have demonstrated that you know how to do this. I urge you to do it."
Mortonette Jenkins, "that angel of song" as Ron Hulnick introduced her, closed the ceremony with a powerful, stirring, and exquisite rendition of the song, "You Raise Me Up."
The End of a Beautiful Day
At the conclusion of the ceremony, grads and their families mingled on the patio where light refreshments were served. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day.
Now that the Class of 2007 is venturing out into the world, they have been encouraged to live their lives by demonstrating the ultimate competency of a USM Graduate: an unconditionaly loving consciousness. To assist them in doing this, graduates are also encouraged to stay connected with the University. Many of them have already committed to USM's Continuing Education Program, Service: A Path with Heart, and will be serving as volunteer Readers and Assistants in the upcoming year to support the students who are following in their footsteps.
It is certain that graduates of the University of Santa Monica's Programs in Spiritual Psychology, as delivered through the unique method of Soul-Centered education, will be making a powerful contribution as loving, divine beings committed to the establishment of peace, first and foremost within themselves. Then they can turn to share this peace and loving with the world.
Congratulations Class of 2007—YOU ARE THIS UNIVERSITY OF SANTA MONICA! We love, honor, and bless you!