Alexis Calma received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History in June 2021. She was the Division of Art History's undergraduate speaker for the School's virtual Graduation Celebration 2021. Below is the text of her speech.
Hello everyone. I’m Alexis Calma, and I just want to start off by saying congratulations to my fellow graduates from the School of Art + Art History + Design. Learning alongside you has taught me so much, especially in this past year. The most important thing I’ve learned is that the arts can bring us together even while we are so far apart. Despite the obstacles of virtual learning, you have continued to persevere and redefine what it means to be a community. Our graduation today is a testament to all your hard work and dedication not only to the arts, but to each other as well. As you move on to the next chapter of your life, wherever it may take you, remember to bring that resilience with you, and I know it will serve you well.
Next, I’d like to thank all the staff and faculty. I know I speak for many of the graduates when I say that you have been instrumental in shaping and making the most of our UW experience. I especially want to thank Professor Marek Wieczorek and the advising team. Professor Wieczorek, thank you for your patience and reminding me to keep challenging myself, not only while writing research papers but in life as well. The advising team, thank you for your guidance and opening my eyes to opportunities I could only experience as a UW student. I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to meet and work with all of you.
My time at UW has always been guided by the same question: “Where do we go from here?” I’m a huge planner, so when I arrived on campus as a freshman, I had all four years scheduled down to the classes I’d be taking each quarter. I planned on majoring in biology and eventually going on to apply for medical school to become a pharmacist. However, as with many plans, that got derailed immediately. In the spring quarter of my freshman year, I found myself taking a class on Victorian Art. I didn’t think much of it at the time as I had always enjoyed the arts, and I figured it would be a nice break from my chemistry and biology classes. As the quarter went on, I became more invested in the analysis of art, the different cultures represented, and points of view spanning thousands of years visually. In the end, I couldn’t imagine another quarter without an art history class. It was then that I realized the potential for my love of the arts outside of just enjoyment, that I could create a career path where I engage with the paintings, sculptures, and frescos I had always had an interest in. Once I had that realization, I knew that it was time for a new plan. As afraid as I was to abandon the plan I had been constructing since middle school, I was also more excited than I had ever been. The choice opened so many opportunities for me such as studying abroad in Italy and becoming an editor of Bricolage, UW’s literary and visual arts journal. Looking back, I don’t regret restarting from scratch.
“Where do we go from here?” In 2020, I was too afraid to ask. I was afraid that the answer would be an increase in COVID cases, more news on injustice, and the continuation of exploitation for capitalistic gain. How could I plan for the future when the present was so uncertain? I got my answer in the form of the UW community, the coming together of students, staff, and faculty to push forward and to continue to reach out towards one another despite the physical distance. With every Zoom class and every Canvas discussion, you reminded me how important it was to keeping making strides towards the finish line, to stay hopeful, and to keep looking towards the future.
Once again, congratulations to my fellow graduates from the School of Art + Art History + Design. I know this is not the graduation any of us planned for. Even so, this graduating class has come out more resilient and more hopeful than any class before. As we cross this threshold, I want to remind you to keep looking towards the future and let your creativity and brilliance guide you. The future may be uncertain, but I know you can process, learn from, and overcome any hardship just as you have done this past year. Now, “Where do we go from here?” I can’t wait to find out.