September 6, 2018

Flame Shines Brighter: CGU Welcomes Hundreds At Student Orientation

New faces: The morning program for New Student Orientation was followed by a campus fair. Credit: John Valenzuela

“All of you are capable of transcendence:” That was the powerful message of keynote speaker Synthia Laura Molina (MBA, 1989) at this year’s new student orientation, which was held in late August on a bright Friday morning on the lawn north of the Honnold/Mudd Library.

“By sharing our disciplines and recognizing the genius in our professors, and by recognizing our own differences, we develop the ability to be warriors,” she told a packed audience.  “The world has problems that we need to solve. We must become warriors of transcendence.”

The recipients of Molina’s stirring keynote address — titled “CGU, Convergence, and the Quest for Conscience, Creativity, and Contribution”– were some 300 new master’s and doctoral students.

CGU President Len Jessup also warmly greeted the new students, thanking them for choosing CGU and reminding them to take advantage of the opportunities connected with the university’s proximity to Los Angeles, “one of the 60 global cities that run the world … L.A. is our playground.”

Emceed by the dapper Andrew Vosko, director of Transdisciplinary Studies, the orientation program featured Career Services Director Christine Kelly and other members of the school’s student services, who provided guidance and information concerning the many facets of graduate school life.

Another orientation highlight was “Ignite the Flame” — an initiation ceremony, led by Provost Patricia Easton, in which students pinned each other with a lapel pin bearing the flame, a symbol of CGU since the university’s founding.

“Ignite the Flame”: The pinning ceremony featured lapel pins with the CGU flame image.

Judging by social media response, though, Molina’s keynote was perhaps the highest of highlights.

Responses on the university’s LinkedIn account range from “great and inspiring” to “one of the best keynotes I’ve ever heard.”

Molina spoke elegantly, and sometimes very candidly, about her graduate school lessons at CGU.

“I wish I could say I was enlightened when I got here, but I was a misguided jerk,” she said, describing her upbringing.  “I wanted money because I was very poor growing up. I wanted power because there had been so much violence in my home. I wanted a big job because I didn’t want to have to answer to anyone anymore.”

But what saved her at CGU, and what would guide her as a top consultant and strategist to major companies in the health, education, and social services sectors, was the powerful moral impact of her professors, the administrators, and the diversity of the student body.

“I had the most extraordinary experience here; it was not like UC Berkeley where I had 1,200 students in my introductory chemistry class,” she said.  “The administrators here asked questions and wanted to help. They cared, and I had this odd sensation that I had found a family. It was incredible.”

Inspiring words: Keynote speaker Synthia Molina (MBA, 1989).

She also made the audience laugh with her reminiscences of Drucker Professor Jay Prag’s salty language and how Peter Drucker, holding a donut and sitting on a tabletop in Albrecht Auditorium, would take his lectures “in a million transdisciplinary directions and, at the end of our three hours, he still brought it all together. It was amazing. He showed me that all decisions are moral and political.”

Take every challenge as an opportunity, she advised the students.

She described her great irritation at being forced to take a two-credit marketing course taught by Lance Masters in order to have enough credits to graduate. When she finished the course, though, she was grateful:  The content of that class, she told them, “turned out to be what I use in my job even now.”

Embrace differences, she also advised them.  She described her own CGU friendships with people from completely opposite socio-cultural-religious backgrounds.

“What’s important is the richness of experience that comes from both directions,” she said. “Whether you’re struggling or not, a part of the power of CGU is developing the compassion to understand people who come from another realm.”