1,200 graduate at UG’s 37th Convocation By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
November 9, 2003

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UNITED States Ambassador to Guyana Mr. Roland Bullen yesterday urged graduands of the University of Guyana (UG) to reflect on and learn from both their successes and failures as they move ahead with their lives.

More than 1,200 students graduated from the institution at an august Convocation ceremony last evening. The Convocation is traditionally held open-air on the University’s Turkeyen Campus, East Coast Demerara.

Ambassador Bullen, who was the guest speaker at the ceremony, advised the graduands to “take some time to celebrate with your family and friends your accomplishments, and keep in mind that you are the most valuable assets that this country has”.

He noted that this year’s Convocation is an especially momentous occasion since the University of Guyana is celebrating its 40th anniversary. “As has been stated innumerable times before, universities provide the intellectual infrastructure for any nation, and the University of Guyana is no exception,” Ambassador Bullen said.

“From its humble beginnings in 1963 when 164 students began their educational journeys, to today where the University is 5,000 students- strong, it has stayed true to its mission, and continues to produce Guyana’s best and brightest,” he said.

“I join with others in congratulating the University and its community on achieving this important milestone,” the US Ambassador stated.

“The University is, without a doubt, an important mechanism driving progress both here in Guyana and in the world abroad, (and) I am heartened to see the University continues to foster relations with other international organisations and universities in the U.S,” Ambassador Bullen said.

He noted that he recently received word from the Office of the President that the University has signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC to continue their joint biodiversity programme.

The Ambassador also indicated that an exchange programme with the Florida Gulf Coast University will foster faculty and student exchanges between the two institutions and that it is these types of relationships that will continue to promote the University’s prominence and connection to the world community.

Ambassador Bullen also noted that the theme of the 40th anniversary, ‘A Time to Reconnect’, is especially fitting given the talented Guyanese Diaspora located beyond Guyana’s borders. The US envoy recalled that when he was sworn in as Ambassador to Guyana in Washington, DC last July, he pointed out that it is the Guyanese entrepreneurial ingenuity and spirit both here and abroad, that would be a key ingredient to national development.

“The challenges that lie ahead for Guyana are many and there is much uncertainty. But I take comfort when I look around and see the many prominent alumni the University has produced, who are working diligently to build a stable, democratic and prosperous Guyana,” Ambassador Bullen asserted.

Pointing out that one of the most important qualities of a good leader is the capacity to deal constructively with setbacks and failures, Ambassador Bullen said the great romantic poet, John Keats, probably said it best: “Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, in as much as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.”

Mr. Bullen recognised that Keats was no stranger to failure since most critics dismissed him as a middle-class interloper. “He had no advantages of birth, wealth or education. He lost his parents in childhood, watched one brother die of tuberculosis and the other migrate to America. Poverty kept him from marrying the woman he loved, and he achieved lasting fame only after his early death in 1821,” the US Ambassador recounted.

According to him, “lessons learned from our failures help us to rebound and are our roadmaps to carrying out good leadership”.

Among those receiving prizes and medals yesterday were Rafael Abdulla, who received the President’s Medal for the Best Graduating Bachelor’s Degree Student (Technology); Romona Bennett, who received the Chancellor’s Medal for the Second Best Graduating Bachelor’s Degree Student (Arts); Robert Bourne, who received the Council of the University Prize for the graduating student who has attained at least a ‘Pass with Credit’ and has made the greatest contribution in other areas of University activities; Alana Brassington, who received the University of Guyana UGSS Awards for the graduating student (other than the winner of the Council’s prize) who has attained at least a `Pass with Credit’ and has made an outstanding contribution in other areas of University activities. There were also several faculty awards and prizes.

Recently appointed Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Dr. Prem Misir, handed out the scrolls to the graduands and indicated to them that he was honoured to have done so. He also wished them all the very best in the future.

The aims of the University of Guyana are to discover, generate, disseminate and apply knowledge of the highest standard for the service of the community, the nation and of all mankind within an atmosphere of academic freedom that allows for free and critical enquiry.