GOVERNOR Imran Ismail speaks at the event.—White Star
GOVERNOR Imran Ismail speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: Habib University’s first virtual convocation streamed live on YouTube and Facebook on Saturday was a chance for its third graduating class of 185 students, this year given the name ‘Trailblazers’, to relive so many experiences of unlearning and relearning and creating memories together even though they couldn’t be together in person on the momentous occasion.

Conducting of the Convocation 2020 online was a natural extension of Habib University’s proactive approach in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ever since the closure of educational institutions, Habib was one of the first to shift quickly and seamlessly on to an online learning and teaching platform, making the Class of 2020, a unique batch completing their final semester primarily online.

Those receiving Bachelor of Science degrees from the Dhanani School of Science and Engineering included 39 in Electrical Engineering and 44 in Computer Science.

The School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences awarded 45 Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degrees in Communication Studies and Design and 57 in Social Development and Policy.

Chancellor of Habib University Rafiq Mohammadali Habib declared the convocation open. In his motivational message to the graduating batch, the Chancellor, said: “You are embarking on a new journey today ... you have shown you are ready to face the new world by your commitment and the will to adapt to these uncertain circumstances and time. I am sure you will make your mark and contribute to this country and the world.”

Students asked to play their role in making the world better

The President’s Medal was awarded to Shallum Oscar David with overall highest academic achievement. Reflecting back during his valedictorian speech, he said he was proud to represent a class that had to go through so much in current troubled times when they also lost a beloved teacher (Dr Asif Aslam Farrukhi). He spoke about the high values instilled in them by the university, which will help them face the challenges ahead. “Class of 2020, we are a special class. We made it!” he said.

Congratulating the graduating students of 2020, President of Habib University Wasif Rizvi commended them on their flexibility and agility in adapting to the extraordinary circumstances during their final semester.

Calling these circumstances of the past five months “cataclysmic disruptions”, he said: “We are witnessing two historically unravelling scenarios. One is the near disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic in almost every part of the world, and the other is the push back against this toxic racism, which in part has been brought to force by this health crisis. However,” he said, “we strongly anticipate that Habib University’s education, and more importantly, Habib University’s community values of compassion and empathy have enabled you to engage and navigate these challenges as you step out,” he said.

He remembered the university’s stalwarts, the late Ali Habib and Dr Asif Aslam Farrukhi, who also left this year and paid rich tributes to both.

He highlighted the issues that have come forth during these past few months such as resisting wearing masks, spread of fake news, etc. Addressing his graduating class, he said that they have the fine education and thinking mind to breeze through all such challenges. “Always reflect on what you have been taught here. Cure your cynicism with passion and ikhlaas; challenge the ugliness and destruction with grace and beauty. Address laziness, indifference and incompetence with ehsan that is vigour and excellence and tackle exploitation and avarice with ehsaan that is goodness and service. The future is yours to shape. We will always be your cheerleaders,” he said.

The commencement speaker, renowned oncologist, researcher and author Dr Azra Raza congratulated the graduating students. “I won’t tell you that the real work starts now. The real work is ongoing,” she said.

She spoke about success that comes from feeling good about oneself and finding inner peace. She also talked about having confidence to make good decisions. “Good judgment, most of us like to think, is based on studying data. But snap judgement is based on past knowledge. Still, what do you do when thinking fast is not giving you the correct answer?” She asked.

“If you are too lazy to think and make decisions based on data, it’s how you make bad decisions,” she said. “You can improve on your making good choices by taking into account feelings, biases, the entire dynamics of living a life. And the only way to know the art of decision making is to promise yourself to live life to the full,” she said.

“Study diverse subjects, read books to enter the unknown worlds of their authors, build your knowledge base every single day. Meet new people, especially those who come from different worlds. Learn from their experiences because real peace comes from opening your hearts to everything. You cannot be a great engineer, doctor, artist, social worker, etc, without knowing empathy,” she advised. “Face challenges again and again even if you fail again and again,” she added.

Finally, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail congratulated the students and said that he had attended many convocations where he had always been pleasantly surprised to find 70 per cent of the students and high achievers being girls. “I wish this system of them then sitting at home after getting married changes to handle their domestic responsibilities would change. It is sad to throw away one’s dreams like that,” he said.

He also said that educated youth can find much success in their own country now. “In Pakistan, 40 per cent of graduates think of moving to greener pastures, which they think can only be by going abroad. There may be several success stories abroad, too, but here also you now have opportunity knocking at your door. It is up to you to recognise and accept this opportunity. This is the first time that Imran Khan’s government is giving you the opportunity and support to build on your ideas to benefit your nation. So you can follow your dreams in your own motherland,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2020

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