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Psychology Grad: ‘Learning Is Not a Perfect Process’

College of Humanities and Social Sciences Student Commencement Speech
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Vanessa Barragan, B.A. psychology

Six weeks ago, I almost lost my mom and I realized two things: the first is that I do not spend a lot of my time with people that I love, and the second is that I had not participated in hot girl summer (for those of you that don’t know what hot girl summer is, it’s basically a summer full of fun with your girlfriends).

I know what you are thinking: What does hot girl summer have do with anything? I must feel so accomplished. I am here speaking to you today. I got into grad school, but I did all of this by sacrificing leisure time with people that I love. As I looked at my mom laying there, I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I said no to going out or taking a weekend off to relax. This experience made me reflect on how I was living: How did I become so engulfed in my work that the thought of putting it down freaked me out?

Vanessa Barragan poses with decorated grad cap that reads "Si se Pudo"
Class of 2022 graduate Vanessa Barragan

When I was younger, I was notorious for asking the question “why?” One day, one of my frustrated teachers said to me, “School is a game, and you need to learn how to play it in order to succeed.” I did not know what she meant by this, but after that conversation I excelled in my courses.

On paper, that sounds great! But the reality is that, at that time, I was so hung up on school that I was not excelling in my education. I was obsessed with not failing and with the idea of being perfect, that I learned to ace courses rather than to think critically. As I grew up here at CSUF, I slowly learned how muddied my idea of education was. I found it difficult to have critical conversations about anything. I was a robot trained to play the game that was school. Most of us hear this all the time: “Go to school to get a better job and to get paid more.” But the problem with this is that for most of the previous century, education was not about making money. It was about learning things and thinking critically.

As I immersed myself in philosophy courses, I faced the scary reality that the meaning of education is changing to very money focused rather than nurturing intellect and curiosity. The very idea of schooling is becoming a statistic to enroll and graduate as many students as possible.

I am not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I have two suggestions. Dr. (Rick) Rigsby once said, “Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity.” With that said, accept when you are wrong, learn from your mistakes, and when you fail so bad that you question your ability, remember that learning is not a perfect process, but rather an opportunity to think critically and to improve your skills.

Finally, value and spend time with the people that you care about. Give your loved ones an extra tight hug today, because they will not be here forever.

I will close now by challenging you all to not be afraid of rejection or failure, because oftentimes these two result in stable building ground.

Gracias Mama y Papa y familia, los amo!

Congratulations, Class of 2022. I’m off to my first hot girl summer!