Responding to a ‘Clarion Call Moment’:
F&ES Celebrates 115th Commencement

The 115th class in the history of F&ES includes graduates with a diversity of expertise and interests. All told, the School on Monday honored 152 Master’s graduates and 14 Ph.Ds.
Commencement 2016
Photo by Matthew Garrett

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Adrien Salazar ’16 M.E.M. felt some trepidation when he arrived at Yale a couple of years ago. A first-generation immigrant whose family lived in the remote countryside on an island in the Philippines just two generations ago, he admits that he wondered “what force of the universe” brought him to Yale. 

But then while walking the hallways of Sage Hall, where there hang the group photos of every graduating class in the history of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), he was shocked to see familiar-looking faces, including alums from his native home, smiling back at him. On difficult nights during these past two years those faces brought comfort to Salazar, he told his own graduating class during commencement on Monday.
 
They assured him that he wasn’t alone. And they offered a reminder that the School is part of a tradition of leaders who have shaped and re-shaped entire movements across the world, from Rachel Carson to Wangari Maathai to Berta Cáceres, a Honduran activist killed this spring after years battling environmental destruction in her country.
 
Some of those leaders walked through the same Sage hallways, he said, but many didn’t.

In your work I encourage you to wrestle with your own privilege, to recognize whose stories are in the room and whose stories are not, and to create space.
— Adrien Salazar ’16 M.E.M.
“We have gained a privilege to have to come through this education,” Salazar told his classmates. “In my time at this School I have grappled with this privilege. And in your work I encourage you to wrestle with your own privilege, to recognize whose stories are in the room and whose stories are not, and to create space. We fight the same fight, and we need each other.”

He added: “We live in a clarion call moment… With all of your vast talents and passions, in this moment, we need you. We need everyone.”
 
During the School’s 115th commencement, this notion that today’s environmental challenges will require many people working across a range of fields was a repeated theme. The class of 2016 indeed includes graduates with a diversity of expertise and interests. All told, the School on Monday honored 152 Master’s graduates — 6 Master of Forestry graduates, 2 Master of Forest Science, 90 Master of Environmental Management, 22 Master of Environmental Science, 32 joint degree graduates — and 14 Ph.Ds.

Video of Adrien Salazar's address

Their work covered the disciplinary spectrum, from climate and energy policy to rainforest conservation, from economics and public health to wildlife research and the pursuit of what “sustainability” truly means.
 
Their experiences at the School, F&ES Dean Peter Crane told the crowd, are the culmination of more than a century of investment in time, money, and talent by their predecessors.
 
“We owe the opportunities that we’ve enjoyed to the founders of this School, who took the long view, and understood the importance of investing in people,” he said. “In a very real sense we are the product of the accumulated influence of hundreds of faculty and countless students, selflessly given and played out over more than a century.”
 
And while each graduate now faces a critical transition in their own lives, they also enter a world undergoing its own critical transition, said Crane, celebrating his final commencement as Dean of the School. Crane, who came to Yale in 2009, will become the inaugural president of the newly created Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Virginia.
Home used to be my country. But now that we have met, grown, and shared moments together, I’m pretty sure that home is here.
— Paloma Caro Torres ’16 M.E.M.
“Transitions historically bring great leaders,” Crane told the graduates. “And it’s our greatest hope that you will be among them and that you will do great things.”

Paloma Caro Torres ’16 M.E.M., who also served as class speaker, urged her classmates to not be discouraged after they leave F&ES by those who don't understand their passions or work. “Don’t give up,” she said. “Because not everybody will understand your crazy idea of saving the oceans, or working on a wildlife conservation project. Or what even is this conservation finance thing?”
Speaking to her classmates, she recalled her fears about living with “a split heart” when she traveled from her native Chile to New Haven. But she never felt like an outsider at F&ES. Together with her classmates, she said, she grew, gained valuable experiences and knowledge — and built her confidence. “Look around,” she said. “Life is happening here!”
 
Over the years Caro has been asked frequently where she calls “home.” For a while she would respond that home was her native country. But at some point, she said, her answer changed.
 
"Home is a place where you feel comfortable, where your values are understand and respected and shared with other members of your family," she told her classmates. "Home used to be my country. But now that we have met, grown, and shared moments together, I’m pretty sure that home is here.”
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
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PUBLISHED: May 23, 2016
 

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