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UB Imprint Vol 62: UB Matriculation Ceremony: Keynote Address delivered by Hon. Tracy Taegar-Panton at the Belmopan CampusI am quite honored to be here with you this afternoon as we celebrate this milestone event in your academic, professional and personal development. It is a Rite of Passage as you seek to better equip yourselves to meet both our national development needs as well as the global challenges facing the world in which we live. You are the future leaders of this our beloved land; you are our nation builders; you are the caretakers of the next generation, you our innovators and visionaries of tomorrow, I congratulate you for making this important decision to seek higher learning. It is your individual and collective intellect, experience, ingenuity and knowledge that that will help to shape a new world order and will design the society we hope to become.
It is my privilege, then, to formerly welcome you to the University of Belize, our National Institution. This institution is tasked with providing you with a safe place as you challenge yourselves, and each other, to think outside of the box; to dissect preconceived notions; to examine new ideas and concepts; explore strategic new partnerships as you actively pursue programs at the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Education & Arts, the Faculty of Management and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Technology and Professional Development. You are among the most privileged in our young democracy. Hinged to this access to tertiary education is also a greater responsibility for yourselves, your families, your communities. The old-aged adage that to whom much is given, much is expected is a truism that requires that we bring your individual beliefs, talents, skills, abilities, hopes and aspirations to this institution. An institution whose mandate it is to foster sustainable development by investing in our most valuable resource: our people.
This university has attracted some great minds and has become a vital player in Belize’s national development agenda. As I understand it there are some 5,000 students registered here from all walks of life. The week of orientation is purposefully designed to afford you the opportunity to interact with the wider university community. Listen keenly to stories of those who will be sharing this journey with you. Your peers will serve as a vital reference point to your individual story. You will also learn from their experiences. These experiences will prove to be beneficial, as a part of your learning and as you transition careers of choice. It is therefore an IMPERATIVE to maintain an open mind and an open heart. You have a DUTY to glean, as much as you can, from the knowledge and expertise of your professors just as you have a sacred RESPONSIBILITY to add value to the UB experience by bringing your total self, your best self if you will, to this undertaking.
This path which you officially start today will require a great deal of commitment, discipline, perseverance, sheer grit and extra doses of personal resolve. It is not an easy undertaking but I can promise you this, that your time here at our National University will help to strengthen your character; will afford you the opportunity to explore differing ideologies; will nurture in you a new renewed respect and understanding of our rich, cultural diversity; will instill in you shared values; will help you to forge friendships that will be invaluable to you in every aspect of your life. It will be rich and rewarding and far more than having a command on the subject areas that you will be pursuing.
You are entering a good institution, one that we should all regard with a great deal of national pride. I say this because the Faculty and Staff continue to add programs that are relevant to our national development. Just about two years ago we witnessed the launch of the University’s first MBA Program. The University’s commitment to offering more to its student community is also reflected in the addition of the new Master in Educational Leadership Program which started in January of this year.
Via a Memorandum of Understanding signed with BELTRAIDE, the University Is embarking on initiatives to institute a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as programs that supports the successful engagement of Small-and Medium Enterprises because it inherently understands the need to nurture a business culture where you can take ownership of Belize’s future prosperity.
There is access to the Regional Language Center and the Environmental Research Institute. The University also offers a range of extracurricular activities designed by to provide its community (students and staff) an environment where one’s holistic development can be kept in sharp focus.
So I wish to encourage each of you to Lean In. Lean, ALL THE WAY IN, as you embrace this exciting intellectual adventure. Take the quantum leap. Challenge the status quo. Ask the critical questions. Test the preconceived notions about what may serve us best as developing society. You have an OBLIGATION to seriously examine the concerns facing Belize’s sustainable development as well as the solutions proposed to address some of the sensitive issues that test the core of the norms and beliefs of which we have grown accustomed. As an academic that has skin in the game, you are EXPECTED to get involve not only in the good governance of the University but also in the national discourse that lend your voices to the good governance of your country.
It is my view that true learning comes from breaking the proverbial mold. It is not your job to simply confirm to what is but rather to put forward novel solutions that will address some of the wicked problems we experienced both here at home and as global citizens. Wicked problems such as: global warming, migration, crime, poverty and political instability; we carefully considered fiscal models that will support the best interests of Belize’s long term growth and future economic viability.
It was our Father of the Nation, the Right Honorable George Cadle Price that suggested that the work of nation building was a job for giants. I contend that it is a job for all of us. Let us never underestimate the difference we can each make for the good of our society and for the good of humanity. Education is vital to providing opportunities for our citizenry and to changing the trajectory of our socio-economic reality in a dynamic, rapidly changing global context. Much effort and sweat equity have been expended to ensure that our national university is well poised to produce citizens who are self-confident, analytical, ethical, entrepreneurial, socially & ecological responsible and whom are skilled communicators to enrich our society as a whole.
I encourage you to have FUN as you navigate this new chapter of your lives. Remain steadfast in your passion for a well-rounded education. And when this Chapter is done I implore you to become Ambassadors for the University of Belize. As you stand on this threshold my prayer is that you will each travel hopefully and that the journey will lead you to the fullness of all your dreams. I pray that the discipline of learning will be a continuous process long after you have successfully completed your academic program of choice. I firmly believe in the wisdom of Nelson Mandela that asserts that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world; and, if I may add, and to improve conditions and the quality of life for all Belizeans.
May God the Father guard and protect you on this journey. May He guide your steps and inspire your decision making. May He give you the strength and courage to answer the call of Nation Building. May He always bestow His richest blessings on University of Belize.
I Thank You.