The 2018 class of Adler University Vancouver Campus students graduated on October 13. It was the largest class in the campus’ history and included the first cohort of graduates of the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology program in Vancouver. At the commencement ceremony, Psy.D. program graduate Angie Ji reflected on her experience at Adler and on the sense of community that she felt in the classrooms, on campus, in her practicum, and among her peers and faculty. She shared her speech with us, which explores how this focus on community enhanced her learning and encourages her fellow graduates to continue on Alfred Adler’s mission of community building in their work ahead.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered today on the traditional unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples: the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam First Nations.
I’m honoured to be speaking to you on behalf of the largest graduating class of Adler University Vancouver’s history. Thank you President Crossman, Chair MacPhail, Executive Dean O’Hara, Distinguished Faculty and Board Members, and of course, proud family, and loved ones, for celebrating with us.
My fellow students, as we are all aware, we did not arrive at this point on our own. We have been supported and guided by those around us. As students of Adler University, we’ve had the privilege of learning in a place where the importance of community has been imparted to us from day one.
Alfred Adler contended that only on the basis of community feeling can our full capabilities be realized. Study after study has shown that communities thrive when individuals act in socially interested ways.
I don’t think it’s by chance that the word ‘community’ is mentioned on each program’s description page on the Adler University website. For the curious, it’s six times on the welcome page, 12 times on the mission page. Trust me, I counted.
Each of us, in our own way, has gone through the process of developing community feeling. Whether through reading, reflection, or having our biases challenged, our perceptions of the world changed for the better.
We felt community in our classrooms. Having developed trust with one another, we could have fiery debates on issues of diversity and social responsibility. We could disagree with each other and still be a part of the community.
On campus, we formed communities. Crossing paths, we got to know each other outside of our respective programs. We joined in on art therapy events and collaborated on counselling and supervision projects. Some of us participated in various committees, volunteering our time to make campus life even better for our fellow students. Friendships bound to continue past graduation were formed. These connections made our campus feel safe and healthy. As a result, we could enjoy and look forward to coming to school. Community feeling enhanced our learning.
Going out to practicum placements we understood how important bringing community feeling was to our practice because we had all felt it before. This meant that we could get excited about sharing with our colleagues the times where we were successful in such attempts.
Some of us left our communities to live in others during our training. Just last year, the Vancouver campus sent the first PsyD cohort out on their internships. Some trekked across the country, a few made it across the US-Canada border, and others stayed home. Our sense of community with one another was tested by distance and separation. Fortunately, community feeling, through phone calls, emails, texts, and Skype chats, kept us connected.
The importance of what Adler called ‘community feeling’ can even save lives. A colleague from my internship, located in a small community, shared a story with me I would like to share with you, as an example. She told me about a man who had suddenly collapsed in a grocery store. As concerned bystanders began to gather, a friend of a friend who knew the man was able to relay critical medical information to the attending paramedics that would enable them to sustain his life until his eventual recovery. This man was known; he was part of a community.
Adler graduates, how fortunate it is to understand what community feeling means. Such a privileged gift is meant to be shared and translated into action. Through community feeling, we become community builders.
We cannot be community builders however, if we cannot be trusted to use that gift in a pro-social way. Individuals who use their knowledge to oppress are not trusted. We see this today and we have seen it before, where those with privileged knowledge and power, to our great distress, use their entrusted positions to perpetuate discrimination and intolerance.
As Adler graduates, we will leave today with titles that reflect our hard work and perseverance. We will likely move into new titles, positions, and potentially greater responsibilities. It is likely that people will speak to and treat us differently: with privilege. To my nine doctoral fellows especially, our titles will give us the power to change the course of a person’s life by the issuance of a few words. What to do with such privilege and power?
Through our training our minds have been forged and our skills tempered. Equipped with these gifts, we must act with great care, integrity, and compassion. As community builders, we must be courageous. And, we must help each other be courageous. Together, our actions, no matter how small they may at first seem, imbued with community feeling, can make a positive, powerful, and lasting difference.
In 1933, Alfred Adler expressed his hope that future generations would possess community feeing and “activate it like breathing”.¹ 85 years later, we’re still learning to breathe.
Graduates of 2018, we are capable and we are ready. Let us take a deep breath in preparation for the journey ahead, and continue to serve others in the spirit of community feeling.
Congratulations, and thank you.
¹Adler, A. (1933). “On the origin of the striving for superiority and of social interest”, as cited on p. 54 in: Watts, R. E. (2012). On the origin of the striving for superiority and of social interest. In J. Carlson & M.P. Maniacci (Eds.), Alfred Adler revisited (pp. 41-56). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.