Two people with a diploma.

Writer Yahlin Chang tells Brenau University graduates to ‘nurture and unleash’ their voices

May 4, 2019
Kathryne Davis

A speaker during graduation.

Brenau University graduates received some helpful advice for the future from television writer and producer Yahlin Chang in her keynote address during 2019 spring commencements May 3 and 4 on the historic Gainesville campus.

“Looking back on many of the shows I’ve written on, I can now see that I wasted a ton of time and energy feeling insulted by the notes I’d gotten,” Chang said. “Please don’t take criticism too personally. Oftentimes the person who is criticising you doesn’t know what he’s talking about, especially when things are extremely subjective, and there is no clear right answer. Don’t internalize it too much or feel like someone is attacking your personal character or self-worth, even if it feels like that.”

Chang has worked as a television writer for nearly two decades, most recently on The Handmaid’s Tale. Her work on the highly acclaimed Hulu drama has earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, a Writer’s Guild Award nomination and a Producer’s Guild Award nomination. She was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Brenau University.

Chang encouraged graduates to speak up for themselves and fight for what they believe.

“We all have strengths and weaknesses, but if you can get your weaknesses to feed your strengths, that’s kind of a cool trick,” she said, “So I want to urge you all to not only to find your voice but to nurture it and unleash it.”

Brenau University President Ed Schrader addressed graduates for the final time as president of the 141-year old university.

“I say this every year,” Schrader told graduates of The Women’s College on Friday. “This class, I know a lot of you personally, and I can say without a doubt that I am totally confident that among you are people who will change the world. You just have to go out and do it.”

Students at graduation.

Pete Miller, chairman of the Brenau University Board of Trustees, praised Schrader for his work at Brenau.

“We have all benefited immensely from Dr. Schrader’s leadership over the past 15 years,” Miller said. “He leaves a legacy, but within that legacy nothing is more important than his love of and his commitment to you, Brenau students.”

Brenau conferred approximately 725 degrees during the 2018-19 academic year, including 350 degrees during December graduation. Approximately 375 degrees were conferred to graduates during the spring weekend commencements, including 100 diplomas awarded by The Women’s College during Friday’s ceremony on the Front Lawn. The Women’s College class of 2019 had 37 candidates for Bachelor of Science, 30 candidates for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 14 candidates for Bachelor of Arts, five candidates for Bachelor of Business Administration, 14 candidates for Bachelor of Fine Arts, and one candidate for Bachelor of Music.

Around 95 undergraduate and 180 graduate students received degrees Saturday on the Front Lawn.

“This doesn’t change your life today,” Schrader said to Saturday’s graduates. “But it’s a point of debarkation today. It’s a point where your life will never be the same. You have earned the degree you will receive but you have already received and stored that knowledge, those skills, that degree represents.”

The second group of Chinese students in the 2+2 programs from Anhui Normal University were also among this year’s graduates, with 15 students receiving Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and eight earning their Bachelor of Science degrees in early childhood education.

“We have many reasons to believe that the friendship between Brenau and Anhui Normal University will become stronger in the future,” said Gu Jiashan, chairman of the board at Anhui Normal University, to the students through an interpreter. “Only better education can create a better life.

“You young people are inspiring and you are the future of the world.”

Group of students.

Brenau annually recognizes students and faculty members for outstanding academic and professional performances.

Susan De Witt, Bachelor of Arts in dance degree candidate from Cumming, Georgia; Kellsey Kloker, a health science degree candidate from Lawrenceville, Georgia; and Allie McConnell, a health science degree candidate from Cumming, Georgia, received the Cora Anderson Hill Academic Award. The award is given to The Women’s College graduates with the highest grade-point average throughout their four years at Brenau. Cora Anderson Hill was a Brenau alumna from Gainesville who had a distinguished career in public service and journalism later in life.

Jessi Shrout, assistant professor of biology, received the Ann Austin Johnston Award for outstanding teaching. The award was established by Donald C. Johnston of Dublin, Georgia, and was named after his late wife, a 1939 graduate of The Women’s College. It includes a $2,500 prize.

Kim Boyd, associate professor and head of research and instructional services, received the Vulcan Teaching Award for teaching excellence and leadership. The award includes a $1,000 prize funded by Vulcan Material Co. through the Georgia Independent Colleges Association. Rebekah Rocheleau, assistant professor of psychology, and Deane Desper, adjunct instructor in the business department at Brenau’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida, received Outstanding Part-Time Faculty Awards.