Jonna Humphries ’10 Senior Voices Address

“Senior Voices” Address by Jonna Humphries ’10, delivered at Memorial Chapel during the 178th Wesleyan University Commencement:

How I Have Changed Because of My Experience at Wesleyan.

When I was younger, perhaps around 10 years old, my Mom would always ask my brothers and I at the end of a school day “What did you learn?” We’d give her responses filled with details on topics ranging from what happened on the playground between so-and-so to a full recap on the letter in cursive we’d learn to master that day. We did this until one day, my older brother Alexander, completely changed the dynamics of these after-school discussions. My mother asked, with innocence and inquisition, “What did you learn?” And my brother Alexander put an end to the conversation going any further by responding “I won’t know until I apply it.” At the time, Alex’s 12-year-old response was a reflection of burgeoning adolescence. Despite this though, his statement makes me think of what my Wesleyan experience has taught me.

My time here, over the past four years, has been one that has taught me that knowledge does not see its fruition until has it been applied. Lessons are not truly learned until they resonate in action. I believe this understanding is grounded in what Wesleyan’s first President, Wilbur Fisk, stated in his inaugural address. “The good of the individual educated and the good of the world,” in the sense that the lessons learned by the individual are intrinsically coupled with their application in the world. I have seen this present time and time again during my Wesleyan experience upon numerous occasions. I saw this in the way one of my closest friends took knowledge she had gained about the achievement gap in one of her courses and applied it by starting a tutoring program for disadvantaged children. I saw this, last spring at the tragic loss of Johanna when a friend of mine took knowledge she had gained in a Psychology course here and used it to soothe the grief of fellow students. I saw this lesson reflected in a broad sense in the way that I took the lessons of a summer internship and applied towards the betterment of my community.

Last summer, I worked as an intern at the White House in the Office of Presidential Speechwriting. The intern program required that each intern participate in a book drive in addition to fulfilling daily work responsibilities. Upon my return to Wesleyan in the Fall, I brought back the focus on service and proposed that a Service Week be organized for the Wesleyan community. I strongly believe that my doing this is due to the way in which Wesleyan has taught me to take knowledge and apply it. My exposure at the White House would have been only a personal experience had I not been taught by Wesleyan up to that point in time that it is my responsibility to share what I have learned through action.

After graduation, my life’s journey will take me on into things known and unknown. One thing for sure though is that my Wesleyan education provides the foundation for a lifetime.