President’s Speaker, Rajyalaxmi Shivani Kavuluru ’19

Introduction by President Melvin L. Oliver: This is the inaugural year of a new commencement speaker recognized as the president speaker. I’m pleased to introduce Student Senate President Shivani Kavuluru as this year’s President’s Speaker. Shivani was born and partially raised in Hyderabad, India. She presently resides in San Jose, California. Today, Shivani graduates with a double major in English creative writing and philosophy. She plans to pursue law school in hopes to one day become an immigration attorney. Shivani.

Shivani Kavuluru: Thank you, President Oliver and Jahan for sharing your story. Good morning and graduation “shaba shan kaloo,” that’s Telugu for graduation greetings. Pitzer College Class of 2019, professors, families, guardians, staff and admins, it’s an honor to be given the opportunity to speak in front of you all today. First, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the Tongva people on whose land Pitzer is on. I would also like to recognize any and all first-generation students for your incredible accomplishments. And finally, thank you Ama and Nana for working so hard to give me this opportunity today.

The truth about graduation speeches is no one’s going to remember the exact words we say here today. But I hope everyone can still take something valuable from the messages you hear. So if you’ll take anything from my speech today, I hope it’s this: In life, to move forward, you must also look back. For a college whose motto is Provida Futuri, Mindful of the Future, it seems ironic to suggest that we look back. But to truly be mindful of our future, we must be critically reflective of our past. It is our past that guides us and teaches us how to tackle what is to come. Without it, we would be unable to grow from our experiences and mistakes. So know that it’s ok to look back so long as you know that forward is where you’re going. Whatever we become in life and no matter how far we go after we leave this campus today, we take with us the things that we learn from our time here. So to truly be mindful of the future, I encourage all of us today to think thoughtfully about our years together here.

When I look back at our years together as a class, I’m reminded of just how involved most of us were with the issues that we were most passionate about. Every graduation speaker traditionally gives a charge to their graduating class, but the message of my speech is one that I’m still learning myself. And that is to remember to take time off with loved ones and to have fun, and to not continuously be working. Upon first glance, this statement sounds like a privileged thing to say. Oftentimes, the people who could benefit from having time for themselves don’t have it because they’re so busy working. And this is true, but even so, I believe that it is healthy and it is important to carve out time not to work. We can only give our best when we are at our best. So it is far better to say no and not to commit to something than to commit to something and not fully participate. If you put too much on your plate, things will slip off.

So it’s okay, it really is okay to take fun breaks and seek help when you need it. You deserve all the help and support I’ve seen you give your peers over the four years here. One thing our class has been known to do is hustle. From Day One we have gone above and beyond insuring Pitzer College is supportive to its students. From leading the Pitzer Strategic Plan to supporting Femmes of STEM, leading Identity Board, to winning sustainability awards, we have been working tirelessly for the past four years and Pitzer College is truly better for all of your hard work. But amidst all that I’ve noticed that it’s easy to get caught up going from one thing to the next, especially when your job is something where others rely on you.

But even then, I hope we can make more time for family, or for fun times with friends and loved ones. Or just make time for ourselves. There are people, events and moments that have helped us grow to be who we are today. So let’s make time for fun and memorable moments. Look, odds are we’re going to be working for most of our lives, whether that’s grad school, a research job or a job anywhere. So I hope that we all will remember to make time to not always be working and relax every now and then. And remember that sometimes looking back is a very useful tool and helping guide all of us forward. As we stand on the precipice of our post-undergraduate lives, ready to show the world what we’re made of, let’s not forget to make time for the people that made us.

To the parents, guardians, siblings, friends and mentors, thank you. Provida Futuri. To our class of 2019, let’s step into that future together.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit