Graduating Address—Fletcher Boswell, Class of 2020

After a challenging year completing his studies amidst a global pandemic, Fletcher Boswell felt incredibly privileged for the opportunity to address the graduating class of 2020.

Fletcher Boswell

“I want to start by thanking Victoria University of Wellington and the Graduation Office for allowing this event to go ahead. Much like an 8.30 am lecture after T-Shirt Night or a Commerce Stein, I am sure it would have been tempting to opt for a recorded version to be watched from the comfort of our bubbles or flats. But particularly after the year that has been, there is something special about being able to celebrate the last three, four, five—dare I say six—years together in the same room.

And what a ride it has been. We have survived thousands of hours of lectures, tutorials and revision, several earthquakes, the MyAllocator tutorial signups, a global pandemic and the best efforts of our friends at Krishna food to talk us into yoga and veganism! If all those tossed together don’t build a sense of camaraderie—I’m unsure what would. But through all of this, I remember being told when I started at Victoria University of Wellington that university is a team sport. It is not something that you can do by yourself and it is not designed to be approached that way either. So, it is fitting that we sit here today surrounded by our team; our family, our friends, our lecturers, our tutors and so many others who have helped us, supported us and stood by us through our time at university.

The first part of that team I want to acknowledge are the lecturers and University staff. It is hard to articulate how generous you all are with your time and how much you care about the students at the University.

There are University staff, like Colin (Security Guard, Pipitea Campus), who would walk around telling people the library was closed and make sure they were getting some down-time in; or our tireless administrators, like Pauline Castle (Senior School Administrator) who, regardless of how busy she was, always made time to check in on students who looked a little stressed out to tell them things would get better.

And there are our lecturers, like Professor Yvette Tinsley, who encouraged us to go to the District Court so we could see first-hand the effects of New Zealand’s criminal justice system, teaching us to think more critically about where we find ourselves; or Professor Geoff McLay, who cared so much about building a sense of community at the Law School that he would turn-up at 7.00 am for a Friday morning run with the students—his tiny dog Coco in tow.

But never have I been so proud to be a student of this university than in 2018 when, during a protest against gendered violence and bullying in the law, our lecturers led by Professor Mark Hickford not only encouraged us to leave class but joined their students in advocating for a better legal profession.

The people behind me are more than just staff members, they are role models whose passion for their subjects is rivalled only by their concern for their students. Thank you.

To those family members and friends here today—while the certificates that were posted to us over lockdown had our names on them, the achievement is just as much yours as it is ours. Mum and Dad, I am sure having to put up with years and years of unsolicited hot takes on anything to do with law or commerce (and often things that weren’t) has no doubt tested your patience. But also, to all the loved ones here today, and to those who could not attend, I am sure I speak for all the graduates when I say thank you for everything you have done for us. Thank you for listening to stories about 200-level finance papers and responding with “oh that sounds interesting”. Thank you for the care packages and thank you for pretending that our complaints of self-inflicted all-nighters to get an assignment in, came anything close to the trials and tribulations you experienced raising us.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a philosophy student or a first-year tutorial icebreaker, it is worth reflecting briefly on what comes next for us as graduates. We have finished university at a strange time and the world is looking like a very different place to when we finished that final exam or handed in that final assignment. But despite this change, it is hard not to be excited about the next stage for us. It is hard not to be excited when— although we are dispersing into different careers, cities or causes—we have already seen that our cohort is one that wants to and in fact can make a difference in these areas that we choose. It is hard not to be excited when— even if tertiary education is unfortunately still a privilege in our society—each graduation cohort looks more and more like Aotearoa. And part of this is that our cohort has more than an opportunity but indeed a responsibility to use this education to push for a better New Zealand. It is hard not to be excited when—although our society and even the world is currently being gripped by major health, social and economic challenges—we have just received a world-class education in a very cool little capital city with very uncool weather, giving us the foundation to take on these challenges.

New Zealand is not a country that is renowned for gushing over milestones and Kiwis tend to play-down achievements. But the achievement of graduating today is one worth celebrating and one worth celebrating with the people we love. So, thank you everyone for being part of the last six years, congratulations on what you have achieved and good luck for the next chapter—I’m excited to see what comes next.”