1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Class of 2024 student speaker: “Transylvania has been there for me through it all”

Transylvania student commencement speaker Katy Walsh

Each year a student representative is selected to speak on behalf of the class at Transylvania’s commencement ceremony. This year, two students were selected.

Katy Walsh is from Lexington, Kentucky. She majored in English with a minor in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication. During her time at Transy, she has served as a First Engagements Scholar, a Writing Center staffer, a Student Government Senator, and co-Editor in Chief of the Literary Magazine. Following graduation, Katy plans to attend law school and further explore occupations in this field.

The following is a transcript of Walsh’s prepared remarks:

Hello everyone, and from the class of 2024, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you to friends, family, coaches, professors, and, for just a little longer—classmates. I am so proud of us. Getting to spend these last few years with you has been an honor and I would not trade them for anything. Transylvania University has led me to new passions and hobbies, friends I couldn’t live without, and a lifelong sense of purpose, belonging, and community. Taking my first steps into adulthood somewhere that held me up while I learned, made mistakes, and fought to find myself has been vital in shaping my future. Combing back through these memories was equal parts rewarding and bittersweet–even now, I couldn’t pick out a single most important moment or lesson. 

But looking to the beginning of this journey is not easy. I am not eager to think about 2020, nor will I forget how the world expected us to go on like normal in those long months overshadowed by a global health crisis. Our introduction to Transylvania was to a community existing as a fraction of itself. Thinking about this start–one supposed to embody independence and freedom–brings back waves of frustration and hurt. It makes me feel lost, alone, seventeen years old again, and finishing high school on a random Friday in March not knowing what my future possibly held. Typical college students don’t carry global pandemics in their past or remember meeting classmates for the first time as tiny squares scattered across a laptop screen. It’s exhausting and terrible to think of what could have been, to live with these monumental what-ifs clouding the best years of our lives.  

But that past takes on a new meaning today, as we stand in the middle of a campus that, for a long time, was only a reminder of everything we were missing. Now, it speaks to everything we’ve endured, celebrates our accomplishments and collective willpower. Nothing can replace those pandemic years, but we still spent them growing, reaching toward beams of light that filtered down through trees. Part of this thinking back is reliving months of constant support while adapting to change. We were always surrounded by so many people determined to pursue their dreams and make the world better, people committed to justice and equality, to those around them. People that make this campus what it is. 

Transylvania–from the Latin trans silva–means “through the forest”, a sentiment our class embodies in a way like no other. This journey sometimes felt like we were clawing our way through roots and thorns, searching for an ending with no map or trail in sight, with sky blocked out by branches. It was full of long, moonless nights and lonely marches toward something unknowable. 

To me, Transylvania means facing the future with hope in spite of hardships, means uplifting others, giving back, embracing new perspectives, and passing on these values wherever we go next. It means growing within the forest, not in spite of it, learning from setbacks and carrying that light with ourselves. It means looking to those around us for strength while fighting for change and a better tomorrow.

This idea of  “through” has been a constant source of comfort and inspiration to me, only made stronger by this aptly-named university. “We will get through this together” became a mantra; “we will see this through” a daily affirmation. Transylvania has been there for me through it all. There is no end to this forest, to adversity we face in whatever daily form. Trees still tower overhead, only now they are comforting instead of imposing. Monuments to our strength and resilience rather than terrifying omens. There is only through, only learning from these towering oaks and pines and firs as we blaze new trails. 

 This sense of perseverance is something so uniquely Transylvanian, embodying us more than anything. Looking around now, in the presence of so many driven, passionate, talented individuals makes me certain we will thrive wherever we journey next. We stand so tall it makes the trees shake. After years of learning and asking questions, discovery and rebuilding, let’s step across this stage into new forests. We are forging paths, facing the future with open minds and heads held high. Even though it’s jarring, looking back is a reminder that we can only go forward. Through the forest, to the horizon. Thank you.