Tufts UEP Commencement Speeches 2023: Chelsea Spaman, MS-Sustainability

Chelsea Spaman gave a speech representing MS-Sustainability students at the 2023 UEP commencement. This post is the third in a series of four UEP’s 2023 commencement speeches. The first was Eli Tavares‘ speech representing MA and MS UEP students, followed by Jenny Lau’s speech representing MPPers. Next will be Eugenia Gibbins, the alumna keynote.

Introduction by Penn Loh:

Our next speaker represents UEP’s newest master’s program, MS Sustainability. Chelsea Spaman came to UEP already an accomplished climate activist in college. At UEP, she developed a holistic view of sustainability issues, where the social, economic, and environmental are interconnected. She got an opportunity in a summer internship at Denver International Airport last summer, where she was able to put into practice the communications and project management skills she had been learning. Chelsea actually finished in December and has been working in Atlanta on the Global Sustainability Team at Delta Airlines, where she is now helping the aviation industry to decarbonize. Her fellow students noted that in her time here, “Her presence flowed through all of the program. She has supported and enacted personal growth not only for herself but those around her.” They describe her as “smart, kind, compassionate, honest, and a hard worker.”

Begin Chelsea’s Speech:

“Hi everyone

To my friends and family I decided not to tell that I would be up here…surprise. Here I am

I thought about what I wanted to say when I was up here for quite some time, with my partner reminding me daily that I still had not written a word, good thing I love her.

I could have spent these next couple of minutes on the quality of our classes and how much I learned, about what I have taken with me in my career, about UEP and the uniqueness of the program, but nothing would have felt as genuine as talking about the people that I have met here.

Before I do that, I’d like to take a step back and tell you all how I wound up right here in front of you today.

We’re going to take this back to Fall 2019, when I took my very first environmental science class at Western Michigan University. On a class trip, we went to a place called sleeping bear dunes.

Most of you have probably been camping before, but how many of you have done a tree dance?

A tree dance for us that weekend was a visual representation of the functions of a tree. If any of you have ever seen me dance, then you know the non-moving and protective role of bark was very fitting. Once we had all practiced our roles and we knew what our purpose was, we were able to move together, in synchronicity, like a tree. Every function was essential, and without each person doing their little dance, the tree would cease to exist.

At this point you’re probably wondering, Chelsea, what does your tree chant have to do with graduation and the people of this program?

Well, my point is simple. Find the people who you would do your tree dance with.

That is what I found at Tufts. In a very literal sense, I have no doubt that I could ask almost anyone in this crowd to go into the middle of the woods with me and do a tree dance and they would say yes.

Metaphorically, I found my non-moving, protective bark in the unwavering support from my family and friends. I found the roots of knowledge and foundation in my professors, who encouraged me to continue growing, provided me with the stability and support I needed to do so. I found my classmates among the branches and leaves, exploring their own passions, growing beautifully out as they get ready to take on all that comes next, and leaving me knowing that wherever they go in this world, we will always be united by the web that is UEP.

And now I will impart with you a little of what I learned here. You can imagine the world as our tree. This tree is our work and the work we were meant to do. Our tree is on fire, and yet, we each remain an essential part of our tree. We have necessary work to do, and I have nothing but faith and confidence in everyone to do it.

I look out into this crowd and see those I spent the last two years doing a different type of dance with—one that involved hours at the data lab and brown house, spending hours at farmers markets, playing tennis on weekends, endless walks around campus (somehow always uphill) and exploring a city I that I briefly called home— and I know that our world is in better hands because of them. We are a force for change. Congratulations to UEP class of 2023, you continue to inspire me.”