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News and Views from the University of Redlands

Double ceremony celebrates GIS, vocal chamber music graduates

Students form a line and walk down an aisle during the valediction ceremony.
Graduate students from the geographic information systems and vocal chamber music programs participate in an intimate outdoor Commencement ceremony on August 4. (Photo by Carlos Puma)

On August 4, the University of Redlands College of Arts and Sciences held an intimate ceremony for graduates of the geographic information systems (GIS) and vocal chamber music (VCM) master’s programs. The vocal chamber music students were the first-ever group to graduate from the program, which was launched in 2019.

Addressing both cohorts, President Krista Newkirk congratulated GIS students on their research, which had been displayed during the program’s symposiums, and commended vocal chamber music students on adapting to virtual performances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Your accomplishments are tremendous, and your future is bright and filled with opportunity,” she said. “On behalf of the faculty who educated and mentored you, the staff who helped guide you, and the alumni who came before you, I wish you the heartiest of congratulations. We’re very proud of you.”

Before conferring their degrees, College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Steve Wuhs acknowledged the students’ efforts: “By extending their studies beyond a bachelor’s degree, these students have achieved a more sophisticated understanding of their discipline, and we wish to celebrate their accomplishments.”

‘Everything is related to everything’

At Redlands, the graduate GIS programs combine the development of strong technical skills and in-depth understanding of geographic information systems and theory, allowing students to enhance their knowledge of the analysis, management, and communication of geographic information. Over the past 19 years, over 400 GIS professionals have graduated from the MS GIS and MGIS programs.

As degrees were delivered, Professors Fang Ren, Mark Kumler, Ruijin Ma, and Doug Flewelling addressed and applauded each of the 11 students in the 38th cohort of GIS master’s students, highlighting their academic and professional achievements.

Student speaker Kennedy Wilson ’21 (MGIS) of Sacramento, California, addressed her classmates in her remarks, identifying lessons she learned from each person. “What is a good GIS speech if I don’t mention the first law of geography?” she said. “Everything is related to everything, but near things are more related than distant things. You have all proven this to be untrue, as I have never felt closer to a group of people that I’ve been more than 300 miles away from.”

Before leaving the stage, Wilson also drew a parallel between the graduate hood that she donned for the ceremony and the hood of Trayvon Martin’s sweatshirt that he was wearing the night he was killed in 2012.

“I wear this hood to protect me from the ignorance that was placed upon Trayvon Martin,” said Wilson. “I plan to take my hood and my degree far in this life to help dismantle stereotypes and disrupt the laws and institutions that have created systemic racism.”

‘What is done in love is well done’

During the next part of the ceremony, the School of Music celebrated nine students who graduated in the inaugural cohort of the Master of Music in Vocal Chamber Music program.

The one-of-a-kind program gives students an in-depth understanding of the principal eras of Western classical choral music and their most prominent composers, including studying contemporary performance practice, building concert and recording repertoire, recording techniques and preparation, and performing 360-degree analysis of professional choral music-making. Students engage in a combination of online learning and in-person, weekend residencies throughout the two-year program.

Acknowledging the historic nature of the graduating class, School of Music Director Joe Modica harkened back to the program’s conception in his remarks. “Today is the culmination of faculty innovation, dreams becoming reality, and a testament to this special place we call the University of Redlands,” he said. “After traveling the world with the King’s Singers, visiting colleges and universities, and working with some of the finest choral ensembles around, [Artist Professor] Chris [Gabbitas] saw something here that was special.”

“Like all of our students,” Modica continued, “The VCM students have overcome tremendous challenges over the past year and half. Through all of this, they have become stronger musicians, continued to create, and have become lifelong friends and colleagues. I’m excited to see where the next part of their life journey takes them.”

From his home in the United Kingdom, Gabbitas addressed the graduates via video message:

“The primary focus of this degree is practical, aiming to bridge the gap between undergraduate study and a professional choral career. The opportunities for practical study have been sadly lacking in the last 18 months.

“That being said, the students have worked hard to acquire new skills to allow virtual and online choir performances. They’ve pivoted to more theoretical and philosophical musical study, and they undoubtably leave as more complete, all-around musicians. I shall watch their careers with great interest and hope to welcome all of them back onto campus for future choral events.”

Student speaker Lauren Breden ’21, a soprano from Albuquerque, New Mexico, described the sense of community that grew out of the symbiotic relationship among the performers. She recalled balancing personal success with supporting her classmates, both inside and outside of rehearsals.

“It has been so wonderful to see everyone grow alongside each other and come together during a year that forced all of us to be alone, in the confines of our closet, singing the same two bars of music for, at times, hours on end,” she said. “I really can’t think of a better group of people to have done that with, and thank you to the faculty for their strong and committed leadership throughout it all. With a deep love for each other and our craft, we made it to the other side, and I’m so excited to see how each one of us continues to grow and flourish personally and professionally.”

In closing, Breden quoted Vincent Van Gogh, saying, “It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Learn more about studying geographic information science or music at the University of Redlands.