I had the privilege of meeting Alex Kyranakis in 2018 when he first stepped into my office seeking to complete his Bachelor of Science in Business (BSB). At the time, Alex was searching for a program that would accommodate his work schedule and help him grow professionally and personally. It was largely due to Esri, his gracious employer, and the mentorship of its leadership that Alex found himself at the University of Redlands. Below is a recent conversation I had with Alex about his educational journey in the BSB program and his views on mentoring and resilience.
Angie Bynon: Alex, you have been chosen as this year’s student Commencement speaker. Congratulations! Why did you choose to speak in this role, and what is the central message you want others to take away?
Alex Kyranakis: I chose to take on the honor of speaking to my fellow classmates as Commencement speaker because we are emerging from a troubling time in our world and I wanted to keep in mind the hope and importance of the grand journey we have been on. Additionally, it was a personal challenge to complete this very important speech and step out of my comfort zone. It also humbles me to reflect upon where I was many years ago and how I got to this very day.
The central message of the speech is to convey two important parts of the journey that led to my accomplishments here at the University of Redlands: resilience and mentorship. Our resilience yields the ability to overcome difficult situations—not just the pandemic, but also juggling work-school-personal life balance, financial obstacles, stress, and much more. One thing this degree should certainly signify to everyone is the quality of resilience. Only by resilience have I “pushed” through to my successful finish, changing my life and impacting the world around me for the better. Second, the presence of mentorship from other people within my life was, and is, critical for success. We all have mentors—parents, siblings, extended family, maybe a colleague or manager, professor, or public figure. They are crucial to our life, and many mentors don’t even know the impact they have on us. During my time here at U of R, mentors have emerged from faculty and staff.
Our educational journey has built something we must, and will, want to use to influence a family member, friend, or stranger, thus paying it forward and making a difference in others’ lives.
Bynon: What does resilience look like in your own life?
Kyranakis: Resilience for me is found not just in conquering challenges; it is also allowing the process and journey of resilience to grow new attributes within me. Allowing for humility acknowledging my faults or mistakes, many “gains”—accountability, responsibility, reliability—can come from any problem. All problems have solutions and many valuable learning lessons within them. For me resilience IS overcoming, but it is also learning that truly brings forth “overcoming.”
Bynon: Were there specific teachers or class projects in the BSB program that stood out for you, and why?
Kyranakis: Many notable staff and professors come to mind, but most of all three professors, now friends, have truly impacted me. I am inspired and encouraged every time I think of Professors Keith Roberts, Karen Roberts, and Avijit Sarkar; I will always remember them.
My first course was with Keith and I will never forget the first session. I was so impressed by his teaching style, stern demeanor, and impressive life journey. That evening I remember asking, a bit intimidated, what the lapel pin on his blazer was. He told me, “It is the Delta Mu Delta key, and is given to those who achieve honors at the completion of their program.” I walked out of class saying to myself, “I am going to get me one of those!” And I did! From that moment on, Keith inspired me to excel. He even went as far as having my wife and me be his guests of honor at the 2020 Whitehead Leadership Society Induction Ceremony, I still feel a bit of emotion from feeling his generosity and kindness that night.
Professor Karen Roberts is in the same class as Keith—in fact, it is no wonder they are married. Her mentorship in writing and public speaking has helped me develop to the point I can take on the role of Commencement speaker. Much like with Keith, I have been fortunate to grow a friendship with Karen. I will never forget a very special moment in her final class when she passed out spices, real spices, to the students and reminded us that we gain “spices” that create the meal of life. I nearly choked up!
Lastly, Professor Sarkar demonstrates how to be a truly nice person. Because of his class, I found I want to pursue business analytics as a specific future focus. But, more importantly, he showed me a particular style of kindness, gentleness, respectfulness, and professionalism that I want to display to others. He truly impressed me and inspired me, and for that I am very thankful to have had him as my professor.
Bynon: Who would benefit from the Bachelor of Science in Business program?
Kyranakis: Redlands’ Bachelor of Science in Business program is designed for self-improvement and career growth. A bit of it all is the classical training that education gives. But, even more, the totality of higher learning offers a set of experiences, memories, and emotional connections that shapes you and “paints” your unique canvas called life. There is something far beyond the education, and that is what the program was for me.
Bynon: What lies beyond this 2021 graduation for you? What are your hopes and aspirations for your future?
Kyranakis: I plan to continue my education at Redlands with the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program. This will allow great growth toward my overall career goal of becoming a manager and leader. I currently work in an IT role at Esri. Furthermore, I feel the desire and responsibility now to implement what I have learned. Mentorship was so very key to me. Now, I look forward to making an impact on others—not just as a manager, but also through friendships, family relationships, and being an invested community member. Regardless of how the opportunity comes or how long it lasts, I look forward to mentoring and sharing the generosity that others so graciously passed onto me.