“You must dream dreams and see visions. In this time of storm and stress, the imagination is the battlefield,” Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Ph.D., a noted scholar, commentator, and bestselling author, told graduates at the 2023 Russell Sage College commencement ceremony.

“We must imagine the world as it ought to be, in the full light of what we have, and who we have, become,” Glaude continued. “You will leave this place and step into the country that stands on the precipice. And whether it is fair to you, the fate of this republic rests on your shoulders, in your hands. You must imagine a new America.”

The 106th commencement, held May 13 at the MVP Arena in Albany, recognized 661 graduates who earned bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees.

Glaude, whose 2020 book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, was named to The New York Times bestseller list, outlined the challenges of today’s America and encouraged graduates to not be complacent.

“You have dedicated your college years to the arduous task of self-creation, to preparing yourself to enter a world that — without mincing words — is exceedingly dark,” said Glaude, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the ceremony. “And the question you must answer is will you choose to play it safe, to resign your world to the way it is, or will you dare to risk everything to help the world as it could be.”

Ja’Deana Cognetta-Whitfield, who graduated from the Art + Extended Media program, said earning her degree was a breaking down of generational curses, pressures that had nearly made her drop out of high school in her sophomore year before later deciding to pursue college.

“I’m being that person for that child in me, the person that they always longed to be and hoped for,” said Ja’Deana, who will continue pursuing residencies and developing her skills as a photographer after graduation.

During the ceremony, Patricia Sparrell ’78, chair of the Russell Sage College Board of Trustees, shared words from the College’s founder, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, and encouraged graduates to be a “great power for good.”

“Your time at Sage coincided with challenges on a global scale — and, no doubt, personal struggles — that complicated your path to a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree,” she said. “You persevered through these challenges. And whether you are earning a degree in health sciences, education, management, the visual or performing arts, or any of the interdisciplinary fields that Sage excels in, you are graduating with the practical skills and the mindset to make a difference.”

Maya Bernsley and Julia Viscosi, M.S. in Occupational Therapy graduates who became friends at Sage, plan to do just that as they head to Georgia to complete their Level 2 fieldwork at a hospital there.

“I’m going into OT to help people in creative ways,” Maya said. “My brother had OT when he was younger. Seeing how it helped my brother made me want to do the same for other kids.”

Sage President Christopher Ames echoed the theme of graduates using their education and passion for learning to “drive the common good.”

 “You have the tools, the habits of mind, the knowledge and the skills to have a successful career, to lead a rich and examined life and to make a difference in the world,” he said.

Gina Ferrara earned her B.S. in Nursing in December but was celebrating the accomplishment and making her mother and former professors very happy by participating in Saturday’s ceremony. She is already making a difference as a labor and delivery nurse at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown and is following in the footsteps of her mother, who is also a nurse and works across the street from her.

“My time at Sage prepared me a lot,” she said. “I learned a lot from my clinicals.”

Glaude urged the graduates to take all that they’ve learned and apply it to creatively solving the issues the nation faces.

“You are the dream warriors,” he said as he wrapped up his address. “Now go out and transform this damn world.”

More About 2023 Commencement:

661 graduates were celebrated at this year’s commencement – representing 281 bachelor’s degrees, 303 master’s degrees, and 77 doctoral degrees.

Rebecca Sauer was the Class of 2023 Valedictorian

Jacqueline Hilliard was the Class of 2023 Salutatorian

Retiring faculty recognized with emerita/emeritus status during the ceremony were:

Margot Elacqua, professor emerita of occupational therapy, with 21 years of service

Steven Leibo, professor emeritus of humanities, with 39 years of service

Manijeh Sabi, professor emerita of economics, with 35 years of service

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