Recent college graduates have a mix of emotions—excitement, anxiety, uncertainty about what’s next. Fordham College at Rose Hill’s valedictorian Nolan Chiles used his address at the annual Encaenia celebration on May 19 to give his classmates some “tools” to use when dealing with these feelings.

“I looked to my roots in neuroscience. I thought surely there was a scientific way to being happier,” said Chiles, who majored in integrative neuroscience.

Nolan Chiles gives the valedictory address at the Fordham College at Rose Hill Encaenia ceremony.

Three Tips for Happiness

But instead he found it in positive psychology, a field credited to psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D. Chiles cited three tips from Seligman and tied them back to his Fordham experiences and lessons.

“First, go out, find someone who needs help, and help them.That reminds me of the Jesuit tenet we all know—to be people for and with others,” Chiles said to fellow students in Rose Hill Gym.

“Second, he tells us to learn and cultivate optimism,” he said.

“Finally … he says anything you’d like doing, do it with someone else.”

A Roast from the Lady of the Manor

Chiles’ speech followed the Lady of the Manor address—a traditional humorous student’s reflection—from Samantha Sheridan, a political science and digital media major. Sheridan joked that her inspiration for the address came from a speech she heard from Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president emeritus of Fordham, who stepped down last June.

Samantha Sheridan was the Lady of the Manor.

“It was move-in day and I was very nervous,” she said. “And Father McShane provided us with the answers to some questions. He said, ‘You may be wondering if you will make lifelong friends here at Fordham? Yes. You may be wondering if you will find your purpose here at Fordham? Yes. You may be wondering if your high school boyfriend still loves you? No!’ And he was right. On all three accounts.”

Sheridan joked that she and her classmates experienced something that not a lot of Fordham students got to experience: “genuine excitement about our basketball team.” And, she said, a new president.

Looking Backward to Look Forward

Fordham College at Rose Hill Dean Maura Mast encouraged graduates to participate in an Ignatian examination with four steps—presence, gratitude, review, and response.

“The response moves us from looking backward to looking forward,” she said. “My hope is that as you look backward over your time at Fordham, you go through these steps … and you begin to understand what you need to go forward.”

Celebrating the 2023 Graduates

A woman speaks from a podium
Dean Maura Mast praises the Class of 2023 at Encaenia.

The ceremony, which traces its roots to the ancient Greeks, recognized students inducted into top academic honor societies and those who won prestigious awards, fellowships, and scholarships.

Two awards are a surprise to the recipients. The Claver Award, given by the Jesuits of Fordham to a FCRH senior who exemplifies dedication to service, was given to Michela Fahy.

“We are struck by and so grateful for how much you did to foster recovery for our community, as we all sought that recovery in the wake of the pandemic,” Mast said about Fahy’s community work with the Center for Community Engaged Learning.

The Fordham College Alumni Association Award, awarded to a senior who “exemplifies the Fordham spirit,” was given to Arthur Ze An Liu.

“He’s known and respected as a mentor, a role model, a hard worker, a problem solver, a conflict mediator and what one person termed, an amazing friend,” Mast said. “[He] is someone really committed to promoting Asian American Pacific Islander culture, along with the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Dean Maura Mast congratulates Arthur Ze An Liu for receiving the alumni chair award.