Remarks to the Class of 2023
by Senior Class Speaker Mehin “Meggie” Suleiman ’23
May 21, 2023
Dear graduates, esteemed faculty and staff, proud families, and honored guests,
It is an incredible honor to stand before you today on this momentous occasion of Connecticut College’s 105th Commencement. Graduates, congratulations on this significant achievement! As the Class of 2023, we have all worked diligently despite the global and local challenges we have faced, and are privileged enough to share this moment in person, with our community, and our loved ones.
As we gather here to celebrate our graduation, I am reminded of the powerful force that has brought us all together today: love. bell hooks, an acclaimed Black author and feminist scholar, wrote extensively about the power of love and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.
As a premed STEM student, I’m sure many of you expect me to talk about things like vaccine development or antibiotic resistance, not literature on revolutionary love. Fortunately, I am a student at a liberal arts school like Connecticut College, and I had an English requirement to fulfill. My junior fall, the wonderful Professor Rushin introduced me, in my Black Women Writers’ class, to bell hooks. And it changed my perspective on love forever. I quickly learned that love is best described as a verb, and not a noun. Hooks defines love as “the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth,” emphasizing that it is not just a feeling or emotion, but a conscious choice to prioritize the well-being and growth of ourselves and those around us.
This is what hooks has taught me: As human beings, we are driven by an inherent desire to unravel the complexity of love. We yearn to comprehend what it truly means to love and to be loved, and how we can cultivate love in our own lives. We recognize love’s significance, yet we are constantly confronted by its failures: in our politics, our religious institutions, and even in our personal relationships. In fact, the divisive, and relentlessly violent world that surrounds us is the very result of lovelessness. Despite the overwhelming absence of love in the world, our yearning for it remains constant. And when love is not present, we resist it. It is our instinct toward love that propels us forward, for we hope that, ultimately, love always wins. It is this hope that helps me get out of bed every morning. It is this promise that makes me think that the world can become a better place.
My most profound experiences of love have taken place on this very campus. I love when I make my fellow Camels their morning coffee at the Coffee Closet. I love when my best friend Sam and I wake up together for Professor Schneider’s 9 AM Biochemistry class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I love when I help review students’ cover letters and resumes as a Career Fellow. I love when I see hundreds of my cohort outside Hillel House and Unity, standing up for racial and religious equity on our campus. I love, in this very moment, overlooking my fellow Camels of the Class of 2023, who are eager to use their educational privilege for the betterment of the world around them.
In a moment as beautiful and memorable as this one, when we are surrounded by those closest to us, I want to remind you that love is not just a personal virtue, but a powerful force for change. When we come together in solidarity, and community, our voices are louder, our impact stronger. This next chapter of our
lives can certainly seem daunting, but we can remember that, when in doubt, we can lean on love to guide and sustain us. Embrace love, cultivate love, and share love with the world.
Congratulations again, Class of 2023, and good luck to you in all your future endeavors! Thank you.
Mehin “Meggie” Suleiman ’23 has been selected as the student speaker for this year’s Commencement ceremony.
A resident of McLean, Virginia, Suleiman is completing a double major in biochemistry, cellular and molecular Biology and Hispanic studies and is a scholar in the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts. Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Suleiman moved to the United States at the age of 11 and leaned on their love of linguistics as they began learning English in their new school.
At Conn, Suleiman is a pre-health and DIEI career fellow at the Hale Center for Career Development, a manager at the Coffee Closet and a member of the Chemistry Student Advisory Board. They conducted neurobiology research in Professor E. Carla Parker-Athill’s lab and served as president of the Women in STEM club during their sophomore year, changing the name of the club to Equity in STEM during their tenure to expand its reach. In 2021, they received the Summer Civic Leaders Award and interned at the harm reduction nonprofit organization Alliance for Living in downtown New London. As a junior, Suleiman studied abroad at the University of Castilla la Mancha in Ciudad Real, Spain, taking classes including “Ethics and Social Responsibility,” “Geopolitics and Spatial Inequalities” and “Modern Spanish Literature” in Spanish. Last summer, Suleiman completed an internship at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Barcelona, Spain, as a member of the Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative team.
Currently, Suleiman is completing a senior thesis, “Genetic Capitalism: The Anthropological Evolution of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria.” At the intersection of medicine and anthropology, the thesis is a multidisciplinary investigation of how bacterial species have genetically and behaviorally adapted to the post-industrial rise in pharmaceutical antibiotics by hoarding resistant genes in their genome. Suleiman credits Professor Joyce Bennett’s “Globalization, Transmigrants and Migration” course, which they call “the most pivotal academic experience” of their life, with inspiring them to explore antibiotic resistance through socio-economic and cultural lenses.
Recently, Suleiman received the Intramural Research Training Award from the National Institutes of Health, which will fund a two-year post-baccalaureate research position in Peter Kwong’s structural biology lab at the Vaccine Research Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. There, Suleiman will contribute to cutting-edge HIV-1 vaccine development research. They then plan to attend medical school.
Suleiman says they are honored to be selected as the student Commencement speaker, especially as a first-generation immigrant who was once hesitant to speak English for fear of not making sense or mispronouncing words. They said, “It definitely was challenging to adapt and assimilate to life in a new country. Ten years later, I’m honored to be giving such an important address, and I’m dedicating my speech to my family and to that 11-year-old me.”