CLS Core Faculty emphasizes pride and resilience in his commencement speech as Outstanding Teacher

May 3, 2024 - Karessa Weir

“As I address you, I am mindful of the diverse paths that brought us here. Many of you, like myself, are first-generation college students, immigrants, children of immigrants, returning adults, or servicemen and women. Your presence exemplifies the resilience and excellence of your families and communities, of which you should be immensely proud,” said Dr. Philip J. “PJ” Pettis, CLS Core Faculty and Assistant Professor of Sociology and this year’s College of Social Science Outstanding Teacher.

Pettis was asked to be one of the five speakers at the 2024 commencement April 26, the largest at Michigan State University.  He was nominated for the award by Sociology Chair Professor Carla Pfeffer. 
PJ Pettis

One theme of his speech was celebrating success and embracing your true self.  

 “As you embark on the next stage of your journey, remember the words of Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Embrace your most authentic self, including your vulnerabilities, insecurities, and uncertainties. It is okay not to have all the answers right now. True self-discovery, centering on bettering the world around you, takes time and courage. Embrace the journey of introspection and self-exploration, knowing that it is through embracing our true selves that we can give our best to the world. Today, you have demonstrated the courage and bravery needed to embark on this journey. As you move forward, remember that by embracing your authenticity, you not only activate your most luminous potential and self-hood but also can give your best self to the world. From my own journey, that is what I know to be true,” Pettis said.  

 He also memorialized Alexandria Verner, Arielle Anderson and Brian Fraser, three students killed Feb. 13, 2023. Alexandria was slated to graduate this spring. 

 Pettis joined MSU in the fall of 2022.  

“Each of you has made me proud to be a Spartan and a member of the vibrant, vast, and diverse Michigan State University community. As we part ways today, let us carry the essence of our Spartan Mission and Values. Let us conduct ourselves to the highest caliber, always standing up for what is right in the face of injustice. Let us utilize our talents, gifts, and knowledge to transform this world into a better place, guided by the values of collaboration, equity, excellence, integrity, and respect. Congratulations, Spartans, you did it!”