Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane - Set Your Sights Upon the Stars

Set Your Sights Upon the Stars

14th Commencement at Al Akhawayn Celebrates Discovery, Exploration and the Pursuit of Dreams

frane, June 21, 2011 – The Class of 2011, the largest class in University history with 283 graduates, was awarded degrees in Ifrane on Saturday, June 18, at the exciting and historic 14th Commencement at Al Akhawayn University.


University Chancellor Abdellatif Jouahri, Governor of Bank Al Maghrib, proclaimed that “I remain confident—considering the high-quality education you received here and the difference Al Akhawayn alumni are making on a daily basis—that you will manage to rise to the challenges and effectively contribute to the development process our country is engaged in at all levels, including infrastructure, productive capacity and regional development.”

“Class of 2011, after long years of commitment, hard work and sacrifices made by you and your families, who have been impatiently but proudly looking forward to this day, a chapter of your life is closing today. A bright future awaits you, and be sure that nobody writes your destiny but you!”

Addressing the graduates, their parents and families, and the hundreds of guests at the ceremony, University President Driss Ouaouicha said that “the Class of 2011 is special in many ways,” noting that 72 percent of the 69 students earning masters degrees are women, as are 58 percent of undergraduates, and that 37 percent of the graduating class has spent at least one semester abroad.

The ceremony was attended by HRH Princess Lalla Meryem, whose son Moulay Driss Filali graduated with an expected degree in Business Administration.

The Commencement speech, “Humanity’s Reach for the Stars – From the Apollo Moon Landing to Global Space Cooperation in the 21st Century,” was delivered by Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut and scientist who walked with Neil Armstrong on the moon during the historic 1969 Apollo 11 lunar mission.

Aldrin told the Class of 2011 that “my hope is that you will each find a way to embody that quest in one of its myriad forms. And though all of you may not walk on Mars or become scientists, each of you can become explorers in spirit, opening yourselves to those things that expand your imagination, stretch your understanding, and nurture a sense of wonder.  This requires curiosity, creativity, and self-reflection.  It means not mistaking a hectic personal life for a connected and meaningful one.”

In reflecting on the moon landing and the opportunities ahead, Aldrin encouraged the new graduates “to find solutions to the challenges humanity faces today.  It is by working together that we can achieve bold outcomes that can transform the future.  You may work toward your goals “not because they are easy, but because they are hard” as President John F. Kennedy once described the moon mission.  You may encounter obstacles and face significant challenges.  But with a united effort, you can achieve great things and set your sights upon the stars.

“I hope that each of you have the courage to risk the abyss—to set sail for the edge and find, instead, new worlds beyond imagination,” Aldrin said.

The valedictorians with the best GPA results in each school were Amal Abahmaoui from the School of Business Administration, Fatima-Zohra Filali-Adib from the School of Science and Engineering, and Matthew Ryan Lehnert from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Student achievement was celebrated at the 14th Commencement for the first time, with students Hind Saddiki, Nada Lahrech, Rim EI Atlassi, Mohammed Zakariae El Bastami, and Mohammed Taha El Grain, honored for winning, respectively, the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for Women in Technology, the MENA Investment Challenge from Arqaam Capital, the Public Speaking National Competition, and the first prize in the Zayed University competition in IT (Abu Dhabi) in the uObserve Software Specification Category.

Marking another new tradition, outstanding faculty were also recognized. The Class of 2011 voted for a “Teacher of the Year” from each school – faculty who, in the opinion of the members of the class, had the most positive impact on them during their time at the University. Professor Nicolas Hamelin from the School of Business Administration, Professor Carlos Jacques from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor Hamid Harroud from the School of Science and Engineering won the awards for 2011.

The Class Speaker, Younes Ezzaki drew applause when he said that “We will all meet in 10 years, same time, same place. We will see what we have become. We will gather not to see who has the most beautiful car, the highest salary, or the most beautiful wife or handsome husband, but to see who was crazy enough to chase his or her wildest dreams.”

The Class of 2011 also continued a tradition begun in 2010, by raising money from among themselves to present a gift to the University. The gift in 2011 was a large clock, to be installed in a prominent location on campus, and was given to President Ouaouicha by graduating student Yasmina El Fathouni on behalf of the class.

Available here for download are PDF versions of the speeches by Jouahri, Ouaouicha, Aldrin, Ezzaki, and Alumni Association President Khalid Baddou.