Fort Worth Country Day’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society welcomed 10 seniors and 10 juniors into its ranks on Wednesday, April 19. New members were presented with certificates and pins during the ceremony. This year’s speaker was Elisabeth Garrett ’01.
The new Cum Laude members are seniors Meredith Berry, CeCe Brants, Dana Guthrie, Annalee Kerrigan, Samanna Maberry, Sarah Jane McDonald, Thomas Mullins, Anne Phillips, Sarah Sawyer and Logan Tinley. New junior class members are Lexa Brenner, Michael Chan, Nikhil De, Griffin Grubbs, Christina Kelly, Lance Mayhue, Kacey Melton, Lauren Newton, Lucas Raynor and Nathan Wallace.
Garrett's speech was inspiring, witty and sobering all in one. She grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and moved to Texas and FWCD in 1996. Garrett earned a BA in History and Latin American Studies from Barnard College of Columbia University and an MBA at HEC Paris. She has led an international career in both the non-governmental organization and private sector in New York, Paris, The Netherlands, Switzerland and, most recently, London, where she designs executive courses for Unilever Global’s Four Acres Leadership Training Centre. Unilever is a global supplier of consumer goods with roots in more than 100 countries. Its portfolio includes well-known brands, including Dove, Knorr, Hellmann's, Lipton, and Ben and Jerry’s.
Her message to students centered on the term VUCA. Coined by the U.S. military in the 1990s, the term acknowledges that following the end of the Cold War, the world is now: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous.
“That has been the world in which you have spent your entire life,” she continued. “A world in which the speed of change has been faster than that of the generations that came before you with more uncertainty, chaos and ambiguity than has ever been faced before.”
She highlighted current headlines to showcase the term and then spoke about her important work at Unilever. ”In my current role in the Global Learning Team, I get to ensure that these VUCA themes feature prominently in the trainings that we design and deliver to our Unilever leaders. Our aim is to provide the resilience and effectiveness of leadership in the midst of constant upheaval,” she said, sharing that “this VUCA thing actually offers some unique opportunities” if viewed from a different perspective.
She challenged the students to seek understanding. She recommended they travel to help foster understanding. She asked students to confront their own assumption and look at an issue from a different perspective. She encouraged listening to those you may not agree with and trying to understand other points of view. Ultimately, she asked students to “be capable of putting away the distraction in order to drown out the noise and unlock so much potential that would otherwise be squandered.”
She ended her speech with some sage advice, things she’s collected in the more than 15 years since graduating from FWCD, including take a random class because you’re fascinated by the professor, don’t make your phone your most valued relationship, volunteer, travel and imagine a life that is unique. To read Garrett’s entire speech, click here
About The Cum Laude Society
The Cum Laude Society is an honor organization that stresses excellence, justice and honor. Selection is limited to 10 percent of the junior class and 20 percent of the senior class, elected over two years, based on their high academic standings and rigorous course loads. Elected students must also have demonstrated good character, honor and integrity in all aspects of school life.
Founded in 1906, Cum Laude Society is dedicated to honoring superior scholastic achievement in secondary schools. The founders of the society modeled Cum Laude after Phi Beta Kappa and in the years since its founding, Cum Laude has grown to 382 chapters, approximately two dozen of which are located in public schools and the rest in independent schools. Membership is predominately in the U.S., but chapters are also located in Canada, England, France, Spain, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.