Utah Valley University Graduates Encouraged to Seek ‘Journey Before Destination’ at 2023 Commencement

Utah Valley University’s Class of 2023 were reminded that tonight's commencement is just the beginning of their journey — and that the journey is more important than the destination.


Utah Valley University’s Class of 2023 gathered with faculty, staff, family, and friends in the UCCU Center on UVU’s Orem Campus on May 4 to celebrate the culmination of their academic achievements. But they were also reminded that commencement is just the beginning of their journeys — and that the journey is more important than the destination.

In his keynote address, New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson encouraged the 8,517 students in UVU’s Class of 2023 to focus on enjoying life and embracing states of transition.

“Part of believing that the journey is more important than the destination is not accepting your current state,” Sanderson said. “You should always be moving, changing. And often, there are small, simple things you can do to improve your life — and I want you to give yourself permission to make them.”

The theme of placing journey before destination features prominently in Sanderson’s work. Sanderson described how, after eight years of writing novels without selling any for publication, he made the decision to just write what he wanted to write, and enjoy it, without worrying about meeting the expectations of editors and others.

That decision enabled him to write his most famous book, “The Way of Kings” — a book in which, Sanderson said, “the central idea is that of loving the journey. Because sometimes, we don’t have any idea when the destination will arrive.”

Sanderson counseled students to avoid waiting for life to begin with three pieces of practical advice: to write down and identify life’s unique moments; to proactively create support structures with loved ones; and to improve the “now,” no matter the circumstances.

“If you want to avoid the trap of tunnel vision — if you fear that you’re focusing on future happiness instead of ensuring current happiness — you need to be active,” Sanderson said. “You need to not be moving so quickly that you stop paying attention to the beauty of the now.  And you need to identify those things that bring you joy.”

UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez also spoke about lifelong learning and embracing the journey — both your own and the journeys of others. She invited her daughter, UVU graduating senior Michal Tuminez Tolk, to join her as they addressed the Class of 2023 together.

Tolk spoke about her decision to leave a graduate program at Columbia University to travel across North America and Asia, serving as an apprentice to farmers and homesteading families. Her decision came as a surprise to her mother.

“When Michal became an itinerant farmer, I became unmoored,” President Tuminez said. “I felt fear for her safety, shame at my failed parenting, grief that she disconnected from family, and anger that she had deviated from the linear road I envisioned for her.”

With time, therapy, and prayer, President Tuminez said she learned to be kinder to herself and to trust her daughter’s choices. “My child was on her own hero’s journey, slaying her own monsters, achieving her own summits, and getting her own education,” she said.

“Spending that time with a diverse range of families allowed me to witness that no matter how idyllic your living situation is, no matter how much food you’re growing, the quality of your relationships is what ultimately determines the quality of your life,” Tuminez Tolk said.

President Tuminez emphasized that each person’s journey is a unique, non-linear experience, and preserving those relationships is key.

“Each of you has ventured on your own hero’s journey,” she said. “Sometimes those who love you best may not understand this journey. Be gentle with them. Phone them, talk to them, forgive them, and love them.”

UVUSA student body president Lexi Soto also addressed the Class of 2023, underscoring the need to accept change and recognize all the people who have helped along the way.

“Change is necessary,” Soto said. “It’s hard, and it’s scary. Sometimes you change for the better or for the worst, and you must make yourself better again, and that’s OK.”

Sanderson also received an honorary doctorate of letters during the commencement ceremony. Other honorary degree recipients included Elaine S. Dalton, who received an honorary doctorate of public service; Scott C. Keller, who received an honorary doctorate of business; and R. Duff Thompson, who also received an honorary doctorate of business.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox spoke to the UVU graduates via a video message. “It has been my pleasure to watch Utah Valley University grow, get to know your leadership, and observe how your student body succeeds through talent, grit, and sheer tenacity,” he said. “I have every confidence in your ability to achieve your dreams.”

Convocations for UVU’s individual colleges and schools were scheduled for May 4-5 at locations across UVU’s Orem Campus.