On May 4th , the School of Engineering honored the achievements of nearly 500 undergraduate students and 200 graduate students who were awarded their BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees after years of long nights, countless problem sets, design challenges and joyous “aha” moments when difficult formulas suddenly gain meaning. The events were celebrated before a packed audience of families, friends, faculty and officials assembled to cheer on the graduating engineers.
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A series of distinguished speakers addressed the graduating class and audience, including UConn Provost Mun Y. Choi, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education & Diversity Marty Wood, Interim Dean of Engineering Kazem Kazerounian, student speaker Kelsey Boch and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Executive Director and CEO Betty Shanahan.
In his remarks, Dean Kazerounian exhorted the new graduates to “Live this moment and enjoy it. Today is about you. Treasure your experience, your knowledge, your personal and professional growth, and your tenacity. Treasure all those times you failed at the task on hand – but you got back on your feet and tried it again. Live this moment and enjoy it…but then, look ahead. You have conquered one mountain. But there are taller mountains to climb.”
Student speaker Kelsey Boch, who received B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and in Molecular and Cell Biology, urged her peers to find their passion in life and identify their purpose within society. “Passion is an interesting word and is uniquely tied to how we should define our future success. There is no universal definition for a person’s successful career. We must define our own success. I would like to advocate that we have finally found our true passion and success if we were to stop working and feel as though a part of ourselves is missing. So, define your success by your happiness and love for what you do, not by the money you make or the titles you hold.”
A major highlight of the ceremonies was the keynote address by SWE Executive Director and CEO Betty Shanahan, who was also presented an honorary Doctor of Science during the ceremonies. Ms. Shanahan has enjoyed a remarkable 35-year career that included 24 years in the electronics and software industries, where she contributed to some of the nation’s most cutting-edge developments in computing. When she began her career at Data General, she was the only female engineer working on the Eagle minicomputer design project, which was captured in Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Soul of a New Machine. Later, at Alliant Computer Systems, she contributed to the design of the first parallel processing minicomputer.
In receiving her honorary doctorate, Ms. Shanahan was recognized for her commitment to tearing down gender-based and racial barriers in education, and for nurturing the aspirations of young women and other underrepresented populations in engineering to embark on educational and career trajectories that were simply unavailable to previous generations. Read more about her here.
Speaking directly to the graduating seniors, Ms. Shanahan said, “It is undoubtedly obvious that I am very passionate about engineering. But I am also critical of the lack of diversity in engineering. Diverse teams make better decisions and are more creative. In a profession that designs solutions to very complex problems, why do we not leverage diversity more? Each of us has our life’s experiences and training as the basis for differences in perspectives, approaches, talents, interests, communications styles, and values. The benefits of diversity are maximized when each individual authentically participates.”
She urged the young engineers to cherish what is different about themselves as they embark on their careers, to create diverse teams and “drive authentic participation of each individual” because, “ultimately, a diverse team outperforms a homogenous team in productivity and creativity.” She also urged engineers to become more involved in policy making and civic engagement.
Associate Dean Marty Wood, who is retiring after a 25-year career at UConn, closed the ceremonies with a quote from Ernest Hemingway:
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”