AMHERST, Mass. – The Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conferred more than 1,700 doctoral and master’s degrees this morning at a Commencement ceremony that drew more than 1,000 graduates, along with approximately 3,000 family members and friends, to the William D. Mullins Memorial Center.
A total of 310 doctoral degrees, 1,432 master’s degrees and 47 educational specialist degrees were awarded to graduates of 75 degree programs. Degree recipients represented more than 60 countries and ranged in age from 22 to 69.
Acknowledging the “unique lens” through which each student encounters and engages the complex challenges demanded by the pursuit of an advanced degree, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy praised the collective accomplishments of this year’s graduate class.
“Together, you share an understanding amongst yourselves of the commitment and self-discipline that was required to successfully bring you here today,” said Subbaswamy. “And while you each pursued your own academic focus, you all have a common appreciation for the excitement that comes from following one’s own intellectual interest.”
“This complement between individual intellectual exploration and the mutual appreciation shared among the academic community is a rewarding experience, and it gives me great pleasure to know you are now part of it.”
John J. McCarthy, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, echoed that assessment by recognizing the positive effect of mentors on their students and identifying effective mentorship as an essential component of a healthy society.
“When you first arrived on campus, it may have been your mentor who helped you navigate the transition to graduate school,” said McCarthy. “Later, when you were attempting to shape a promising research paper into a publishable article or were exploring a thesis or dissertation topic, it was your mentor who perceptively questioned some of your fundamental intellectual assumptions and helped you arrive at new insights that became central to your scholarly development…You have arrived at this transformative moment not only because of your own merit but also because your mentors have been at your side for a long time prior to this moment—nurturing, demanding and supporting your academic, professional, and personal growth.”
Looking to the future, McCarthy advised graduates to honor the debt they owe to their mentors by becoming committed, effective mentors themselves. “By guiding aspiring scholars and professionals to realize their potential, you will ensure that society benefits from new generations of intellectual and creative talent and acknowledge the enduring influence of your mentors,” he said. “You will also extend the tradition of effective mentorship that defines UMass Amherst as a great institution of higher learning.”
Katherine S. Newman, who addressed the degree recipients for the first time in her role as provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, advised that her own experience at the University of California, Berkeley taught her the wisdom of honoring mentors without blindly following their advice.
“Walk to the beat of your own drummer,” she said. “In some ways, your degree is a license to disrupt.”
Distinguished Graduate Mentor Awards went to professor of nutrition Elena Carbone; Kathleen Lugosch, founding director of the master’s program in architecture and design; and professor of chemistry Dhandapani Venkataraman. The Distinguished Graduate Staff Award went to Beth Barry of the labor studies program and sociology department.
Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching Awards were presented to Una Tanovic of comparative literature and Kyla Walters of the sociology department.