Graduate Commencement Honors and Celebrates Student Contributions
The Graduate School conferred more than 300 doctoral degrees and more than 1,000 master's degrees Friday morning as graduates gathered with their friends and family to hear author and environmental activist Bill McKibben warn that it will take scholars and citizens of every discipline to deal with global warming.
The ceremony repeatedly highlighted the role of the campus's graduate students in taking on some of the thorniest challenges facing the planet as well as strengthening the teaching, researching and outreach roles of the university in its increasing global reach.
"You have been instrumental in helping the university to achieve strong results in the National Research Council Rankings and to place among the top 20 universities in the world in the Times of London reputational ranking," Chancellor Robert C. Holub told the degree recipients.
"The range of your accomplishments in these areas is astounding," Holub continued. "A quick look at the commencement program shows work on post-conflict Rwanda, osteoarthritis, behavioral labor economics, the dawn song of tree swallows, and the production of renewable fuels from biomass."
"And you have made it your responsibility to help fulfill the campus's mission of outreach to our valley and far beyond. For example, graduate students help organize an annual Native American pow-wow on our campus, improve access to higher education in Afghanistan, prepare tax returns for low-income and foreign students, and organize charitable events for a multitude of causes each year."
That message of global service and responsibility continued to echo as Holub presented an honorary doctor of science degree to McKibbon, whose 1989 book, The End of Nature, has served as a rallying cry regarding causes and consequences of global warming.
UMass Amherst climatologists were among the earliest to document global warming and its graduate students repeatedly break new ground in areas such as renewable fuels to climate research to educational access in Afghanistan, noted McKibbon, whose most recent book is "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet."
"But it will take fine minds in every field, participants of every field there is to act not just as doctors and masters, but as citizens," said McKibben. "It is that role in which you will, or will not, guarantee a solution to global warming."
Also honored during Friday's Graduate Commencement ceremony was Yusef A. Lateef, the Grammy Award-winning composer, performer, recording artist, author, educator and philosopher who taught at the Five Colleges for more than 14 years until his retirement in 2002. He earned his doctorate through the School of Education in 1975.