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Chancellor Subbaswamy Addresses 2013 Graduate School Commencement

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Kumble R. Subbaswamy, Chancellor of UMass Amherst addresses the Graduate School Commencement ceremony, May 10, 2013 in the Mullins Center.


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the commencement ceremony of the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts Amherst! I congratulate you all on the long and demanding road you have traveled to arrive here this morning.

Everyone here has earned every atom of pride he or she is feeling today: you, and your families, and your mentors. I encourage you all to bask in it. The road to an advanced degree is often complex. To commit to a graduate education while juggling the responsibilities of an adult life requires stamina, sacrifice, self-confidence and sheer determination.

Many of you came from very far away to study at UMass Amherst. You are an exceedingly diverse population, representing a global community of scholars: One-third of you receiving advanced degrees today are international students. You remind me of my days receiving my PhD in physics from Indiana University, so far from my family’s home in Bangalore! I am pleased that you chose to earn your degrees here, at this great research university that is the flagship of the Commonwealth.

On your path to graduation, many of you have been helped along the way by those who are in the audience. High achievement seldom happens in a vacuum, and our success often belongs to many more people than just ourselves. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” could just as easily be “It takes a village to earn a master’s or a PhD!”

First, I must say that a graduate degree can be very much a family enterprise. Few of us would ever complete that journey if it were not for our partners, spouses, parents, siblings, children, and friends. They give moral support, time, and energy: making dinner for us when we are reading for our doctoral exams, going on weekend outings without us when we are up against a dissertation deadline, not commenting when we haven’t taken a shower or slept in three days. The commitment of graduate study involves a whole human family and we should never take them for granted! Graduates, would you join me in a round of applause for all who have supported you?

We also would never have made it to our advanced degrees without the support of our advisors. They encourage us, challenge us, goad us, and sometimes vex us. But always because they want us to try hard and to be our best. Today marks an important landmark in the history of our graduate school commencement ceremony. For the first time, we are incorporating the old tradition of advisors hooding their advisees. This ritual underlines the importance of the mentor relationship in creating scholars who are part of a lineage. Your advisors honor you and acknowledge you as the future caretakers of your discipline. Graduates, would you join me in saluting your faculty advisors and members of your committees in attendance?

We would not be a great research university without participating in the worldwide network of disciplines represented by our graduates and by our faculty, or without an enduring commitment to graduate education. When I look out at all of you, I see a bright future. Each of you will have your own individual contribution to make to your field. I look forward to seeing what you discover, and what you create. One characteristic that all UMass students have in common, regardless of what they study, or where they come from, is that you all are bright, bold, unconventional thinkers. Sometimes I think that is the real reason this is called the Pioneer Valley. At this campus, you receive an inheritance of innovation from forward-thinkers in all of your fields, across the decades.

Much of that innovation is inspired by public service. When we are pressed by a higher cause, when we know that other people are relying on us and will benefit from our work, we are inspired to think in original ways. So as we prepare to present you with your diplomas and your hoods, I know that you will keep the legacy of UMass Amherst alive throughout the world. During our sesquicentennial year, we are able to take stock and reflect on how influential this campus is through the enormous contributions of our graduates. Each one of you bears a spark of that legacy. Be guided by a sense of service in all that you do and you will always make the right choices. I believe in you! Go, UMASS!