2014 Senior Speakers

Anthropology: Haley LeBouf

Haley LeBoufAnthropology truly is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities. Being a part of the department here at UMass and working with our wonderful faculty has shown me how interdisciplinary the field it is. The different branches are so tightly interwoven that it is often impossible to look at one without discussion of how it is impacted by one, or more, of the others.

Physical anthropology has taught me that race does not exist biologically, which  in turn says a lot about the massive impact social constructions can have. In an archaeology class I learned the most about the ethics of working with living indigenous cultures, and non-human primates have taught me a surprising amount about morality, a concept considered by most people to be exclusively human. 

As a transfer student I have only been here 2 years. However, in that time I was so incredibly inspired by my peers and faculty, that I find myself constantly wishing that I had been here for 4. Our fantastic department facilitates the opportunity to flourish.

I am so proud of each and every one of you. Even if you have no plan for after graduation, be confident that your talent will soon be recognized. You have gained priceless new ways of looking at the world.

Congratulations class of 2014, and thank you for everything!

Communication: Gillian Sontz

Gillian SontzOn behalf of my fellow peer advisors, congratulations to the Communication students of the class of 2014! We feel fortunate to be the last class that will ever have to navigate the east and west wings of Machmer hall for all four years!

While our friends may not like to watch TV or go shopping with us, we’re proud we know the truth behind advertising and where our products come from. As Comm majors, we have learned to see through many lenses, whether the camera lens or the critical lenses which we use to view the world. Even though this chapter of our life is coming to a close, our journey is just beginning. While we are all going in different directions, we have no doubt that the knowledge and experiences gained through our Communication studies will ultimately shape the way we interact with our communities both locally and globally. We feel a shared sense of responsibility to make a difference and strive to succeed.  Thank you to the outstanding faculty and staff who have guided us along the way, as well as our peers, families and friends who have helped us become the people we are today.

Congratulations and good luck class of 2014. We did it!

Economics: Erin Buckminster

Erin BuckminsterGood afternoon! I'm incredibly proud to be a graduate of the UMass Economics department. Within this department I have found a community unlike any I have experienced before. From my fellow classmates to the graduate TAs to the ever-supportive professors and administrative staff, everyone has come together to make this collegiate endeavor truly memorable.

Trying to explain the phenomena we observe in economics is difficult and requires an abundance of assumptions. A distinct feature of this economics program is that it teaches us not only to understand but also to question those assumptions. Consequently, I've learned to keep an open, critical mind about all things, especially since we've seen firsthand that theory doesn't always translate to reality.

As we move forward into the next stages of our lives, keep this in mind. Be open to life. Be rational and responsible, as any student of economics is, but don't forget to be spontaneous and accepting of the curve balls life throws your way; that's what makes life exciting!

Congratulations fellow 2014 graduates and thank you to all who have supported us along the way!

Environmental Design: Nicole Forsyth

Nicole Forsyth“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, that is the only thing that ever has.”

This quote by Margaret Mead exemplifies my cohort of Environmental Designers. To this major, we have each brought a unique variety of skills, passions, and goals, and through the years we have learned and shaped those to fulfill our dreams.  As Environmental Designers we have worked together to make the world a better place, and a more sustainable place for not only ourselves, but for future generations. We strive to inspire sustainable citizens and to promote and restore the beauty of our natural earth. Through this program, we each declared a concentration, and whether it was Landscape Studies, Horticulture, the Built Environment, or Urban Studies, we have learned how to make positive interactions between the built environment and the natural environment in a way we can integrate and educate.

Over the years we have gotten to know each other and formed a bond of people who truly care about the future and are dedicated to inspiring others as well.

Congratulations to my fellow Environmental Design graduates! 

Journalism: Veronica Stracqualursi

Veronica Stracqualursi with department chair Karen ListTo the future Bob Costas, Nicholas Kristofs, Christiane Amanpours, Audie Cornishes, and Ron Burgundys, did you ever dread the day, like me, when we’d graduate? Aren’t there so many great things about the journalism department that make leaving so difficult? We’re really more of a community than a major, don’t you think?

What would Journalism be without its professors? How could we have gotten so many internships, crafted killer leads, or learned to take honest—and sometimes brutal—advice? Looking back, wasn’t it awesome when others had to study for tests, and we only had articles to write or footage to edit? And didn’t you panic when you had to transcribe hours of interviews and sloppy notes in only one day?

After stressing deadlines, accidentally erasing footage, realizing you weren’t recording, misspelling something in your Tweet, and pushing so hard to get interviews that you feared a possible restraining order, does the future still seem daunting? Still, how can we not be excited to start a new chapter and become who we’ve always wanted to be? Will you promise to still call when you’re super successful and famous?

(PAUSE) Have you noticed that Journalists ask a lot of questions?

Landscape Architecture: David Mitchell

David MitchellI stand before you entirely grateful for what the University of Massachusetts Amherst has allowed me to explore as a student in the landscape architecture program. We have learned about the harmful effects of global warming, the densification of cities, zoning bylaws, ecological processes, and of course, time management. 

What many do not know is our objective: and that is to create inviting, safe and livable spaces for people. We work with tools like ArcGIS, AutoCAD and Photoshop to analyze how we can most effectively arrange earth, water, plants and structures to create accommodating experiences for people. Much like in life, how we arrange our resources determines success. 

A wise man once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” To all the young creative minds out there, who want to make a difference yet are uncertain about how to do so, consider landscape architecture, and propose the change you want to see in the world. 

Thank you. 

Legal Studies: Stasia Levin

Stasia LevinI am honored to be speaking on behalf of the students who will soon become the most hated profession in America. Some people may say that the legal studies department is like a family, Lori is our mom-away-from-mom, and Judge Carhart is our disproving dad whom we can never seem to please.

In legal studies we learn to question everything, like who thought it was a good idea to ask a legal studies major to only talk for one minute? Better yet, what exactly is Professor Gaitenby hiding in his hair?

It’s a good thing that we are getting our diplomas so the unsolicited legal advice we give to our friends will seem just a little more legitimate. But to friends in other majors, keep our numbers, you may need them one day, I’m talking about you Isenberg.

Thank you to the amazing faculty and top-notch advisers who have been there for us, even if they have ruined every episode of “Law and Order.”

Legal studies truly is the best major at UMass—don’t argue with us on that, its what we do best.

Thank you to the Mock Trial family for making my time at UMass better than a visit to Racheter World. Congratulations class of 2014! We did it! 

Political Science: Keith Lema

Keith LemaGood Afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today I am a proud graduate of both Political Science and Economics. 

To our friends and family and faculty: thank you for your support and inspiration. 

To my fellow graduates: congratulations. 

Searching for inspiration on what to say today, I sentimentally searched through all of my old notebooks. On the first page of one, I found the adage: “Politics is who gets what where  and how.” In another labeled Constitutional Law, I found some of Professor Goldman’s legendary puns and one-liners. The World Politics notebook was nearly blank because I was too enthralled with Professor Vinnie Ferraro’s epic lectures to write much down. Those notes made me feel so fortunate to have received such an amazing college education, inside and outside the classroom.

I’ve accomplished more in the past four years at UMass than I had in the previous eighteen; I suspect all of you feel that way. 

I encourage you all to remain lifelong students. It will make us better family members, better neighbors, and better citizens. 

Congratulations, and I look forward to a lifetime of headlines about the amazing things SBS graduates will do.

Resource Economics: Matt Lurie

Matt LurieGood afternoon everyone. Thank you all for coming today! Congratulations to my fellow ResEc graduates! Most people don’t know that our major is broken down into three categories: Managerial Economics, Consumer and Family Economics, and Environmental Economics. Each track is unique, but we all share a common core of outstanding professors who care about their students unconditionally. At least, I like to think that...  

In a world with so much uncertainty, resource economists bring hope. We learn quantitative decision making techniques and how to weigh options about resource development, allocation, and use. Things like how many bundles of pasta and bacon we need to achieve equilibrium in John Spraggon’s Price Theory class; running multiple regression tests on rose sales in Dan Lass's Econometrics labs; or learning the ins and outs of LinkedIn and networking from the great Julie Caswell. Such lessons have prepared us for the real world more than we ever could have imagined four years ago.

Thank you to all the professors, to Lianne Hanson, our academic advisor who saved me while choosing classes more times than I would like to admit, and to all the others who have helped to turn us into resource economists. Stay in touch and remember our slogan, Life is Full of Choices!

STPEC: DiJonée Alésia Talley

DiJonée Alésia TalleyGood afternoon parents, friends, faculty, and especially fellow graduates!

Just like many of you, in fact I am sure ALL OF YOU, I feel like this all started just yesterday. At the beginning it felt like I had all of the time in the world, except of course when it came time to cram for an exam, or prepare a 20-page paper, and those other kinds of things that I know most of us have found ourselves at least once doing at the last possible minute. I do not know and probably will never be able to figure out how four whole years, filled with fun and struggle, excitement and experience—an 8-semester rollercoaster of emotion and life—can seemingly feel like both an eternity and a flash all in one.

Nonetheless, we are here, the Class of 2014. And before I cross this stage, I want to leave you all with my best advice. I came to college with a lot of plans for myself, and indeed I accomplished many of those things. I joined a sorority, I involved myself in social justice activism and service, and more. But there are also many things I missed. Sometimes we get so caught up into routine and habit with the things we find most comfortable that we forget to make room to indulge ourselves in new things. To that I say this: do not be afraid to change and do not beat yourself up for the things you did not do. Take pride in what you have done and open your mind and heart to the constant possibility of new experiences! These things, good or bad, become our life lessons and make us who we are. To embrace them is to embrace life.

Sociology: Sarah Laughlin

Sarah LaughlinWhile I usually consider myself pretty brave, I've always been absolutely terrified of growing up. On the eve of my tenth birthday, I told my dad that I was afraid of double digits. “Why's that?” he asked. “Because the older you get, you know stuff that I don't want to know,” I responded. As time went by, pessimism rained heavy upon me as my coloring books were replaced with text books and I learned that adults aren't supposed to order chocolate milk at restaurants. My biggest nightmare was coming true—I was hardening into an adult. Still, I found solace in the remnants of my childhood. I started to wonder why being “childish” was such a bad thing.

And that is where sociology comes into the equation. At UMass, I quickly became smitten with Soc because it does this beautiful thing of combining hard, scientific fact with effervescent hope. Sociology taught me that the world is fluid, constantly being recreated by each generation. It taught me to be astutely aware of the social ills that plague us, showed me the absolute darkest parts of humanity, and then told me to shine a light there. It's made me equal parts realist and optimist.

I'm left with this illuminating truth: becoming adults does not mean that we need to leave behind the unbridled joy, uninhibited enthusiasm, and unchained imagination of youth. We live in a world riddled with heartbreaking severity, so why not powder it with jumping jacks and garnish it with laughter? Sociology has taught me that harnessing my unspoiled inner child will be my strongest tool in making the world better.

And so, let us all raise a glass of chocolate milk and cheer on coloring books! Congratulations.