Congratulations BDIC Graduates

 Congratulations to each of you in the BDIC Class of 2020. Each of you includes you the students of BDIC, but also congratulations to your families, friends, and colleagues. We know that they have all made sacrifices, solved problems, listened when there were problems and took time to support you throughout your education.

 Personally, I want to thank each of you for making BDIC and UMass Amherst a world recognized leader in many fields and, individualized degree programs!

 Again, personally, I must congratulate and thank the BDIC staff, faculty and peer advisors: Linda Roney, Jennifer Carbery, Molly Burnham, Daniel Altshuler, Susan Ware, Mark Hamin, Jean Forward, M. J. Alhabeeb, Stephen Brand, Skye Long, and Marty Norden. During your time in BDIC and especially over the last 9 weeks, each of them have done a tremendous job to keep delivering courses and advising to maintain the normalcy of the current environment. This last two months has been a shock to us all, but I hope you recognize that each of the staff and faculty transformed in 1 week or less, to continue being professors or advisors. So, thank you to each member of the BDIC staff for the unbelievable job you have done.

 There is a constant saying as you are going through college, “get ready for the real world”. No doubt, this is a new time. The real world you started with is not the same. There is a new reality and a new normal. However, as I reflect upon the efforts that all BDIC students make to curate, organize, and complete their BDIC degrees, you should be well prepared.

 Why? You have all faced challenges and uncertainty each semester. You have all   persevered through your own determination and resilience, and possibly many pep- talks from Linda. But, by navigating these years at UMass Amherst we know you have addressed challenges that put your outside of your comfort zone. Challenges that other students did not have. Resources that other students did not have.

 I teach freshmen to navigate this huge campus and the 100s of departments, activities, and the newness of being in college. I teach juniors and seniors about cultural differences, international markets and the distinct uncertainties of international marketing compared to working and living in the USA. I also teach managers and executives around the world, in emerging markets of China and Brazil, who have lived their lives with some of the uncertainties that are new to all of us.

 I tell each group, just as will tell you, uncertainty, if taken head on, will open our eyes to how we live and operate, an through the fog of uncertainty, we can see new opportunities to continue and grow. By facing and addressing the uncertainties, we become more resilient and we find ways of living, working, and raising families, that focus on the most valuable parts of our lives. Yes, it’s nice to have certainty, consistency, but preparation for uncertainty and living through it develops resilience.

 I know this because of the many uncertainties I have seen my family, from Eastern Kentucky, endure beginning in the late 1800s. Each generation has suffered pandemics, multiple world wars, economic crashes, civil and social unrest. Many of those things have happened in my lifetime alone. With very meager and limited resources, they persevered and enjoyed the positive aspects of the 20th and early 21st century.

 Early on, my family and millions of families like them before and after, were not equipped with higher education, national infrastructure, no NASA technology, social civility, or many of the things we call normal today. They had their initiative, families, and a vision of living life to its fullest. No matter the ceiling on their dreams, they pushed that ceiling higher.

 Each of you have access to advances those before did not. You have the abilities and skills that can keep this country and global community advancing into the future. Your varied degrees, each shaped around your ideals and insights of how you want to make your future are embedded in you. Use them to focus on your wellbeing and extend that to others.

 You are the stewards of the future. You will face hurdles, you will face set back, you will thrive, and you will succeed. Along that journey, always know that your families, BDIC, the 50 years of BDIC alumni and UMass Amherst are always behind you, beside you and even sometimes in front, as you break through barriers.

 You, the students of BDIC class of 2020 have completed one step in your journey. Go with Godspeed to conquer your futures.


Thomas Brashear Alejandro

director of the Bachelor's Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) program