Remarks by Chancellor Subbaswamy at Graduate Commencement

Remarks by Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy
Graduate School Commencement, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Friday, May 12, 2017
Mullins Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Good morning! Welcome to Graduate Commencement. It’s wonderful to see all the families and friends who traveled near and far for this joyous occasion. Thank you for joining us.

And of course, a very heartfelt “Congratulations!” to the Graduate Class of 2017.

This morning, we celebrate 1,799 of you. 897 of you are women. 288 of you are African, Latino, Hispanic, Asian or Native American students. And 426 of you are international students, representing 60 countries from every corner of the world.

As all of you begin the next chapter in your life, I know you are poised to succeed, for over the course of your studies, by working with your faculty – some of the best minds in the world – and by meeting the academic rigor of your program, you have contributed to the excellence of the university. And, now as you prepare to move on, you will bring that same commitment, energy and growing expertise to your future endeavors.

I have good reason to have confidence in you.

Consider that for the past three years, UMass graduate students have helped secure our position as one of the nation’s leading producers of Fulbright Scholars. During this period, our master’s and doctoral students have achieved a success rate of 56 percent in one of the world’s premier fellowship competitions, a percentage that doubles and in some cases triples the success rate of students from other leading public and private universities.

And, for the second consecutive year, graduate students have helped make UMass Amherst a top three producer of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipients in the Commonwealth, along with Harvard and MIT.

And just look at the astonishing variety of nationally or internationally prominent awards recently won by UMass graduate students, including several by members of the 2017 graduate class:

  • A Woodrow Wilson Fellowship
  • Ford Foundation Predissertation and Dissertation Fellowships
  • Mellon Fellowships in African-American History
  • EPA Star Fellowships
  • NSF Dissertation Research Grants
  • American Association of University Women Fellowships
  • Soros Fellowships for New Americans
  • A Ruth L. Kirschstein Research Service Award
  • A Patricia Cross Future Leader Award
  • NASA Research Fellowship
  • And Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Research Fellowships

Although this list is incredibly impressive, it only begins to hint at the outstanding contributions all graduate students make to the university through your remarkable analytical and creative talents.  

My confidence in you will continue well after today’s commencement is over. As graduates of the university, I know you are highly sought after in the job market. And, as you build distinguished careers, you will become leaders in your respective fields. Again, the facts support my confidence in each one of you. We only need to look at some of our distinguished alumni to anticipate the contributions you will make in the world:

  • Unita Blackwell, a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and the first African American woman elected to mayoral office in Mississippi.
  • Michael Blakey, a renowned anthropologist and leader of the New York African Burial Ground Project – considered one of the most important archaeological excavations of the 20th century.
  • Ben Cherington, a former Red Sox general manager and architect of the 2013 World Series championship team.
  • Cady Coleman, an astronaut who has traveled 70,000,000 miles in space.
  • Thomas Herndon, an economist who was named a 2013 Bostonian of the Year by the Boston Globe for debunking the the widely accepted argument justifying social austerity measures while still a graduate student.
  • Russell Alan Hulse, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for work conducted as a UMass doctoral student.
  • Natasha Tretheway, former U.S. poet laureate.
  • Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s first female foreign minister.
  • Cynthia Shepard Perry, a former U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone and Burundi, former executive director of African Development Bank, former director with USAID

As members of the Graduate Class of 2017, you now join this impressive group of alumni.

Speaking of impressive, I would like to recognize Dean John McCarthy who is concluding his remarkable five-year tenure as dean of the Graduate School to more closely focus on his duties as senior vice provost and devote additional time to his highly regarded research in linguistics.

During his tenure as dean, John McCarthy has had a transformative impact on the Graduate School, positioning it as an essential component of the university's graduate education and research enterprises – and has earned the reputation as a visionary leader.  I know my colleagues and our students all join me in sincerely thanking John for his exemplary tenure as dean of the graduate school. John, I look forward to continuing our work together in your critical role as senior vice provost. Please join me thanking Dean McCarthy for his leadership. 

Once again, congratulations to the Graduate Class of 2017!  As you leave us to begin the next chapter of your lives, you are certainly off to an auspicious start.

In the years ahead, I look forward to following your careers and celebrating your successes – and I hope you will come back and visit as often as you can. The door is always open.

Thank you and Go UMass!