Remarks by Chancellor Subbaswamy at Graduate Commencement

Remarks by Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy
Graduate School Commencement, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Friday, May 11, 2018
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, “Congratulations!” to the Graduate Class of 2018.

This morning, we will confer 1,948 graduate degrees.

More than half of you are women

330 of you are students of color.

453 of you are international students, representing more than 50 countries.

You range in age from 21 to 76.

And, you all have something significant in common. You are now part of the university’s rich tradition of graduate degree recipients who go on to become pioneers, groundbreaking thinkers, and leaders in their fields.  

Your commitment to excellence has brought you to this point of success.

As cutting-edge researchers, you have won some of the most prestigious fellowships in the country. Over the past four years, you have played a crucial role in securing the university’s position as a leading institutional producer of Fulbright Fellows. You have excelled in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition at a time when their investment in graduate students has declined. You have won numerous awards ranging from the American Association of University Women Fellowship to the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Each of these awards is widely considered a marker of outstanding potential for early-career scholars.

You published hundreds of scholarly articles and played a crucial role in shaping the research of your faculty advisors—thereby enhancing our reputation as a leading public research university.

And your excellence extends beyond research. Our recently completed UMass Distinguished Teaching Award competition illustrates your contribution to advancing our educational mission. Each year, undergraduates submit hundreds of letters nominating Graduate Teaching Assistants for this award. In these nominations, your students consistently describe your role in accelerating their intellectual growth, challenging them and proving to be “the best teacher they’ve ever had.” Almost every UMass undergraduate, it seems, has a story about a TA who changed their life.

As active members of our intellectual community, you are also reshaping the relationship between society and academic research. Recognizing your work has potential benefits for humanity, you recently dismantled barriers separating the university from the broader public by engaging in a wide array of outreach and engagement activities: 

  • For instance, many of you trained  for the new Three-Minute Thesis Competition, cultivating skills to distill your cutting-edge research into a presentation of three minutes or less for general audiences.
  • Creating the inaugural UMass Public Engagement Summit, you came together to strategize about finding larger audiences for your research and using your work to shape public debate on topics of pressing importance.
  • You participated in Science Café, sharing your scientific research with the Western Massachusetts community through a series of popular presentations and lectures.
  • And, your contributions to the “That’s Life Science” blogvto help promote the relevance of your work to non-specialists.

Through the excellence of your research and teaching as well as your laudable desire to dissolve barriers between academia and the broader world, you have prepared yourself to venture forth with confidence, challenge the status quo and strengthen society with your original voices, new perspectives and innovative ideas.

I congratulate all of you on your accomplishments, and I thank you for your contributions to the university, the academy, and the world.

Congratulations Graduate Class of 2018 and GO UMASS!