Graduate selfie
University News

Thousands Congratulate UMass Amherst Graduate Class of 2024 at Commencement

The UMass Amherst Graduate Class of 2024 had their doctoral, master’s and education specialist degrees conferred as family and friends cheered them on during its commencement ceremony at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 17.

Graduate School Dean Jacqueline Urla welcomed the class, which included 2,750 degree recipients, saying they range in age from 19 to 74 and represent impressive work ranging from preserving primates in Africa to finding new treatments for disease.

Chancellor Javier Reyes praised the class, saying “As both chancellor and as a father, I am heartened by the passion of this generation and your desire to actively work toward creating a better world. Your advocacy challenges us to explore new perspectives and create new understandings.”

Chancellor Reyes
Chancellor Javier Reyes

Looking at the sea of graduates, he said, “When I look across this field today, I see hope. I see a commitment to discovery and innovation. I see a commitment to advancing new knowledge and understanding. And I see a deep commitment to building a better world.”

Graduate student speaker Jarrel De Matas of Couva, Trinidad, who received his Ph.D. in English, started his talk off on a light note, saying, “Are there any doctors in the house?” to a response of laughter.

Jarrel De Matas
Jarrel De Matas

De Matas encouraged his classmates to not dive immediately into the future. “Pause for a moment and appreciate that all the hard work you put in has brought you to this point in life,” he said. Of his own journey, he added, “If 10 years ago you’d have told me that in 2024, I, someone from Trinidad and Tobago—a barely noticeable speck on the map compared to the United States—would not only graduate with a Ph.D. but deliver the commencement address, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Both Reyes and De Matas made science fiction references in their addresses. Reyes, a well-known Star Wars fan, quoted Jedi master Yoda by telling the graduates, “Do, or do not. There is no try. Now go DO!”

De Matas, an avid fan of science fiction, explored the genre and the culture surrounding it in the Caribbean, Latin America and the U.S. for his thesis. He will continue exploring the intersection of science fiction and culture in his new book, tentatively titled “Caribbean Science Fiction and Beyond: Interviews with Writers of Science and Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, and Folklore,” to be published by Routledge. He concluded his speech with a quote from Star Trek first officer Spock, saying, “Live long and prosper.”