Graduate Commencement at UMass Amherst Honors Student Grace and Discipline in Uncertain Times

AMHERST, Mass. – The Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conferred more than 1,100 doctoral and master’s degrees this morning at Commencement ceremonies that drew nearly 1,000 graduates, along with family members and friends, to the William D. Mullins Memorial Center.

Acknowledging the complex challenges that graduate students face as they juggle responsibilities in uncertain times, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy noted that many of today’s degree recipients already had well-established lives when they decided to pursue a graduate degree.

“It required compromise with loved ones and perhaps financial insecurity. It meant choosing studying over socializing. At times, I am sure each one of you doubted your decision, wondering why you voluntarily brought these sacrifices into your life,” said Subbaswamy. “But always, your spirit found the strength to tap back into your intellectual drive and enthusiasm, and you stayed on track. And you did it. Each one of you is here today because you did it. It’s tremendous. And I congratulate you.”

John J. McCarthy, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, echoed that assessment.

“Although our current economic and social climate is marked by uncertainty, your studies have helped you develop the skills, knowledge, discipline, and fortitude required to thrive in any context,” said McCarthy. “Moreover, by completing your graduate degrees at the University of Massachusetts Amherst you have aligned yourselves with a rich tradition of achievement by graduates who have significantly contributed to every area of society.”

UMass Board of Trustees Chair Henry M. Thomas III also invoked the challenges of the economic climate, urging graduates to “remain in Massachusetts and help the Commonwealth continue to become a global innovation leader.”

As part of yesterday’s proceedings, each of the 800 master’s degree recipients and 250 doctoral degree recipients were accompanied to the stage by his or her academic advisor to be “hooded” with an academic cowl. The practice was initiated for the first time at last year’s graduate commencement.

McCarthy offered a special salute to those advisors.

“Through their efforts, your advisors honor you and acknowledge you as the future caretakers of your discipline,” McCarthy told the graduates.

He also praised outgoing Provost James Staros as a “great friend of graduate education who helped to put graduate education at UMass Amherst on the same footing as undergraduate education.”

Distinguished Graduate Mentor Awards went to professor of linguistics Lyn Frazier, associate professor Erin Baker of the mechanical and industrial engineering department, and professor of food science Eric Decker. Distinguished Graduate Staff Awards went to academic advisor Dorothy Adams of the mechanical and industrial engineering department and Barbara McGlynn of the M.F.A. Program for Poets and Writers.

Distinguished Graduate Student Teaching Awards were presented to Claire Brault of the political science department and Domenico Aiello of the mathematics and statistics department.