More than 1,900 Advanced Degrees Conferred at UMass Amherst’s 2018 Graduate Commencement

Graduate School Commencement

AMHERST, Mass. – The Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conferred 1,948 graduate degrees this morning at a Commencement ceremony that drew more than 1,000 graduates, along with approximately 3,500 family members and friends, to the William D. Mullins Memorial Center.

A total of 357 doctoral degrees, 1,568 master’s degrees and 23 educational specialist degrees were awarded to graduates of 76 degree programs.

Twenty-three percent of the degree recipients were international students, representing 54  countries. Seventeen percent were African-American, Latino, Asian or Native American, and 50.4 percent were women.

The graduates ranged in age from 21 to 76.

Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy praised the graduates’ accomplishments and told them their excellence has extended beyond research and beyond advancing the university’s educational mission.

“As active members of our intellectual community, you are also reshaping the relationship between society and academic research,” Subbaswamy said. “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.”

The chancellor cited several program, including the inaugural UMass Public Engagement Summit, in which graduate students worked to share their research with larger audiences and use it to shape public debate, and the Science Café, in which students shared their scientific research with the western Massachusetts community through popular presentations and lectures.

“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,” Subbaswamy said.

“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,” he said.

Brabara Krauthamer, professor of history and dean of the graduate school, told the graduates, “Earning an advanced degree is a significant individual accomplishment; you studied, researched and wrote. Yet, no one completes their academic journey alone.” 

She reminded the graduates of the faculty “who taught, guided and mentored” them and of the classmates, friends and family members “who sustained and cared for you in countless ways.”

Krauthamer said the graduates have many reasons to proceed with confidence as they become “part of the rich legacy of achievement that has been defined by Umass Amherst graduate alumni.”

“This legacy is exemplified by graduates such as Kyung-wha Kahng, who recently became the first woman to serve as the Foreign Minister of South Korea; and physicist Russell Alan Hulse, who won the Nobel Prize for developing a telescope that allowed for new approaches to the study of gravitation; and Unita Blackwell, a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award winner and the first African-American woman elected to serve as mayor in the state of Mississippi,” she said.

“As you follow your own paths, no matter your field of study and no matter where the future takes you, I hope you will uphold a tradition that is central to the mission and identity of our university—the practice of mentoring, of reaching out and supporting someone else and helping them achieve their goals. …  By helping others pursue their dreams and realize their potential, you will ensure that your communities and the wider society benefits from future generations’ intellectual and creative talent. In this way, you will honor your mentors and continue the legacy of graduate student excellence that distinguishes the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a leader in higher education,” Krauthamer said.

Henry M. Thomas III, chair emeritus of the UMass Board of Trustees, told the graduates, “The board of trustees knows that many of you will travel the world and will have a significant impact on it. But we also know that the majority of you will continue to build your lives and careers right here in this wonderful Commonwealth. And if you are among those who decide to make Massachusetts your home, this state will be richer as a result … and will benefit many times over from the investment it has made in you and in this great university.”

Distinguished Graduate Mentor Awards went to Alexandra Pope, associate professor of astronomy; Keisha Green, assistant professor of education; and Donna LeCourt, associate professor of English, director of the UMass Writing Center and former head of the Writing Program.

Distinguished Teaching Assistant Awards were presented to two graduate students: Manuela Borzone, comparative literature; and Tanya Whitworth, sociology. The Distinguished Graduate Staff Award went to Beth Grybko, graduate program assistant in the philosophy department.