AMHERST, Mass. – The Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Amherst conferred more than 1,900 graduate degrees this morning at a Commencement ceremony in the William D. Mullins Memorial Center.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy told the graduates, “This morning we celebrate our revolutionary commitment to exploration and innovation – a commitment that runs deep at the university. For more than 150 years, our faculty, students and alumni have consistently challenged conventional wisdom in the quest to spark discovery, expand knowledge and create a more just society.”
The chancellor described the accomplishments of a number of notable alumni, among them Hina Rabbani Khar, the first woman to serve as foreign minister of Pakistan; Victor Bahl, founder of the Mobility and Networking Research Group at Microsoft; astronaut Cady Coleman, one of only 50 women to travel in space; Russell Alan Hulse, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for work conducted as a doctoral student; and former U.S. poet laureate Natasha Tretheway.
He then went on to acknowledge some of the accomplishments of the 2019 graduate class, including five Fulbright Scholarships, nine National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and fellowship awards from National Geographic, the Ford Foundation, the Social Science Council, Google, Microsoft, IBM and the Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies.
Subbaswamy said, “All of these honors are widely recognized markers of future leadership that resoundingly point to your continued excellence and success. This morning, as you commence with the next phase of your life, I know you will continue the revolutionary spirit of the university as you challenge conventional wisdom, pioneer new discovery and strive for a more just society.”
Continuing the theme of justice, student speaker Ashley Carpenter shared the story of following in her grandmother’s footsteps by earning a Ph.D. in education. She spoke of the struggles that her grandmother, who was present at the ceremony, faced earning her degree as an African American woman in the South during an era of segregation. She noted that while progress is being made, there are still many inequities in society and higher education to be addressed.
“We must continue challenging our society’s intellectual, cultural, political and ethical status quo,” Carpenter said. “This radical questioning, comprised of a refusal to accept the platitudes of conventional wisdom or the inequities of long-standing social convention, must remain a central feature of our personal lives as we seek new ways of understanding and improving the world around us. As you depart from UMass, I encourage you to remain committed to some of the university’s most important values – the respect for difference, the rejection of hatred and the embrace of our ability to act as a mighty force for positive, equitable and structural social change.”
Graduate School Dean Barbara Krauthamer presided over the ceremony and encouraged graduates to thank the faculty, friends and family who have supported them on their journey. University of Massachusetts Trustee Mary L. Burns congratulated the graduates and expressed her confidence in their ability to contribute to the prosperity of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.