Virginia Tech Spring 2019 Graduate School Commencement Ceremony
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Virginia Tech Spring 2019 Graduate School Commencement Ceremony

♫♫ ♫♫ ♫♫ ♫♫ ♫♫ ♫♫>>Please rise for the
presentation of the Colors and the singing of the National Anthem. ♫ O say can you see by the
dawn’s early light ♫ ♫ What so proudly we
hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming ♫ ♫
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight ♫ ♫ O’er the
ramparts we watched were so gallantly
streaming ♫ ♫ And the rockets’ red glare the
bombs bursting in air ♫ ♫ Gave proof
through the night that our flag was
still there ♫ ♫ O say does that
star-spangled banner yet wave ♫ ♫ O’er the land of the free and the home of the
brave ♫ On behalf of the university
community, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Spring 2019
graduate commencement exercises. Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.
Board members are appointed by the Governor, and Virginia Tech
greatly benefits from their deep and genuine commitment to the
university. along with board members Greta
Harris, C.T. Hill, Horatio Valeiras, and Preston White. Visitors Faculty Representative
Dr. John Ferris, Staff Representative Robert Sebek, and Graduate
Student Representative Lorenzo “Zo” Amani. individuals with your applause. your significant achievement and celebrate your It’s also important to note that
these students would not have achieved their goals without the
teaching, guidance and mentorship of Virginia Tech’s
outstanding faculty. I would now like the faculty to please stand
and be recognized. [ Applause ] faculty, the supporting cast of
family, friends, and community members behind each graduate student deserve
recognition. Would these individuals please stand so we can congratulate you as well? university’s research, teaching
and engagement missions and are able to earn degrees in
Blacksburg, at locations across the Commonwealth and online. During the spring semester,
1,227 students earned advanced degrees and certificates from an
offering of 150 master’s and doctoral programs
in eight colleges. There are approximately 630 graduates here
today.As part of the graduate commencement, we invite an
outstanding graduate student to provide a brief message on
behalf of the graduating student body, followed by the keynote
speaker to provide reflections and perspectives. It is now my
pleasure to present Virginia Tech’s Executive Vice President and Provost, Cyril Clarke, who
will introduce the graduate student speaker and keynote
speaker. CLARKE: It is my pleasure to
introduce our graduate student speaker, Mary Ryan. Mary Will receive her PhD degree
today in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’
Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought Her research concerns structural
racism in the U.S. federal government and she addresses
areas of moral philosophy, governance and civics, and
critical race theory and white supremacy studies in her
dissertation. member of the peer-reviewed
journal “Community Change” and has published numerous book
chapters and journal articles on issues of surveillance, racism,
poverty, democracy, and popular culture. Graduate School Diversity
Scholar. Mary earned her bachelor’s degree from the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her master’s degree from
Marquette University. [ Applause ] RYAN: Good afternoon. I would like to thank President
Sands and the Provost for this opportunity to share a few
thoughts as we embark on the next phase of our lives. I
applause all of my fellow graduates for your commitment to
achieving the educational goals needed to pursue your passions
and to lead the life you want. I join your cherished family and
friends, as well as your dedicated mentors, professors, and deans,
in sharing great pride in your accomplishments and the
tremendous promise of your futures. Congratulations. [ Applause ] scholarship conducted by the
people sitting in this space. All the data and quotes. For
what? My doctoral studies have underscored the importance of
maintaining an open mind, revealing how much more I can
learn when I cultivate relationships with people who
ask different questions than I tend to ask, and who do
not share my base assumptions. I’m so lucky that I got to revel
in such an intellectually rich space, studying a topic of my
choosing, with the freedom to grow and test the value of my
convictions. Of course, for so many of us, our studies have
presented obstacles, making it important to embrace this
hard-earned moment. Today is evidence of our ability
to overcome academic imposter syndrome. Let there be no doubt
that you all deserve to feel joy, a sense of accomplishment,
and to recognize that you have earned your place at
this ceremony. But we must not stop at taking
pictures and celebration dinners. I hope we use the energy here to
springboard us towards greater change and not leave our work in a
dusty diploma frame. Our futures threatened to be hallow and
tenuous if we fail to help those with whom we regularly interact,
be they students, peers, or even ourselves. We must not treat people as
quotas, as tokens, like one, like only. The question is not how can we
thrive in deficit, but for how long will we settle to live in a
less glorious world than we are capable of creating? The
question is not can we ever find the potential, but how do we
cultivate the circumstances to nurture the talent right in
front of us? To turn our tribulations into telescopes and
gaze upon a better world. We must not settle for the
injustice of telling people that they are stars without
acknowledging the night that surrounds them. We must not tell
people education is the key, and then change the locks. We must
not encourage people to work hard and break the glass
ceiling, and then just go and build new buildings. The high
school version of me would be astounded I made it this far,
but as I reflect on my own academic journey, I’m reminded
that some things about me are constant. For instance, I’m a
bit of a nerd. Something which I presume is safe to admit in this
space, as I’m sure some of you can relate. My nerdiness takes the
particular form of existential philosophy, and
I’ve long endured the philosopher Albert
Kamu. Proof, my high school yearbook
quote is “outstretched hands are rare.” I still love that quote. It makes me wonder what it might
look like for us to live with outstretched hands, to stretch
ourselves. We can only hope to overcome this world’s huge problems, massive
inequities, and toxic bigotry by always deliberately and
consciously choosing to err on the side of selflessness. As the South African
antiapartheid leader Steve Beko observed, the
greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the
oppressed. We must put aside our own fears
and insecurities embedded all on ourselves and each other over
and over until we grow larger than our past limits, outgrowing the old shell of
ourselves, cocooning in the promise we can only fulfill if
our focus is on the future. We have all done well by pursuing
advanced degrees, but education alone will not improve the
conditions of humankind, nor save the planet. We must be
vigilant in our disruption, distraction, and disentangling
of the knowledge, spaces, and systems that do not suit the
world we want. In closing, our new degrees and
roles in academia will cause people to value our intelligence, and rightly
so, yet I encourage all of us to not settle for intellect alone,
and fight for a more compassionate world. Reject the borishness and
gracelessness of ego-saturated competition, and remember, there
is always a chance we can succeed. There’s always a way to do and
be better as individuals, as academics, as community.
Congratulations, again, and I wish you [ Applause ] Melody Barnes. Ms.Barnes is
co-director for policy and public affairs of the Democracy
Initiative at the University of Virginia, a professor of
practice at UVA’s Miller Center of Public Affairs and a distinguished fellow at She also is co-founder and
principal of MB2 Solutions LLC. Virginia, she served as
assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council
for President Barack Obama. Ms. Barnes has worked as vice
provost for global student leadership initiatives at New
York University and was a senior fellow and executive vice
president for policy at the Center for American Progress. Committee, served as director of
legislative affairs for the U.S. Commission, and was assistant
counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and
Constitutional Rights. She has written or co-written
several articles and is a commentator on public policy for
several radio and television news shows. Ms.
Barnes holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and a
bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill. [ Applause ] And I want to thank the members
of the podium, family members, graduates, friends, and, certainly, you,
Provost Clarke, for that wonderful and warm introduction. in Blacksburg and at Virginia
Tech, and I did say I am back here. It’s been 42 years since I
was last here. When I was last here, I was 13 years old, and I attended Sports Camp
here. That was the phase in my life when I was either going to
win at Wimbledon, or I was going to become an Olympic gymnast. Obviously, those two things are
interchangeable, but that dream got stomped on after spending
three weeks here at Virginia Tech. I think I’ve a lot in common
with every football team that enters into your stadium,
including my employer, the University of Virginia. But, in spite of that, I am
very, very pleased to be back. Graduates, I want to
congratulate you. It has been a while, but I remember sitting in
that seat, and before I do anything else, I want to help
you do something that’s very, very important. If you can, or if you want to or
able, I would like you to please stand
up and to face your family members and
friends. Those people who brewed coffee for you when you were
writing those papers. Yep. Those people who listened to you when
you were complaining about your adviser, because what does your
adviser really know? And I want you to clap and applaud and [ Applause ] I would like you to do, as well.
Before you collect your degrees and your hoods, I want you to make a
commitment that I hope you’ll keep for the rest of your lives. I would like you to opt in for
democracy. And I’m going to tell you why. Some of you may have recently
read an article in “The Washington Post” about a young
manned name Eddie Adams, and for those of you who didn’t, or for
those of you who don’t remember that article, let me just tell
you about him very briefly and remind you of his story. Eddie is 20 years old, and right
now he is the principal cellist at
George Mason University’s symphony.He’s a natural talent,
with dreams of winning a spot in a major
symphony orchestra, something that is unusual and something that is hard to come
by for His life has always been difficult. By middle school, he had moved
homes with his mother and his five siblings seven times, including to a
homeless shelter in Alexandria. He felt marginalized by his
family and ended up sleeping in his car after he informed his
mother of his sexual orientation. His oldest brother
was shot and killed by his roommate in a dispute
that many believe was about money. And yet Eddie has persisted.
With the help of teachers who believed in him, they took him
in, they loaned him instruments, they encouraged his application to George Mason
University, but money, for food, for instruments, for housing, to go to the
dentist, was hard to come by. Until 13-year-old Noah
Pansteyer, a student of his music teacher, established a
GoFundMe page for Eddie. In addition to that, when Noah
turned 13 and had his bar mitzvah, he encouraged his
family and friends to make a donation to Eddie as opposed to
giving him gifts. And since “The Washington Post” ran this story
in April, donations have poured in and topped over
$140,000. Not one, but two cellos have
been donated to Eddie, and he now has
a tuxedo to wear to his concerts. I remember reading Eddie’s story
one morning while I was eating breakfast, and tears came to my
eyes. I thought, what a tenacious
young man. I thought, what a generous 13
year old. And I thought, what a compassionate public. I also thought the hurdles that
Eddie is so courageously trying to clear are the same hurdles and challenges
that face millions more. Homelessness, hunger, violence,
family disputes, overwhelming student loans, we just don’t
know their stories. And that leads me to my question
and my charge to you as graduates. What if the reflex that led
scores of people to help Eddie were our collective impulse for
our country? I ask that, because that impulse
is foundational to our democracy. Our country was founded on the
belief that self-governance is
possible, that America is possible, if self-interest is
restrained. And what restrains self-interest? A commitment to
civic health. The happiness, health, and
security of everyone in our large community. The obvious question is, and
you’re probably thinking this, how in the world do we
accomplish that at a time when America seems so polarized? When
neighbors are now opponents, and when opponents are enemies? When if you when, then surely I
must be losing. When we seemingly can’t even agree on
the questions, much less the path forward to answer them. Well, first, I believe that we
have to embark on the difficult work of building community. Recognizing our shared humanity,
even as we embrace our differences
and our disagreements. And this isn’t news to you. We’ve been called to this cause
time and time again, from the
entreaty to love thy neighbor, to Dr. King’s vision of a
beloved community. The second thing, and this is
what I want to spend my limited amount of time with you this
afternoon talking about, is the fact that we have to use our
talents to take on the challenges that pose a threat to our civic
health. When you leave Blacksburg this
afternoon or later this weekend, you’ll use the mastery that you’ve
gained here in your chosen profession. My charge to you is that you use
your expertise to improve the civic health of our community. To take on the challenges,
sometimes the existential threats, that
democracy must address at scale. Here’s just one of them, and you
may have read about this recently, as well. Just two
weeks ago, hundreds of experts from around the world told us
that human actions were leading to the extinction of more than 1
million species of plants and animals. And their extinction threatens
everything from our ability to produce food for ourselves, to our
economy, to climate change, and beyond. So the question is,
whose challenge is that? Obviously, those of you who are graduating today with degrees in
agricultural and life science, in mining and crop and soil and
environmental sciences, you know, well, these are our
challenges. But what I say to you is that
these are challenges for all of us, no matter what your degree
is. And here’s an example. Some of you may have eaten at a restaurant called Rapahannock.
There are several in the United States, in fact, one down the
road in Richmond. It’s owned by a
fourth-generation oysterman who took over the
business in 2001, when the oyster business was almost
extinct, and it almost collapsed. The native oyster was dying, and
after doing research, these young men realized that this
wasn’t just bad for business, it was also bad for the Bay,
because oysters filter excess nutrients and play a critical
role in our ecosystem. In their words, the oysters’
impending demise was a story of excess and greed and
shortsightedness. So Ryan and Travis Crockston
began using methods, methods by
retirees in oyster gardening, and today they’ve helped restore
the oyster population in the Bay, they are supplying the best
restaurants in the country. They have award-winning restaurants
across the United States, and they are partnering with
fishermen and with farmers who share their goals
and they are educating the public. This isn’t a story just
about restaurants and oysters. This is a story about civic
health, about the health and security and happiness of our
community. It is a story about two people
who use their expertise to address a challenge that is threatening our state
and threatening our ecosystem and our economy at scale. The
livelihood of men and women who work on the Bay, and as we’ve
recently learned, species that are critical to our livelihood. Ryan and Travis’ work sits
alongside many others. who plays on international
stages across the world and he calls himself “a citizen artist.
” He’s working in communities to help young people gain better
reading and math skills in some of our most challenged schools
around the country, and he’s encouraging other
artists to do the same. Take computer scientist Joe
Bolamweinie, who’s a 30-year-old Rhodes
Scholar now completing her PhD at MIT, and
she’s using research and art to help us understand the social
implications of artificial intelligence. And my friend, Pulitzer Prize
winning historian John Meachem, who reminds us our democracy is
stronger when we contribute to our nation’s civic health. John
recently wrote, “if the men and women of the past, with all
their flaws and their limitations, their ambitions and
their appetites, could press on through ignorance and
superstition, through racism and sexism,
through selfishness and greed, to create a freer, stronger
nation, then perhaps we, too, can right wrongs, to take
another step towards the most enchanting
and elusive of destinations, a more
perfect union. To do so requires immeasurable
acts of citizenship and private grace. It will require, as it has in
the past, the witness and the bravery of reformers who hold no office, and those
who have no traditional power, but who yearn for a better, freer way of life. ” You, graduates, are those
people, and as you prepare to enter the next phase of your journey, I ask you to
remember, to exercise the kind of humanity
that led scores of people to help
Eddie Adams, that prompted them to care about a person that they will never
meet. And to remember that democracy
requires that you do the exact same thing
for our American community. For scores of people that you
will never meet, and others with whom
you may vehemently disagree. We rise and we fall together. And the challenges that we face
require your attention, your compassion,
and your talent. Democracy requires that you opt
in, because nothing less will do. [ Applause ] DePAUW: Thank you very much. I appreciate the message for opt
in for Thank you very much. At this time, I will ask Mr. Matthew Wilson — Winston,
senior associate vice president for alumni relations to join me
in presentation of The Graduate School and the
Alumni Association established the Graduate Alumni Achievement
Award to recognize graduate alumni who have
achieved the highest goals in their fields. I am very pleased to announce that
the 2019 recipient of the Graduate Alumni Achievement Award is Dr. Sovacool, would you please come
forward? [ Applause ] Sovacool is a professor of
energy policy at the Science Policy Research Unit at the
University of Sussex’s School of Business, Management, and Economics in the United Kingdom
and serves as director of both the Sussex Energy Group and the
Center on Innovation and Energy Demand. His research focuses on
renewable energy and energy efficiency, the politics of large-scale energy
infrastructure, designing public policy to improve energy security and
access to electricity, and building adaptive capacity to
the consequences of climate change. Sovacool is a lead author of the
upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth
Assessment Report and is an advisor on Energy to
the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research
and Innovation. He has written numerous academic articles, book
chapters, and reports, and books, and has received
national and international awards and honors. and Technology Studies and a
master’s degree at Virginia Tech, a master’s degree from
Wayne State University and a bachelor’s degree from John
Carroll University.Please join us in congratulating Dr. Ben
Sovacool. SOVACOOL: All right, well, thank
you very much. Dean DePauw says I have 30 seconds in which I can
speak, and I was thinking what can I say in 30 seconds,
and I think, as much as this is an individual award, we’ve been
hearing this today, it’s about the community that support you.
So I’m going to ask my parents, wherever they are in this
auditorium, to stand up, and also Professor
Richard Hirsh and Daniel Breslow, that
were my [ Applause ] reminds you that when you win
awards like this, as much as it’s fun and honors the
individual, I would never have been able to do it without my family, and also the Department
of Science, Technology, and Society, which is a phenomenal
department, which I hope many of you visit as you think about
science, technology, and society. [ Applause ] DePAUW: Each year, we select an
unsuspecting graduate student for special recognition. every year. Each year we select
an unsuspecting This year I want to recognize Ayesha Yousafzai, who is
receiving her Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education today. Ayesha,
would you please stand? and has been living in the U.S.
for the past 16 years. Her research focuses on identity
performance experiences of Muslim international women. She has a passion for student development and has worked as a
graduate assistant at the Student Success Center and
College Access Collaborative. She has taught Academics Success Strategies courses to help
underperforming students improve their academic performance and
served as a graduate representative on the Commission
on Equal Opportunity and Diversity. Future Professoriate certificate
and received the Don G. Creamer Research Award. She is a Global Perspectives
Scholar and was recently was inducted
into the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. I want them to stand to be
recognized, as well. [ Applause ] tell about their journey to degree completion. And we really don’t have time to
share each story, but I will attempt
to highlight some milestones and achievements along the way. To do this, I will recognize
students from here in Blacksburg, as well as around
the Commonwealth. This is an interactive part of this
ceremony, so please rise and remain standing if you have received a
national fellowship or scholarship. That’s you all. [ Applause ] were a recipient of the
outstanding Master’s Student or Doctoral
Student, or the Alumni Association’s Graduate Teaching
Excellence or Service Excellence awards, or the William Preston
Society’s Master’s Thesis Award, or Graduate Student of the Year,
Now a few more of you should be standing. Please rise if you were
recognized as a Graduate School Citizen Scholar or Diversity
Scholar, or participated in the Graduate School’s Global
Perspectives Program, Or were inducted into the interdisciplinary
research honor society Iota Delta Rho. Or served the
university by participating in the Graduate Honor System, or in
governance through the Graduate Student Assembly, or on a
university committee or as representative to the Board of Visitors. Yesterday and today, we were
celebrating cultural centers and ceremonies. All of you who
participated in those, please stand. Come on, there’s more of you. I
know that, I was there. If you are a part-time or
full-time student at one of our extended
campuses in Roanoke Capital Region or
elsewhere in Virginia, please stand now. Making me work hard here. I’m trying to get all of you to
stand. Please stand if you’ve visited
the national Life Center, contact of the graduate school,
I know you all have had to contact the grad school. And hopefully, now, I’ve got you
all standing. So colleagues, family, and friends, [ Applause ] candidates for graduate degrees,
I want to share a tradition that the Graduate School began over
12 years ago – the presentation of an original music composition as a gift to the
graduating Students. This composition is
written solely to celebrate this day. Professor Dwight Bigler is
entitled “Fanfare for Brass. ” music accompanying the images
and reflections that will be up on the screen. ♫♫ ♫♫ SANDS: We will now begin the
conferral of doctoral degrees. A very old and special tradition
in academia accompanies the presentation of the doctoral
degree. The doctoral candidate and the
student’s major advisor, the advisor who most mentored and
supervised the student’s research, walk together to the stage, where the advisor places
the hood over the head of the graduate. By hooding the
graduate, the faculty member symbolically welcomes the
graduate as a professional colleague, and this professional
relationship, and friendship, often continues throughout the
graduate’s and the mentor’s lives. DePAUW: Will all candidates for
the doctor of philosophy and doctor
of education degrees please rise? present the candidates for the
doctor of philosophy and the doctor of education degrees. SANDS: With the power vested in
me by the Board of Visitors and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and
upon recommendation of the faculty, I confer upon you the
doctor of philosophy and doctor of education degrees to which
you are entitled with all the rights, privileges, and
responsibilities pertaining thereto. candidates for the doctoral
degrees and their major professors to the stage for the
hooding ceremony? Joseph Merola will now read the
names of the doctoral recipients and the hooding professors. professors ] [ Reading names of graduates and
professors ]>>Please join me in one more
round of [ Applause ] senior associate vice president
for alumni relations, to share some congratulations and a brief
message on behalf of the alumni. WINSTON: Congratulations and
greetings to the newest graduates of the
greatest university on the entire planet, and that is
Virginia Tech.This is a special day in your life and in the life
of this great institution. You join a legion of Hokies more
than a quarter million strong around the world. In fact, exactly 257,312 around
the world, who because of their experiences, are solving
problems, serving their communities, and changing the
world in which we live, in which we play, in which we breathe
every day, because of what they did here at Virginia Tech. As
graduate students at Virginia Tech, you each played a unique and
multifaceted role within our community. You brought your
undergraduate experiences here, you brought unique skills and
perspectives from the workplace or from the military or from
humanitarian perspectives, and even from your own upbringing. And you introduced all of that
into the fabric of this place. Many of you served as students,
some as researchers, still others as teachers, and as
institutional ambassadors. And some of you did all of those
things at the same time. That makes what you have
accomplished in earning your graduate degree from Virginia
Tech so remarkable. You gave us your talents, and
for that I offer my admiration, my
respect, and my gratitude. As the newest class of Hokies,
we depend on you to continue to
engage your alma mater. Be an ambassador for this university
that has supported you. Visit campus often, and come back for
reunion programs, remaining engaged with your major professors and your
research sponsors. Mentor other Hokies. And share what makes our
community so special with others. And tell us where you relocate,
so we can continue to connect you with Hokies who are nearby.
You will face big opportunities and difficult challenges, but
what you have gained here at Virginia Tech will arm you with the tools needed to
overcome any obstacle before you. Know that from this point
on, for the rest of your lives, that the
world will expect extraordinary things from you, because you are a graduate of
Virginia Tech. There is no other university more worthy of your loyalty, your
dedication, and your support for what is now
our alma mater. For, you see, we are Virginia
Tech. On behalf of the Virginia Tech
Alumni Association, I say congratulations to [ Applause ] DePAUW: As a final note, I would
like to call upon Dr. John Ferris, president of the Faculty Senate, and he will
bring a brief message of congratulations on behalf of the
university faculty. FERRIS: Thank you, Dean DePauw. Last speaker, one page. A loaf of bread, a gallon of
milk — no. Sorry. No, I guess this is the part
where I should say something deeply philosophical, so I
thought back on my big life lessons, and I’m afraid
the simplicity of what I have to say will disappoint you, but
here it is. First, recognize that none of us
got here by ourselves. A lot of people stood up and worked hard
to get us to where we are today, so be grateful and recognize
that, as a speaker at a previous commencement ceremony said, all
that we are, we owe. The way you pay back this debt is to use
these gifts to benefit those around To pay it forward. By the right
thing, I don’t mean anything radical. I’m talking about
telling the truth, standing up for the underdog, and following through on your
commitments. If you do these things, yes, there are going to
be some unhappy faces around you in the short term, but in the
long term, the consequences you suffer will be far less painful
than you imagine. My experience, we vastly overestimate the
negative consequences of doing the right thing. In the end,
you’ll have the benefit of knowing you’re living your life
as you believe you should, which is a private boon and a public
gift, for people recognize your moral basis through your words
and deeds. After all, they are fellow human beings who
understand integrity and honor and duty when they see it,
because it’s a fundamental part of them, too. In the long term, this is what
builds understanding and respect and trust and love, and that’s
how you can make your corner of the world a little better. Well,
I imagine by now you’re wondering just how long I’m
going to keep on talking, so I’ll sum things up by saying, do
the right things for the right reasons, and don’t fear the
consequences. all on behalf of the faculty and
staff of Virginia Tech. Thank all your family and friends for [ Applause ] SANDS: Thank you, Dr. Ferris,
and a special thanks to Dr. Merola as the Reader of Names,
to the faculty ushers and marshals. To Mary Haugh and to Jay Crone
and the members of the Virginia Tech Brass [ Applause ] With the recessional, our
ceremony will be concluded. Thank you for joining us, and
have a safe trip home. ♫♫ ♫♫

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