208th Commencement

To the 1,613 graduates awarded degrees during the Commencement ceremony May 24, President Shirley Ann Jackson urged courage of their convictions and confidence in their capabilities.

“Respect your own grand, but incomplete, ideas­—the ones you find exciting—the ones others find vague because they cannot yet see the future you see,” President Jackson said.

President Shirley Ann  JacksonPresident Jackson’s Commencement address noted the increasing importance of data in today’s society and urged members of the Class of 2014 to be active participants in the data-driven revolution. “As you interact with increasingly intelligent computer systems—as you use them and your own intellects to pick needles out of the haystacks of data of increasing size, number, and complexity—as you seek the correlations between needles in different haystacks—it is up to you to give meaning to data, and to use it, and to use the education we have given you, to solve important problems—to uplift us and to improve lives,” President Jackson said.

“Those who create transformational change are those who use their abilities and the technology available responsibly; who are able to find, or create, clarity in complex situations; and who live out the courage of their convictions,” she added.

This year’s Commencement speaker was IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty, who also received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. She was joined by two additional honorands, father of the World Wide Web Sir Timothy Berners-Lee and renowned geneticist Mary-Claire King.

“As the graduating Class of 2014, you stand at an important inflection point. You’re facing a new age being made possible by a new natural resource—data. I would assert that what steam was to the 18th century, electricity to the 19th, and hydrocarbons to the 20th, data will be to the 21st century,” Rometty said.

King, who received an honorary Doctor of Science degree, offered graduates advice based on her career as a world-renowned scientist. “The role of the scientist as a citizen of the world leaves us with both opportunities and responsibilities,” she said. “In carrying out projects motivated by this role, I have found three principles to be particularly good guides: one, the most useful projects are proposed by people on the front lines; two, the most righteous projects demand the most rigorous science; and three, no question is too big to ask.”

Those who create transformational change are those who use their abilities and the technology available responsibly; who are able to find, or create, clarity in complex situations; and who live out the courage of their convictions.”—President Jackson

Berners-Lee, who received an honorary Doctor of Science degree, urged the Class of 2014 to take lessons from childhood with them into the future. “Be good citizens, like you learned in kindergarten. This nowadays mostly means taking all the values you have learned from your parents and teachers and showing them how to apply these values in a connected, networked world,” he said.

CommencementTwo-term Class President Michelle Lamberta, who majored in biomedical engineering, also addressed the graduates. “Today is the day that we announce to the world that we have done it. We have finally made it to the culmination of four years of coursework, exams, and late nights,” she said. Lamberta, of Bayside, N.Y., is pursuing a career in the medical device industry in New York City.

Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees were conferred to students from each of the five schools within Rensselaer: Engineering, Science, Architecture, the Lally School of Management, and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. A total of 1,179 bachelor’s degrees, 407 master’s degrees, and 163 doctoral degrees were awarded today, with more than 100 students receiving multiple degrees. The 208th Commencement ceremony was held at the East Campus Athletic Village.

Learn more about where our graduates of the Class of 2014 are headed to change the world

Kinsley French–Launching a lifetime of discovery
Elizabeth Plowman–Work with service organizations made the college experience
Lizzy Postel–Majoring in the humanities gives graduate unique blend of creative, technical, and communication skills
David Vorick–A computer science degree, a start-up business, and the skills to make it happen

View our curated social media story of Rensselaer Commencement 2014 below