Currently viewing the tag: "Commencement"

Not only did Pulkit graduate in May, but he was one of the two students elected by their peers to give speeches at Commencement.  For his final post as a Student Stories writer, he has shared his speech with the blog.  I can confirm that Pulkit carefully followed his father’s advice that he describes below.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

Thank you for this greatest honor.  For a boy from India, whose parents always pushed him to go beyond what he thought he was capable of, this is big.  I cannot express how happy I am in this very moment.  There is no place I would rather be, than here — to celebrate with you all.

I see happy and smiling faces.  Did you know that in Hindi, Pulkit means Happiness.  My father gave me this name.  Before I began this journey here at the Fletcher School, he also told me to greet everyone with a big smile.  That there was no comparison to a smile, and that the smile is the most lethal weapon ever invented and produced.  He asked me to proliferate smiles and happiness.  Even if you tear up today, those are tears of happiness.

As we all turn a page today, firstly, it is befitting of me to thank you and pay my respects.

In Sanskrit, there is a word, and most of you must have heard it.  It is a beautiful word: formed by the amalgamation of two words – नमः and ते, नमस्ते (namaste) and means “I bow to Thee.”  It is very analogous to the Japanese tradition of bowing in respect.

Today, I bow to thee, Dear Fletcher School.  As an institution of learning and a place I am proud to call home; your warmth embraced and held me, nurtured me, and nudged me forward.

I bow to thee, Dear Professors, in reverence and gratitude.  When you shared your knowledge, you shared it with utmost honesty.  You implored us to listen intently, question the status quo, and to zealously advocate for the weak and powerless.

I bow to thee, Dear Staff.  Thank you for guiding and supporting us all throughout.  You made life easier for us.

I bow to thee, Dear Family and Friends.  Thank you for all your sacrifices.  You struggled before me in order for me to be here.  You were there since the very beginning — from scrambling to find resources to fund our education, to keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, and for encouraging us all along the way.

To Fletcher spouses — for taking care of home and children, and lending support as we labored through our assignments.  It wasn’t easy.  Thank you.

I bow to thee, Dear Classmates, my friends and peers.  Your exemplary courage and due diligence to work on the most pressing global issues and your tenacious pursuit of knowledge is immensely commendable.  I am proud to be one of you.

The first time I had heard about the Fletcher School, I was sitting in a cubicle in India — in the process of finding purpose in the work that I was doing.  As I was rummaging through Fletcher’s website, I remember thinking to myself, “I can never get there.”  Since my admission to the Fletcher School, it has been a remarkable and extraordinary journey of self-discovery.  We are here now, ready to Commence.  A big part of my journey, my story, has been you, my fraternity at the Fletcher School, and your powerful, captivating stories.

What is it about institutions that makes them so powerful?  Apart from the ideas that dwell there, it is the people, and here at Fletcher, I have found and interacted with the best.  I have found inspiration in your stories.  We realized in one form or other that these stories were the common thread that bound all of us — in classrooms, during study groups and case study preparation, during educational tours, and during cultural nights.  When you generously and thoughtfully shared your experience, you stimulated my curiosity.  When you asked the tough questions, you challenged me and my assumptions.  You forced me to think critically.  As I interacted with you, my dear friends and classmates, I started internalizing bits and pieces of you.  These interactions gave me an opportunity to dig a little deeper, to introspect, and critically analyze my own history and my perceptions of your history.

I know that I have changed and I know I am taking a part of you with me.  I know this is true for you too.  Let me share a story.  I live with four housemates, from Japan, France, Brazil, and the United States.  Over the year, organically, we cultivated a habit of dining together.  Every night when the weary souls would get back home, we would share our resources, and cook together.  Our understanding of each other has now come to a point where we all prefer a French croissant for breakfast every Sunday morning, and the Indian Basmati rice for dinner.

To me that is what Fletcher embodies — an oasis of knowledge and a place of confluence of peoples from all across the globe and from different walks of life.  At Fletcher, I have learned to listen to people’s stories with humility, and most importantly to appreciate the diversity of opinion.

Even as I continue to thank Fletcher, I nudge it to be more inclusive of diversity of ideas and people.  We, too, owe a bit of ourselves to this institute — and hope we all will contribute to the growth of this institution and for the next generation of students’ ability to be here.

We are ready to commence our journeys with a mix of pride, jubilation, and expectation.  As my friend Lauren pointed out, Fletcher has set the wheels in motion and now we are to keep moving them forward.  We are to use the foundation that Fletcher has help us lay, and in furtherance of it as we continue to seek, we are to find the answers.  In the words of Mark Watney, from the movie The Martian, “You begin.  You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next.  And If you solve enough problems, you’re home.”

In time, as we all move on to taking roles in different institutions and organizations, the challenge is not whether we will be successful.  After all, we are walking in the shoes of legends.  The challenge is to work in contexts of discrimination and with marginalized communities.  The challenge is how to lead others and to be a resource for everyone in the face of adversity.  To that effect, I encourage you to treat the world with compassion and kindness.

Today, whether you are an MIB, an LLM, an MA, a MALD, a MAHA, or a PhD — as my friend Clare shared with me, a common characteristic that binds all of us is a sense of pragmatic optimism for the world.  Whether through business, security, diplomacy, gender studies, civic or humanitarian action, we at Fletcher believe that people-to-people cooperation and international cooperation ought to and can build a better future for the world.

I sincerely hope we all continue to place faith in that belief.

You are extraordinary, Fletcher.

Watch the speeches given by Pulkit (starting at about 17:30) and Laurance below.

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I don’t know exactly why, but yesterday’s commencement seemed especially wonderful.  I walked up the hill, as usual, and enjoyed entering the happiness zone created by graduating students and those there to celebrate with them.  I had been assigned a task — to take a photo of the MA graduates:

And also of the PhD graduates, who here are are partaking of the Fletcher tradition whereby a current PhD candidate sends them on their way with a glass of early-morning sparkling wine.

Job complete, I sat with the PhDs and watched the procession file in.

The All-University Commencement ceremony takes place on the main campus quad, open to whatever weather might come.  The skies threatened but didn’t deliver and everyone made it under the tent for Fletcher’s ceremony, unimpeded by rain.

Then the ceremony began.  Dean Stavridis brought us to order and briskly moved on to the first item, which was (as I mentioned on Friday) to present Kristen with the Administrator of the Year award.  (At this point I was taking photos over the heads of faculty members.)

And then Professor Alnoor Ebrahim received the Paddock Teaching Award.

Two graduating students, Laurance

And our own Student Stories writer, Pulkit, delivered terrific addresses.

Then students streamed up to the stage and collected their diplomas.  At some points, my thoughts went like this:  I met him in the April after he was admitted!  We talked about her foreign language skills — glad she took care of it!  I interviewed him!  I remember her application!  Who is that guy — never met him at all!  On balance, it was a parade of students (now alumni) who, in some way, have made their mark on the community.

The last group to be called up are the PhD graduates and I unexpectedly found myself needing to do the other job I was assigned — to prompt them to head toward the stage, where they received their doctoral hoods.

And then the ceremony was over.  I have to say that Dean Stavridis really kept things moving without making the event feel rushed.  The whole morning was lovely and I feel fortunate to be able to participate in this important moment in the academic lives of our graduates.

Once again, congratulations to the Class of 2018, your families and friends, and everyone at Fletcher who supported them along the way!

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With all the ceremony that a significant academic achievement deserves, Commencement weekend kicks off today.  There’s a lot going on, both at Fletcher and Tufts University as a whole, and also some Tufts events that highlight Fletcher students and alumni.

Starting bright and early this morning, graduating students gathered for breakfast at 8:00, followed by a preparatory meeting and a rehearsal.  This afternoon, the General John R. Galvin Memorial Lecture will be given by Admiral Dennis Blair on “America’s East Asia Security Future: Navigating Rocks and Shoals, Rivalries and Relationships.”

By this evening, events will be designed not only for graduating students and their families, but also for alumni who are back on campus.  Yesterday, Laurie and I shared stories of the reuniting alumni we remember well — there are quite a few people from the Classes of 2013 and 2008 whom I recall interviewing before they applied.

Alumni, grads, family, and lobster-loving members of the staff and faculty will then come together for the annual Commencement weekend “clambake.”

Tomorrow morning, there’s another early start for the alumni, with breakfast for those who graduated 25 and 50 years ago, followed by a welcome from the dean and other topical programming for all.

While the alumni carry on reuniting, the graduating students attend the Class Day ceremony, with a greeting by Masha Gordon, F98, distribution of academic prizes, and an address by Ashton Carter, former U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Sunday features the All-University Commencement Ceremony, where degrees will be awarded by school and Farah Pandith, F95, will receive an honorary degree.  Depending on your area of interest, you might recognize others of the honorary degree recipients.

Back to Fletcher at about 11:00 for the School’s ceremony.  By this time, all the students should be expert at processionals and recessionals and keeping their academic regalia in place.  Every graduating student will proceed to the stage to receive a diploma and PhD students will receive their “hoods” from their advisors.  But first, Dean Stavridis will kick off the event, and the Admissions Office’s own Kristen Zecchi will receive the Administrator of the Year Award.  The prize for excellence in teaching will go to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim, who was on the Admissions Committee in 2016-2017.  Finally, two graduating students will present speeches — including Student Stories writer Pulkit!

Almost every year, I attend the Fletcher ceremony on Sunday, occasionally needing to attend Class Day on Saturday instead.  I’m looking forward to Sunday, to offering congratulatory hugs, meeting family members, and reflecting on the cycles of the academic year.  I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Brooklyn and Cindy, our super Admissions Graduate Assistants, to student members of the Admissions Committee, as well as volunteer interviewers and other folks who hang around the office, and to our bloggers Pulkit, Mariya, Adi, and Prianka.  With the good comes the sad, but knowing they’re heading off to do great stuff is what Fletcher is all about.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!

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What a beautiful Commencement weekend!  Two fabulous sunny days tucked between the Boston area’s first heat wave and a dreary rainy Monday — what more could we ask for?  As planned, I arrived yesterday in time to snag folks as they moved from the all-University graduation to the Fletcher ceremony.  I didn’t catch everyone (sadly) but, among others, I was happy to see student bloggers Adnan, Tatsuo, and McKenzie.  (Adnan and Tatsuo both apologized for delays in sending their final posts.  I’m sure we’ll hear from them soon.)  McKenzie was honored on Saturday with a prize for academic achievement and community involvement by a graduating student.  Any of the finalists for the award would have been worthy — being selected is truly a big honor.  Congratulations, McKenzie!

Then, once the processions were complete, we all settled down for speeches and the distribution of diplomas.  The Fletcher website offers quick summaries of both Commencement and Class Day, and the Tufts website offers details and photos from the all-University ceremony (also called Phase I).  Here’s an example:

I had a great view of the proceedings, but one that was frequently interrupted by photographers, so I’ll let the websites do the talking.  But I still want to share two photos that represent a special joy.  There are a good number of children who started life while a parent was a Fletcher student.  Two examples from among our PhD graduates are Rizwan (adorable daughter) and Avner (adorable twin boys), who are receiving their PhD “hoods”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reaction of the “graduating kids” from all degree programs was priceless.  Many weren’t sure what was going on, but there was one lovely little girl in her own gown who totally owned the stage!

Once the PhD graduates had all been recognized, the ceremony concluded and everyone moved off to a reception.  The end of another academic year!  A few graduates have said they’ll stop by this week, which will ease our transition to the very quiet summer.  For a few days, though, we’ll enjoy the glow of having launched the newest members of the Fletcher alumni family!

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While the Admissions team has dutifully pursued the week’s work, graduating students have inched ever closer to the day when they will leave the Fletcher nest.  I pause now and then to think about the people I’ll miss from the Class of 2017.  There are our Graduate Assistants, Dristy and Ashley.  And our student bloggers, Adnan, McKenzie, and Tatsuo.  But the list runs much longer than that: Admissions volunteers and interviewers, student members of the Admissions Committee, PhD students who have contributed so much to the community, students I interviewed when they were applicants and whose progress I’ve noted from behind the scenes.  And more!

This is an annual theme for us.  We know that the Hall of Flags will suddenly empty out one May week when exams are over, but we still forget that our connection to the students we’ve gotten to know will suddenly be from a distance.  Sigh.

It’s all good, though.  They’ll go off and do great stuff, and helping them take the first step toward a new career is the mission of the Admissions Office.

I’ll be at Commencement on Sunday and I’m looking forward to the joyous/wistful day that I know it will be.  The soon-to-be graduates line up in alphabetical order before the processional heads toward the graduation tent, and I’ll wander along the line to say some goodbyes and hand out some hugs.  After the ceremony, I’ll say some more goodbyes and greet a few parents.  And then on Monday, the Admissions team will return to the office and continue the work of helping the Class of 2019 and those that follow to take their first steps toward a new career.

To the Class of 2017: Please keep in touch with us!  Come to visit, connect on social media, drop a line now and then.  Ta-ta for now, but we hope to hear from you soon!

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I was out of the office yesterday, having made a quick trip to New York on the weekend, which mostly entailed driving both ways in a drenching rainstorm.  When I returned to campus today, the sun was back and everything was in full spring bloom.  And not just the trees and flowers — the graduation tents are springing up, too.  As of this morning, the Fletcher tents are yet to emerge, but others are in place all over campus.  The early forecast is for a beautiful spring Commencement day on Sunday.

Between now and the weekend’s Commencement ceremonies, both graduating and continuing students are participating in the time-honored student-organized tradition of Dis-Orientation, the natural counter-balance to August’s official Orientation week.  Frankly, Dis-O is a lot more fun.  Yesterday alone, activities included paintballing, a FIFA (video game) tournament, a walking tour of Medford (which has a surprisingly rich history), a cricket match (first-year students vs. second years), a trivia competition, karaoke, and (my favorite of all the options) dinner at a Cambodian restaurant and visit to Revere Beach.  (My love of Revere and that particular restaurant has been well chronicled in the blog over the years.)

Naturally, with everyone off doing such fun stuff, it’s pretty quiet around here.  We’ll appreciate the quiet for a few weeks — it’s great for completing projects.  As the summer runs on, though, we’ll begin to look forward to the start of a new semester.  But that’s way in the future.  Now we’re enjoying the occasional encounter with a graduating student and I’m planning to catch up with more of them at graduation.

Since the Fletcher tents aren’t up yet, I thought I’d share a photo from this morning of the Tufts University president’s house — right across the street from here.  There are two tents directly behind it, and blue skies and flowering trees around it.

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Well.  What can I possibly say that I haven’t said before on the occasion of Commencement, an event with which I have a love-hate relationship.  I love all the joy associated with sending wonderful people off to do terrific things.  And the ceremony itself — so joyous.  I shed a few tears of happiness every year.

And hate is a strong word.  The wrong word, in fact.  I certainly don’t hate Commencement, but I am annually struck by the bittersweet nature of the event.  We in Admissions know that our closest Fletcher friends will be with us for only a couple of years, but we treasure them while they’re here.  Admissions Ambassadors, members of the Admissions Committee, Interview Volunteers, and our amazing Graduate Assistants (looking at you, David and Moni!) — the students who keep us in the know about the heart of life at Fletcher.  We so enjoy interacting with them, and we’re sorry that our relationship will change.

But change it must, as they transition from students to alumni.  And all we can hope (expect! demand!) is that they will stay in touch.

So, to my friends in the Class of 2016, keep us posted!  Drop a line now and then.  “Friend” us.  Link us in.  We want to hear from you.  After all, the true satisfaction in Admissions work comes at the far end, when we send you off into the world to do those things you wrote about in your application essays.  I can’t wait to receive your updates!

For now, BIG congratulations to you and your families, and all best wishes as you move along to your post-Fletcher life!

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With fewer than ten days remaining until Commencement, the needed structures are starting to appear.  I took a walk through the heart of the University campus this morning and found the platform and tent that will be used for the main graduation ceremony that precedes Fletcher’s event for the conferring of diplomas.

Tent
All those fences will come down and chairs will be set up on the grass for the thousands of guests who attend.

We’ve enjoyed fantastic weather lately and the warm temperatures have coaxed into bloom the flowers and trees that are running a little behind schedule, due to our crazy winter.

Trees
And there’s a new statue of Jumbo, the Tufts mascot, to greet Commencement guests, too.

Jumbo
The Fletcher exam period ended yesterday, and the Hall of Flags is nearly deserted this morning.  Some students are still completing research papers and may also have exams at other schools where they have cross-registered for classes.  But most first-year students are off to internships and second-year students are starting their “Dis-Orientation” week today.  Dis-Orientation is the official/unofficial student-organized week of social events that is the closing bracket on the Fletcher experience that began with Orientation at the start of their studies.

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Despite the overall post-Commencement feel that has fallen upon Fletcher this week, I’ve been fortunate to connect with a few students as they spent their last minutes here before taking off for new adventures.  Of those, several are days away from a flight to a distant locale.  Others won’t start said adventures until later in the summer, giving them a nice hiatus — free of both coursework and career searching.  And some will be pursuing adventures in the Boston area, meaning we don’t need to say farewell yet.

Nonetheless, the graduation tents have been dismantled one-by-one, and the first of the summer construction teams have moved in.  Fletcher will undergo some relatively minor repairs and renovation, but even minor repairs mean that the Office of Career Services is currently working out of Blakeley Hall.

Symeon and the deanInto the mix came this sweet photo of Dean Stavridis, Symeon Tegos, and Erietta (tiniest graduate) Tegos.  Symeon tells me that Erietta is only two and a half months old.  (Aww!  So sweet!)  Her dad was in the one-year MA program, surely making this a year to remember for their family.  In fact, in an email to Dean Stavridis that circled around to me, Symeon wrote:

This was an incredible year.  The birth of my daughter changed me in ways I considered impossible only weeks ago, while the exposure to Fletcher had an unexpected profound effect on me.  I have to express my gratitude for this amazing experience.  Soon I will be heading back home where I will do my best to give back what I so generously received.  I will never forget Fletcher and your example.

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I spent a lot of time on campus this weekend, enjoying Commencement and Reunion activities.  On Saturday, I turned up at about 11:00 and greeted a few students who were waiting for the Class Day activities to begin.  I was sorry not to join them for the day’s speakers, but I was on my way to a panel on life and careers after Fletcher, offered and attended by alumni from the classes of 1989, 1994, and 1999.  I had gone (accompanied by my husband, Paul) to see our friend Charlie Scott F’94, who has recently reinvented himself as the Family Adventure Guy.  As it turns out, the panel discussion featured not only his presentation, but also those of three other alums, including the ambassador to the U.S. from Thailand.  (Ambassador Isarabhakdi said he had wanted to attend Fletcher since he was a young teen.  That’s direction!)  The panel took place on the 7th floor of the Cabot Intercultural Center (one of three attached Fletcher buildings).  The University is on a hill, giving us a nice view from the 7th floor of both the campus and the city beyond.

View from 7F
All the different Commencement venues were set and ready for events, including the thousands of chairs on the quad.

Quad

The next day was the main event.  I came up to campus at about 10:45, by which time Fletcher students were streaming across the street from the all-University ceremony (where, the dean noted, they were a noisy bunch — see photo #19 in the photo gallery) to the Fletcher graduation.  At about 11:10, two things were going on.  First, a photographer was attempting to wrangle the faculty into a shot.

Faculty

At the same time, the Registrar’s staff (and any of us who had offered to help) started herding the graduates into Blakeley Hall courtyard, where they would line up for their procession.

Courtyard
Eventually, everyone was in the graduation tent, and Dean Stavridis could kick off the ceremony.

Dean

Prof. Moomaw, who yesterday became professor emeritus, reflected on his career and experience at Fletcher.

Moomaw

And then came the student speakers, Amy

Amy

and Bob

Prof Moomaw
Both of their speeches were terrific, but Amy scored points with me by mentioning the Admissions Blog!  By the end of the ceremony yesterday, speakers had, interestingly, quoted Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner — not the usual cast of characters for a Fletcher graduation.

Finally, degrees were awarded.  Some students invited their children to join them.  The award for tiniest diploma recipient (in academic regalia) goes to this tiny tot:

Baby grad

And then it was done!  For me, Commencement is an opportunity to celebrate students I have come to know, as well as remind myself of people with whom I was in contact before they enrolled.  (Ohhhh!  I interviewed her, but totally forgot she was in this class….)  For the 310 students who graduated, it was two beautiful blue-skied days, and many, many happy family members.  A day for all to remember!

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