On Sunday, May 16, 2021, the School of Information celebrated 371 graduates. For the second time, commencement was delivered online, including a keynote address and remarks from faculty leadership, head graduate advisors, and student leaders.
While the speakers each respectively recognized that a virtual graduation is not the first choice for most, it points to the extraordinary circumstances our graduates have lived through and succeeded in spite of. “We have just lived through, indeed are still living through, a period that people will cite for centuries to come,” said Dean Jennifer Chayes. “I see the I School, and you, its graduates, as leaders in taking our world where it needs to go next.”
Associate Dean and Head of School Hany Farid told the graduates, “You weathered a global economic meltdown in 2008, a decade of social tensions and upheavals, and a multiyear global pandemic, and yet you forced society to begin the long journey of addressing social, economic, and environmental injustices, all the while, completing your studies and taking care of your friends, families, and communities.”
“You will surely be remembered for your resilience in the face of overwhelming and at times impossible challenges,” he continued. “I’m incredibly proud to call you a graduate of the School of Information.”
The graduates included 51 Master of Information in Management and Systems (MIMS) students, 255 Master of Information and Data Science program (MIDS), students (including 86 from Summer 2020, 82 from Fall 2020, and 87 from Spring 2021), 21 5th Year MIDS students, 43 Master of Information and Cybersecurity program (MICS) students (including 11 from Summer 2020, 10 from Fall 2020, and 22 from Spring 2021), and one Ph.D. student.
Keynote speaker Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, also cited the resilience of this graduating class and pointed out how it will provide a strong foundation for whatever else life throws their way. “And because it has not been easy,” Smith said, “because it has been hard, I know there have been many days when you’ve had to dig deep, be creative and persevere through graduate school with a novel approach...That ability to have that self-confidence, that no matter what life throws at you, you can find new ways to address it; believe me, that will serve you well.”
Head graduate advisors professors Kimiko Ryokai, Alex Hughes, and Chris Hoofnagle announced Final Project and Capstone Award winners, and graduates from each program recognized outstanding faculty and students as voted by students. (Viewers were treated to a drumroll by Ryokai’s young daughter — a perk of recording the announcements from home.) Coye Cheshire recognized the achievement of Ph.D. program graduate Nick Doty, also a MIMS alumnus, who studied privacy and security as values in internet standards as his doctoral dissertation.
And while we weren’t all celebrating together in person, the cheer and community were palpable in the live YouTube comments, across social media, and over the I School Slack workspace.
Above all, Smith and other speakers espoused the promise and potential of the new graduates. Smith advised the graduates to be curious, not judgemental as they moved on to their next role after the I School.
“Ultimately in life, we do need to make judgments,” Smith said. “But the thing I love about that phrase is that the judgments we reach will always be better if we start, not by reaching conclusions, but by being curious.”
“So, remember what it took to get you through and call on that resilience when you need it,” Smith concluded. “Be curious, not judgmental, as you think about how technology and what you have learned will connect with everything that’s happening. And make a contribution to something that’s bigger than yourself.”
“If you do those three things well,” Smith continued, “I think it’s a recipe for a happy life. I think it’s a recipe for a life worth living. It’s definitely a recipe for putting your education and this degree to good use.”