What Our Graduates Say
Graduation Speech at 2012 Watson Recognition Ceremony
Lauren Slomovich, Class of 2012
"Good morning friends, family, faculty, and fellow graduates.
After today we all will be entering a very exciting yet intimidating phase of our lives. This bubble that we live in will disappear. I will no longer have my parents adding money to my meal card or my entire social network in a 5-mile radius. I know, it's depressing...there is a point to this though. I think we can all agree the security of college is quite comforting. So...while panicking about my future, I was asked to speak on behalf of the bioengineering department at the Watson Ceremony, and here I am. Luckily this speech has allowed me to put all of my experiences here at Binghamton University in perspective. I would like to take this time to remind each and every graduate here today how valuable Binghamton University has been in shaping who we are and where we will go. So...how did we make it here?
I can only answer this question through my own experiences. I came to Binghamton University as the shy girl. I walked into the classroom full of fear; professors were monsters and office hours were my worst nightmare. I believe the growth that my classmates and I have experienced over the past four years comes from the unique and powerful perspective that bioengineering has to offer. During the rough patches it may have seemed like bioengineering was just writing genetic algorithms with no coding experience, praying that Professor Laramee was going to answer your e-mails the night before the homework was due, Professor Land telling you the industry will eat you alive, reading Professor Sayama's code wishing we understood what it meant, being "more good" rather than "less bad" for Professor Catalano, doing Odyssey of the Mind skits for Professor Lesperance, or being told by Professor McLeod that "There are no problems, only opportunities". Today, as fellow graduates, bioengineering means much more.
Bioengineering is the power of collective intelligence; it is what binds all disciplines together, the collaboration and competition of individual components that interact and give rise to complex behavior. In a classroom setting we studied this phenomenon on a microscopic level; outside the classroom we experienced this phenomenon. There are 37 diverse individuals in our bioengineering senior class. Together we were challenged, together we worked on teams, and together we gave rise to powerful solutions. With this being said I would like to set the record straight once and for all, bioengineers are REAL engineers. We are different but equal; we are modern day engineers applying our knowledge of living systems to solve a wide-range of real-world problems in areas such as healthcare, finance, sustainability, social systems, and the list goes on. I think I make my point.
Everybody here today is an individual agent. Today is the start of a new simulation for all of us. We shall leave Binghamton, each going down our separate paths. We will take with us the invaluable skill set that we have gained and we shall interact non-linearly to conquer the challenges that our world faces. In the words of Professor George Catalano, "the emphasis is on the verb 'do'. Don't think about it. Don't talk about it. Do it."
Congratulations senior class of 2012! We made it!"
Graduation Speech at 2011 Professional Schools Commencement
Yann Ilboudo, Class of 2011
"Welcome everyone and congratulations for making it to this day! I am sure most of you have said at least once so far: “WOW! These years of college were unbelievable!” Whether you spent much of your time in the library, like I did, or in the bars on State Street, like I did, you will never forget these college years. I am sure I won’t; I can still remember my first day here on campus. I was so excited to take classes at “the premier public university in the Northeast.”
Having been born in Burkina Faso in West Africa, and grown up in Italy, coming to Binghamton University was like going to Harvard at a reasonable price. Plus, I was so excited to study in the United States, the country of opportunities so many people told me about. The country where if you dress like a monster, and the lyrics of your most popular song are “rah rah, roma roma ma, gaga ooh la la, I want your bad romance” (lyrics from Lady Gaga) you can be today’s most recognized pop singer. The country where football is played with your hands instead of your feet, and professional football players are gigantic human beings.
Going back to my first day on campus… it was the most memorable day of my college years. Everybody was so nice to me, I made many friends, and the campus was just gorgeous. But there is one moment that day that sticks out in my mind as the pivotal moment for me. It was the speech the president of the student association gave during the opening ceremony. I do not remember every detail of what he said, but I remember being moved and inspired by his words.
I also remember setting a goal that day to become the president of something, and to be able to speak in front of people the way he did. So, I worked at that. Needless to say, as an engineering student it was not very easy. I spent many of my nights and weekends studying and doing my physics, chemistry and engineering homework. Like most of my engineer friends, I called the library my second home because of the many hours I spent there. Still, I managed to join a few clubs and groups.
My favorite one was the Center of Excellence in Student Leadership (Xcel). There, I learned what it means to be a leader.
I learned that being a leader is not about being the one who speaks the most, but the one who listens the most.
Being a leader is not about delegating tasks to your teammates or your colleagues -- it’s about empowering them.
Being a leader is not about doing things better - - it’s about doing what’s right. Being a leader is not about showing off - - it’s about being authentic.
Finally, being a leader is not about the position you hold. It’s about the positive influence you have on the people around you.
So being a leader is easy; sometimes all you need to do is take the initiative to speak up when something is wrong, or to ask someone in difficulty if they need help.
Finally, you are a leader when you make meaning.
But what does it mean to make meaning? Well, you decide that for yourself. It could be by creating a technology that will save people’s lives, starting a business that will change the world, educating the generations to come, fighting for a cause or marrying your college girlfriend, but I know one thing for sure when you make meaning -- you will wake up every morning with a lot of enthusiasm ready to take on the world.
When you make meaning, you will go the extra mile and reach levels of success you never imagined you could reach before. Therefore, as you start your careers, or start a new degree or as you just go back home, think about how you will make the world a better place, think about how you will make your life more meaningful. Whether you decide to spend more time with your family, get married, or start a business or a new profession, do it in a meaningful way.
Now that I am graduating, I am sad to leave Binghamton University -- although I admit I am happy that I won’t have to deal with this weather any longer!
My parting message to you, the Class of 2011, is to be leaders, to take initiative and to make meaning.
I want to leave you with this quote one of my professor wrote on his syllabus: “Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others wonder what just happened.”
Which one are you?"
Graduation Speech at 2011 Watson Recognition Ceremony
Steven Nowicki, Class of 2011
"Good morning everyone! I'd like to first extend a warm welcome to all of our families and friends who were able to join us here for this awesome day. A great big welcome also to all the faculty and professors who helped us get here. And finally, welcome and congrats to the Watson class of 2011! We did it!
The main thing I wanted for this speech was to present “Bioengineering for the Common Man”. All of the bioengineers here will get the subtle puns and nuances along the way, but what I really want is to share my experiences and what I learned with everyone else.
I also wanted to make this speech as memorable as possible, so I thought, how do I usually remember stuff? Well, the morning of every test or quiz I make a list of the first letters in all of the definitions I need and memorize them in some absurd, made-up acronym. And since that's always “worked” for me, I wanted to lay out this speech in pretty much the same way. So I came up with three different lessons that I've learned through bioengineering, but that really apply to all of us.
It may sound simple, because it's one of the first things we ever hear on the playground as kids; we hear it from our parents, our teachers, our babysitters. “Play nice”. But for me, it's come to mean so much more than it did when I was a 4-year-old on the swing set. In college, almost every project was a team project, and I quickly learned how important it was to get along with other people in your group; especially in our small class, where, odds are, you'd be working with the same people over the next few years. And once we're out in the real world, those same rules will still apply.
Acting presentable, and just going out and networking will play such a major role in our lives that they should be given top priority. As you travel through life, you're going to meet a lot of new kids on the playground of life, and playing nice may be the smartest thing you ever do. You never know when you just might need to call in a favor, ask for a recommendation, or need a friend to console you. So go out and meet new people! Make new friends! Because the more people you know on the playground, the better your kickball team will be.
Life is Complicated
We always need to remember to look at ourselves as more than just simple machines, because we are so much more than that. Especially when emotions come into play, everything gets a little more complex. Graduation is naturally a bittersweet event; we're saying goodbye to a whole group of classmates, professors, and all around friends who have shaped the past four years of our lives. Life changes, and instead of being afraid of all these changes, they should become something we embrace.
Life may be complicated, but life is beautiful! And when we look at our lives as a complex, beautiful, thing we become more than just the gears ticking in a clock; we become this organic, ever-changing system. And complex systems, although a lot harder to understand, are just a lot more fun than simple systems; there's just so much more to them.
And all of these thoughts about changes brings me to my last lesson:
Learn How to Deal with Surprises
Every day, we come across something surprising, something new; something that's changed since last time we saw it. As a quick example, I'm pretty sure my parents are surprised I'm up here at the podium because I didn't actually tell them I was giving a speech =] (Hi, mom) But even as we've gone through college, I'm sure we've all had these surprises.
Like these: Wake up and SURPRISE I have no idea where my dress shoes are for my presentation in 20 minutes. Or: You're leaving the library and SURPRISE it's pouring outside and you don't have your umbrella; which, in Binghamton, isn't really surprising at all. But as we go on after graduation to the “real world”, these surprises tend to get a little bigger and more daunting.
And even though these changes may seem a little scary, what I've come to realize is that they're always good. All of these unexpected circumstances give us the opportunity to show what we're made of. The more and more we face these changes, the more and more we'll be prepared when they come around again. So I implore you, go out and find new surprises every day! Don't just think about new things; try them! And yes, you may stumble every now and then, but FDR once said that “true success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”. So even when you may feel like you're in the negative, stay positive.
The last point I want to leave you with is...never forget to surprise yourself; because when you do something that you didn't even know you could do, the possibilities are endless.
Thank you....and congratulations again to all the graduates!"
Graduation Speech at 2010 Watson Recognition Ceremony
Douglas Eggers, Class of 2010
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen, fellow graduates, family and friends.
I just want to begin by saying that it is nice to see that the Watson School of engineering, in keeping with the rich traditions of engineering education, is holding this ceremony at the earliest possible time on a Saturday...
I mean I guess if an engineer is going to be shaping the future, they may as well start the absolute first thing in the morning.
Yes, this speech is riddled with cheesy jokes, some famous quotes and definitely some clichés because, well, that's just the way I do things.
Seriously though, it is a great honor to be up here speaking to all of you on behalf of Bioengineering. I think that I speak for many, if not all of the students in our department when I say that Professor McLeod and the rest of the bioengineering faculty have provided us with a very unique (or as we like to say "Complex") perspective and a broadly applicable (or "Adaptive") skill set that I am proud to carry with me as I move forward from here.
I feel that this result is not exclusive to bioengineering either. Engineering in general provides us with the tools to sift through ambiguity, to address problems that have no definite answers, to continuously redefine the line that separates the impossible from the possible. We are the innovators of tomorrow, the ones with not only the knowledge, but the gumption to do the thing – and have the power. That's kind of a butchered Ralph Waldo Emerson quote.
What I mean is that as engineers we are not afraid to try, to experiment and perhaps most importantly to fail. My experience here at Binghamton University has shown me this. I also want to add that my experience programming autonomous robots really emphasized the "fail" part.
I think one of the things that makes education in an engineering field so special is that as students we are relentlessly challenged. It's like this high frequency, seemingly endless stream of projects, homework, tests and presentations that everyone in the Watson School experienced. It can be discouraging at times, but as you overcome the diversity of obstacles you face you begin to realize just how capable you really are.
It's tough, sure but the workload also generates a sense of camaraderie, a sense of mutual struggle that draws us closer to one another. We proudly trudge through the lovely Binghamton weather to hours of lab, lecture and discussion not just because we're up for the challenge, but because we know we’re not going it alone. The result, especially for our small group in bioengineering, is a set of friends and teammates that have shared that experience, that have helped one another through those impossible assignments, that have procrastinated, complained and endured alongside you.
It's not just the struggle that we've shared either, I like to think there's a few things we can laugh about too. Who remembers the first floor of the engineering building completely flooded with rainwater? Why isn't addressing that issue a senior design project? I mean I'm pretty sure that it'll rain like that again in Binghamton.
Poking fun at the facilities and the weather aside, this is one of the greatest public universities in the nation and we should all be incredibly proud of our accomplishment. Whether you are continuing on to graduate school, have a job lined up or like myself are going to explore the world, I wish you all the best and thank you all for sharing this time with me. In the words of the great inventor and innovator Thomas Edison – "Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!""
Graduation Speech at 2009 Watson Recognition Ceremony
Matt Hoffman, Class of 2009
"I stand before you today looking out upon my peers, friends, and fellow engineers. I speak before proud parents and family members, here to pause for a moment in reflection of our journey here at Binghamton.
While college is seen as a path taken for a degree and the pursuit of a career, it is so much more than that. College provides us with simple skills to further our development and be successful in our everyday lives. It is through these lessons that the simple question of "what is bioengineering?" becomes so much more complex. Bioengineering is not just the study of complex systems and emergent behavior. It is the study of your role in the world and how you will affect it.
Bioengineering is learning how to apply what you know in an innovative and new way.
Bioengineering is working more as a team and not just as a group.
Bioengineering is being ready for the unknown and embracing it.
Bioengineering is even at times, figuring out how to pull an all-nighter to get some work done...
We have all taken this path together, and through our department, we have found more than just a degree, we have found a community. Today we would like to thank our professors within the department there daily to ensure that this community was fostered in the classroom. For it is by this community, the lifelong friendships made and support present that this department becomes more than just a sum of its parts.
For us graduates, our lives are just beginning. As we look on towards our future, we are pursuing graduate school, professional schools, or even the start of our careers. It is through this department that a passion for our individual interests has been fostered. It is by this passion that I know that our success will become evident. I leave here with you knowing that there is no need to worry, for no matter what problems the future has in store, I know we bioengineers will only think of them as opportunities.
So, Congratulations Bioengineers and thank you!"
Graduation Speech at 2008 Watson Recognition Ceremony
Danielle Barone, Class of 2008
"When I was first asked to be the student speaker on behalf of the Bioengineering Department, I was extremely excited. Then I realized I actually had to write a speech. Well, here it is:
What is Bioengineering?
It is a question we as bioengineers have been asked a countless number of times. And I’m sure the majority of this room was just wondering the same thing.
I could answer it with the technical definition, by explaining complex systems and emergent behavior. However, bioengineering is so much more than just that.
Until recently, I thought bioengineering was just a major. It was pulling all-nighters for Craig, thinking like DaVinci for Catalano, using the word comprises for Leann, playing that game for Gause, training our computers for Walker, repeating the same lab over and over for Jacques, shutting the blinds for Hiroki, removing the word "problem" from our vocabulary for McLeod and lastly, defending our intelligence to the mechanical engineers.
But now, as a graduate, I have come to the realization that bioengineering is about embracing opportunities. It is not being afraid of change. It is understanding the importance of the unexpected and the unknown. And, most of all, it's about recognizing that life is unpredictable.
Today I stand before you as a graduate of Binghamton University, but who knows where I will be tomorrow?
In the words of the girls from 61 Oak Street: YOLO -- You only live once.
Congratulation to the Class of 2008!
Thank you, everyone!"
Graduation Speech at 2007 Watson Recognition Ceremony
Jonathan P. Newman, Class of 2007
"I am especially honored to stand before you today, because I represent the talent and dedication of this graduating class as well as the faculty of the Bioengineering Department at Binghamton. Although I could ramble through a synopsis of the past four years, of how hard we have worked and all the things we have learned, I won't. Instead, I would like to speak of something that doesn't often manifest within a competitive technical program, but that I found in this department and that every bioengineer in this class holds dear.
The dedicated friendships and strong community which have evolved over the past four years between the students and the faculty in our fledgling department provide good explanation of the growth and success of this graduating class. Although graduation represents a great personal triumph, I truly believe that the feeling of accomplishment among the BioE graduates is greatly vested in the achievement of the community as a whole. Speaking personally, I know that without the insight and thoughtfulness I have found in my peers and professors, I would never have grown to love this line of study and knowledge.
So firstly, on behalf of the BioE graduates here today, I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to the BE staff and faculty who have toiled to produce such an outstanding undergraduate education. We thank Ellen, Nick, Guru, Mike, Hiroki, Leann, Craig, Don, Jacques, Ken and Walker for the care and passion for teaching so evident in their everyday conduct.
Finally, and most importantly, I would like state my utmost appreciation and admiration for my peers. With such a passionate and unique group of students, it is no wonder why the last four years have been marked with such creativity and why our innovative department has already begun to carve an indelible mark in the world of bioengineering education. Working with this group allowed even the hardest and most tedious tasks to be enjoyable, and for this, I am so grateful. We have worked together, helped one another, and complained together, and finally, we have truly succeeded together as the second graduating bioengineering class at Binghamton University.
As my good friend Brendan says constantly, "Keep it real and don't let the man get you down." Congratulations bioengineers."