March 21, 2023
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Binghamton University Commencement Weekend full of pomp and ceremony

U.S. Senate Marjority Leader Charles Schumer speaks at Harpur 3, Watson ceremonies

One master's graduate's mortarboard spoke for many. One master's graduate's mortarboard spoke for many.
One master's graduate's mortarboard spoke for many. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

A doctoral hooding ceremony was the first of nine Commencement ceremonies held during the past week, all celebrating the resilience and accomplishments of Binghamton University graduates. As was true for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Commencement held May 13, the ceremonies each marked a “return to normalcy” following two years of pandemic mandates.

Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

More than 150 doctoral students crossed the stage of the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater to have their advisors hood them.

Gretchen Mahler, interim dean of the Graduate School, likened obtaining a doctorate to baking a cake — a huge cake with embellishments and flavors that have never been combined before — with no instructions!

“You might have had a few cooking classes as an undergrad, but nothing that would have prepared you for this large task, and even though you are excited and love the work, sometimes you aren’t even sure that you are qualified to make desserts or want to be a baker,” she said. “Then 2020 comes, and the kitchen is closed. There are delays, but you persevere and eventually things come back online. Finally, on the day of your dissertation defense, you roll out your multilayer masterpiece, and your committee takes a bite and loves your delicious work. So that is kind of what it’s like to get a doctorate, only instead of a cake it’s a dissertation that you toil over for years but eventually succeed in finishing.

The graduates became experts in research, analysis, decision-making and communication, she added, with the addition of adaptability. “You have probably made some mistakes and learned from them. The next time that life is difficult, remember that you have solved big problems before and have the tools to figure this new problem out.”

As President Harvey Stenger moved to the podium, he asked: “Is there a doctor in the house? I’ve always wanted to say that!”

Stenger spoke vivid memories he has of receiving his PhD, and the hooding ceremony is the one that means the most to him. “There was a tremendous sense of accomplishment, as well as relief in completing a long and taxing job,” he said. “Wearing this most unusual clothing probably feels different — but get used to it — because you’ve earned it!

“Your doctorate shows that you have learned to discover secrets and hidden truths about the world around us, and the people who live in it,” he said. “And with this knowledge you will make the world a better place. I am excited to think about what your future holds for you — and for the world.”

Tenaciousness through seminars, clinical rotations and the ordeal of written and oral comprehensive exams while working as TAs and GAs or holding demanding professional positions was key to success according to Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman. “Your thirst for discovery and your keen intellect enabled you to pursue research at the highest level: to pose original questions; to pursue answers through rigorous, exhaustive and exhausting research; and to overcome obstacles and work your way out of apparent dead ends to produce original knowledge that makes a significant contribution to your discipline. It has been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.

“Recognize what you have accomplished,” Nieman added. “You have succeeded in what few are willing to attempt and what many who start the journey are unable to complete. All of us feel privileged to share this day with you and to help you savor an accomplishment that has been many years in the making and that has prepared you to make unique contributions to our future.”

Master’s Commencement sees 650+ degrees conferred

The Master’s Commencement Ceremony, held Friday, May 20, celebrated more than 650 graduates who had completed rigorous, advanced coursework plus a culminating project to finish their program, said Mahler. “That project depends on the discipline, but students can, for example, perform research to answer an unknown question or look for trends in patient data — or a student might complete a creative composition or a performance.”

Students who earns master’s degrees have demonstrated a high level of expertise in a particular area of study or professional practice, and have mastered skills that include information synthesis, critical thinking, independent learning, and complex problem solving, she added. “And though no graduate program can 100% prepare you for your career, the teachers and advisors you have worked with can help you develop tools to put in the toolbox that you take with you after you leave. You are all highly intelligent, highly trained professionals going out into the world to start using your skills right away to find solutions, and that makes me feel pretty optimistic about the future.”

“It takes a special type of person to succeed in advanced study,” Stenger said. “Someone who is intellectually capable and curious, as well as persevering and persistent. Fortunately, you have been aided in this journey by outstanding faculty mentors who have played important roles for you as mentors and friends.

“Now we look forward to your next steps,” he said. “Our country needs ambitious and committed graduates who go on to provide intelligent, thoughtful and ethical leadership. People who are passionate about their work and strive to make their organizations and communities stronger.”

“What strikes me about this gathering is not just the large number of students who have demonstrated mastery. I’m also impressed by the variety of academic disciplines represented,” said Nieman. “The wealth and range of knowledge represented here is astonishing and the variety is wonderful but not remarkable. We are, after all, a university … a place where almost all areas of knowledge can be explored and new knowledge and new ways of knowing are created.”

Knowledge is dynamic and ways of knowing must keep up with new challenges, Nieman he added. “The wide range of degrees we confer today is vital to the future of our society. The challenges we face are great, and the opportunities we have are extraordinary. It will take all of the expertise and all of the different ways of knowing you have developed to enable us to meet the challenges ahead so we can realize the opportunities.”

The diverse perspectives and ways of knowing represented by the master’s class of 2022 is a testament to the power of the University to serve society, Nieman said. “To meet all of our needs in a world beset with complex problems and offering amazing opportunities, we need the skill and insight all of you have developed.”

Scott Feuer also spoke at each ceremony, welcoming graduates as the newest members of the Binghamton University Alumni Association, which is now more than 150,000 strong, with Binghamton graduates in more than 100 countries around the world. “Wherever you go, you’re an ambassador for Binghamton University. Proudly wear your Binghamton shirts and hats, and display your Binghamton gear at home and at work. Your Binghamton experience is a great conversation starter when you meet new people!”

Eduardo Gomez, who earned his master’s degree in system science through the 4+1 program after earning his Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Binghamton last year, addressed his fellow graduates.

He offered advice on how to overcome self-doubt because, he said, people are inherently negative.

“We assume the worst and are attracted to the negative ideas,” he said. “If you don’t believe me, look to those sitting next to you – someone near you was hoarding toilet paper just two years ago. Being negative is natural, it’s a part of us. But there are ways to overcome it — be mindful of what you are thinking.”

Take a step back and ask yourself what is going on, he said, and review the reasons why your solution isn’t working. “Look at the problem from a different perspective or reach out to a colleague or fellow Binghamton alumni, and remember that you graduated from the premier public ivy of the Northeast!”

Gomez concluded his remarks by walking everyone in the Events Center through a confidence-building exercise — the Power Pose. Everyone stood with hands on hips and standing tall with shoulders back and head high. He then asked all of the graduates to repeat after him: “I am strong. I am worthy. I am talented. And I am a Binghamton University graduate!

In addition to providing him a standing ovation to end his speech, Gomez told his fellow graduates to “remember this pose and words as you continue to your next journey!”

Coverage of Binghamton University’s undergraduate ceremonies can be found at the following links:

Additionally, coverage of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences ceremony can be found online and watch the Commencement 2022 Highlights video as well!

Posted in: CCPA, Decker, Harpur, Pharmacy, SOM, Watson