SARA HERNANDEZ: Welcome, graduates, loved ones, and distinguished guests to the 29th PhD hooding ceremony. My name is Sara Xayarath Hernandez. I serve as the associate dean for inclusion and student engagement at the Graduate School.
The academic procession is about to begin. Please take your seats, and kindly clear the aisles. Also, please take a moment to make sure the ringers are off on your mobile devices. We ask that you remain in your seats, and do not get up to take photographs during the ceremony as a professional photographer will be taking them for your graduate and you.
As a safety precaution, please take a moment to locate the exit closest to you. In case of an emergency, listen carefully to instructions over the PA system. Thank you.
The academic procession will begin with the University Marshal, Poppy McLeod, Leading President, Martha E. Pollack, Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff, and Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education Kathryn J. Boor into the Hall. Next will be the Cornell University College deans. Following the deans will be members of the Board of Trustees and the university leadership, led by the Chairman of the Board Robert Harrison.
The university faculty will be led by the Dean of the faculty Professor Eve De Rosa. Finally, our more than 300 PhD candidates will proudly possess into the Hall to their seats near the stage.
As part of today's ceremony, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogoho:no otherwise known as the Cayuga Nation. The Gayogoho:no are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with the historic and contemporary presence on this land.
The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, the state of New York, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogoho:no dispossession, and we honor the ongoing connection of the Gayogoho:no people, past and present, to these lands and waters. Thank you for joining us today.
KATHRYN BOOR: Welcome, everyone. I'm Kathryn Boor, dean of the Graduate School. And welcome to the happiest day of the year on campus. It's a delight to see you all here today.
I'm especially pleased to welcome the members of the Board of Trustees, our faculty, our university leadership, our college deans, but especially our degree candidates and their families and their guests. Welcome all.
Our assembly is hereby called to order. And it is my honor and my great pleasure to introduce to you, Provost Michael Kotlikoff. Provost Kotlikoff.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Thank you, Dean and Vice Provost Boor. I'm honored to be part of this joyful occasion. I want to welcome you to this celebration of a key milestone in the lives of the doctoral candidates we recognize today. Welcome, especially to the family and friends who join us today at Cornell for this very special ceremony. And a special thanks to all of our faculty members who have supported and guided these doctoral students.
Candidates, all of well what the encouragement of family and friends has meant to you throughout your journey. They have offered support during periods of challenge and have celebrated all of your successes. Let's take this opportunity to thank them. Candidates, would you please rise, turn around, and give your family and friends a round of applause.
Thank you. Please be seated. By completing a PhD, you have achieved the highest level of knowledge or expertise in your field of specific focus. The degree we are about to confer upon you is set apart from all others because it reflects broad knowledge and competency by its recognition of the creation of new knowledge and your years of intellectual engagement and research to achieve that new knowledge.
The PhD is evidence of your intense commitment to discovery and your fierce desire to offer unique understanding and perspective in your own areas of study. I know that I speak for my fellow faculty members in saying that it has been a privilege to have you at Cornell and to be part of your growth, from students to colleagues.
You have contributed significant innovative thoughts, insights and ideas to intellectual discussions and new scholarship. Through researching and writing your dissertations, you have become the world's experts in your own areas of focus. And many of you have developed your teaching skills while advancing the education of your fellow Cornellians. We are proud of all that you have achieved and glad to have joined you in your discovery and dissemination of new knowledge.
I want to take time to thank our graduate students for their incredible contributions particularly to our COVID response, from helping to model our risk factors and epidemiology, helping to conceptualize and validate our testing laboratory, and keeping our labs working throughout the pandemic, and finally, supporting our undergraduates' education during all of that.
On behalf of the faculty of Cornell University, I offer my congratulations and best wishes for the future and look forward to hearing of all your success and accomplishments in the years to come. It is now my honor to introduce the 14th President of Cornell University Professor of computer science, information science, and linguistics, Martha E. Pollack.
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you, Provost Kotlikoff, and congratulations doctoral candidates. It's really wonderful to be with all of you here today at this turning point in your lives. And it really is a turning point. It's a day that will stand as a separation between everything you've done before and everything you do going forward. Everything you've done until today happened when you were a student, a scholar in training. But from this point onward, you are a full-fledged member of the community of scholars, and for that we congratulate you.
Completing your doctorate is a tremendous accomplishment. It's one that's really almost impossible to understand unless you've done it yourself. Each of you, as Provost Kotlikoff said, is now the world's leading expert in your area of research. And every year leading up to the ceremony, I take a look at the list of dissertation topics for our new PhDs, and it really is extraordinary.
This year, sitting among you are experts in perception and planning for autonomous navigation in unstructured environments, Flaubert, Beckett, and Godard in the subject of modernism. This one is hard, gene mapping and controlled recombination for allopolyploid plant breeding, automated machine learning under research constraints, religious multilingualism in medieval South India, and hundreds of other topics.
Each of you was very different in what you've chosen as your area of expertise, but you've all come through a similar experience, the process of defining, researching, writing, rewriting, rewriting again, and again, and then finally defending a dissertation. And just as you are now experts in your field-- excuse me-- your field of research, you're also experts in a few other things that will serve you well in life, whatever you choose to do with your degrees.
One of those things is persistence or a word I like better, tenacity. Tenacity, I think, is one of the defining features of every successful doctoral candidate. Literally it means the ability to hold on and not let go. That's the simple definition. But in academia tenacity, the kind of tenacity that has brought each of you to your Cornell degrees is complex, and it means much more than your ability to keep your grip.
Indeed, tenacity is so important that I'd like to spend a few minutes today, as I have at some hooding ceremonies in the past, talking about what tenacity means in the pursuit of a PhD, about the qualities each of you has cultivated and demonstrated in the pursuit of your degrees. Tenacity requires patience, and that's something that's in short supply today in our world of instant gratification.
Most of us these days can find the information we want instantly or close enough to instantly, driving directions, currency conversions, the news and the weather are all in your pocket. The movies are on Netflix. The books are on Amazon. And for life's really big questions, there's Google Scholar.
Each of you set out to find answers that Google couldn't give you though, because they didn't yet exist. You discerned and discover them in your labs and your fieldwork, your classes and your carols. And wherever your quest took you, each of you developed the patience for the journey, the patience to see your dissertations through to the end.
Tenacity also requires self-confidence, the drive and the pragmatic optimism to accept instances of failure and yet move onward to success. When that experiment fails, when your conference paper is rejected, when your advisor tells you that, yeah, it was a really great idea, but you know what, it was published last year, in those moments-- yeah, I see you smiling out there-- in those moments, you need the confidence to say, well, OK, that I didn't work out, but I'm going to learn from it, and next time it'll be better.
Tenacity requires focus, the singularity of focus to find out everything there is to know about one area of human knowledge and then to find something that isn't known and explore it so that you expand the boundaries of human knowledge that much further. It means seeing and recognizing the world of questions that you might explore, and then narrowing that world down to the one question that you're going to pursue right now until you found the answer.
Tenacity also requires passion. In fact, I think that might be the single most essential requirement for anyone setting out on that intellectual marathon we call a dissertation. It might not be the most elegant metaphor, but passion is, to a PhD, what feeder to a bicycle. Without passion on the pedals, you aren't going anywhere. And tenacity requires one more thing. It requires the support of those around you.
I'm sure there's not a single one of you sitting here today who didn't rely on others during the process of getting your PhD, your advisor, your committee members, your office mates, your friends, your family. They gave you mentoring and guidance as you chose a topic.
They helped you find the resources you need. They gave you encouragement and pep talks when you needed them. And they left you alone when that was what you needed most. And maybe there was even that really special person, and you know who I'm talking about, who took care of your cat for you so that you could go on that trip.
It's all well and good to be tenacious, to be persistent, but being human, each of us needs a little help, a little support, a little push to keep us moving forward. So I want to leave you today with one piece of advice, specifically to you as new PhDs. Advice that is actually kind of also a request. Whether it's in a classroom or a lab or a research organization or somewhere else, all of you are likely sooner or later to be in a position of authority over others.
I want to ask you as you leave this stage of your life behind and move into that next one to reflect on the people who have helped get you where you are and the kindness and the support you've received. Remember the role that kindness has played in bringing you to this point and bring that kindness forward with you to share with others as you move on into the next stage of your life. Congratulations to each of you and welcome to the worldwide community of scholars.
KATHRYN BOOR: Thank you President Pollack. And now Provost Michael Kotlikoff and I are particularly honored to be able to take into our hands the age old tradition of placing a hood on the shoulders of each of our new doctors. So it's an incredible honor on our part.
Associate Dean of the Graduate School Jan Allen will announce each candidate. We have professional photographers who will be taking a photo of each candidate. So please for the safety of our graduates and our guests, please remain in your seat during this time. And I thank you for that in advance. Now I ask the candidates to rise one row at a time and to approach the platform.
SPEAKER: And you're holding them back so they don't go across the stage and cross each other. Thank you.
JAN ALLEN: [READING NAMES]
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
SPEAKER 2: Everyone in this auditorium gets an A-plus. Because normally, I have to ask please join me in congratulating our newest graduates and you did it without even being asked. But I'm going to ask you to do it again. Congratulations.
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
Best group ever. And now that we're still all standing, it's time to sing the alma mater.
CROWD: (SINGING) Far above Cayuga's waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, all hail, Cornell. Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven, looks she proudly down. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, all hail, Cornell.
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
SPEAKER 3: This concludes the formal part of our ceremony. I'd like to ask you to please remain standing while the platform party and our candidates recess. Everyone is welcome to join us at the reception, which is just around on the curtain. Thank you so much for attending this afternoon.
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
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At this event, we will celebrate and recognize the significant achievements of doctoral PhD, JSD, and DMA graduates from August ’21, December ’21, and expected May ’22 and August ’22. This special ceremony is for all PhD candidates to be individually recognized on stage as a welcome into the academy of scholars.