SEAS Class Day: Strictly Business

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Today, the SEAS class of 2012 took the metaphorical and literal stage. Super SEAS Specialist (aka SEAS junior) Brian Wagner watched and took some notes. 

Coming and going with a bit less fanfare than today’s other ceremony, SEAS Class Day took place on the South Lawn late this afternoon. The atmosphere was decidedly less energetic than it had been earlier, and there were far fewer large men in suits with radio earpieces. However, the dour weather and subdued mood were rather fitting for this celebration of Columbia’s engineering school graduates. Whereas themes of the morning included empowerment, seizing opportunities, and fighting for equality, the speeches delivered by SEAS Class Day’s keynote speaker Ursula Burns and PrezBo this afternoon were decidedly darker, if not still inspirational.

Burns did encourage the young engineers to pursue subjects they enjoy and take time to have fun every once in a while, but the crux of her speech was—instead of the fantastical promise that the grads could go on to do whatever they wanted—the unideal state of our world, which Burns supported with troubling statistics about the percentages of the population that do not have access to food or clean water. She informed the grads that it was their role as engineers to improve these conditions; the burden of the world’s problems appeared to now lay squarely upon the shoulders of a group of 22-year-olds. Jokes were made, but the message was clear: it was time for the engineers to enter the real world and make a difference.

Following suit, PrezBo spent the first point of his speech bemoaning Earth’s condition, and made it quite clear that the students in front of him were the ones being deployed to the front lines. Nonetheless, he expressed a calm confidence in the abilities of the grads, delivering a concise and fatherly pep talk.

Standing in stark contrast to the morning’s mood, the serious tone of SEAS Class Day perhaps fit the school’s sense of realism and purpose nicely. Many of the student speakers mentioned their time in Gateway as one of their first true engineering experiences; maybe today was merely another rehashing of what SEAS students have been doing all along: Here’s a problem, go fix it.

Full list of speakers:



Welcome: Kevin Shollenberger, Dean of Student Affairs

Class President’s Remarks: Judy Kim, President of the Class of 2012

Keynote Address: Ursula Burns, M.S. ’82

Presentation of Distinguished Class Awards: Kevin Shollenberger, Dean of Student Affairs

Valedictory: Yuan Jochen, Valedictorian

Presentation of Columbia Engineering Alumni Association Awards: Russell Baccaglini, President of Columbia Engineering Alumni Association

Inaugural Graduate Alumni Jubilee Induction: Russell Baccaglini, President of Columbia Engineering Alumni Association

Presentation of Graduate Awards: Soulaymane Kachani, Vice Dean for Graduate, Executive, and Global Programs

Graduate Speaker’s Remarks: Ali Rizvi, Columbia Engineering Graduate Speaker

Dean’s Remarks: Feniosky Peña-Mora, Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

Presentation of Faculty Awards: Feniosky Peña-Mora, Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

President’s Remarks: Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University

Presentation of the Class of 2012 Gift: Hannah Cui and Nora Haney, Co-chairs of 2012 Senior Fund Committee

Reading of Names and Presentation of Class Pins


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  1. Anonymous  

    It's a little upsetting that a school could have such limited expectations for i's graduates. I am an engineering student here, studying physics, and I have no intention of dealing with any of these problems. These speeches are irelevant to me. I'm gonna go to grad skool

    • Anonymous  

      I sincerely hope you are in some way jesting. Even if you are just "gonna go to grad school," what are you doing there? Hopefully study a subject you love. But beyond that, you're also likely going to research something that could create a positive change on the world. Study plasma physics? You could be working on creating fusion, transform how we produce energy. Study astrophysics? You could find a planet in a "Goldilocks" zone that's close enough for us to eventually colonize. Condensed matter physics? You could revolutionize the transistor allowing for incredible computing speeds.

      In short, please don't forget that whatever you end up working on, not only affects your immediate research topic, but could drastically change our lives. Losing sight of that is a dangerous step, one that could doom us all.

    • Anonymous

      what a stupid comment. how did you into SEAS, i am now worried about the quality of admits. You think the 'real world' is out in grad school? And when you are done studying and get your 'degrees', what then? Your are in the engineering school for god sake, you're not studying classics, everything you are studying has some relevance to improving/saving the world. Get out of the academia bubble, go out in the world and make something for yourself so that you don't continue to pass these stupid comments.

    • anony  

      no s/he's actually right. quantum mechanics is a hilarious joke. a lifetime playing Scrabble

      recaptchatm: easoons away

  2. Anonymous  

    also applies to a lot of the wall street engineering students i know (not all), who want to fuck things up whether they know it or not

  3. proud

    you guys have been doing exactly what PrezBo calls for, for the last four years.

    never seen that much kickass from engineers BEFORE they even receive their degrees. ya'll rock.


    stop fucking up the curve. seriously..

  5. Anonymous  

    Get it right, Bwog.

    You missed Jochen's last name.

  6. Anonymous

    No Columbia faculty is more guilty of groupthink than engineering. See how some of those least capable at teaching were awarded "Great Teacher". Methods detecting rigging of recent soviet elections will show grades are allocated by committee rather than earned by students. See the soviet/mafia/praetorian way alumni officers are elected. The effete affected urinebags around the provost offices should better be flushed so as to return the space to classroom and library use.

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