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.