The Dean's Discourse
Department(s):The Business School
It was Dr. Seuss who said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Since the 1990s, the book Oh, the places you’ll go has been a graduation favorite and it is no wonder. We look at our graduates, their accomplishments, and cannot help but marvel over the challenges they have overcome, especially considering that the class of 2023 had their college careers interrupted by COVID. In the reflection, we assert along with Dr. Suess, “Kid, you’ll move mountains."
It is a special joy to be an educator at commencement time. The college campus is alive and teeming with graduates wearing their caps and gowns. Families join their graduates at top photographic spots, bursting and beaming with pride. Even the faculty walk a little taller as they don their regalia. We cheer and wave as students cross the stage. We see and even shed tears of joy and sorrow. There are wistful expressions on faces remembering the shy or gangly first year student who has now blossomed into a capable and confident individual. It seems to never grow old because there is something special about touching and helping to shape a life. You have the privilege of pouring into someone who will now impact the world.
But at the end of another school year, we recognize that we as the educators are just as transformed as the students we teach. I find myself asking, “Was I this smart when I was their age?” I am certain the answer is no because of their impact on me. For example, I am amazed by the students who are blazing new trails, filling jobs that did not exist when I was an undergraduate. I am moved by students who converted Major Qualifying Projects into new start-up businesses. I am awed by the students who turn down $100,000 starting salaries to work instead for much lower paying non-profit companies because they want to make a difference in the world. I am more than touched; I am changed by these our amazing students.
This, in the end, is how it should be: those we teach also teach us. There is a reciprocity in this symbiotic system. I am a different person because of our students, just as they are different because of us, the faculty, staff, and administrators to whom families entrusted their students for such a short period of time. It is a gift to have the privilege of journeying with these students and their families. Just as surely as these students crossed into WPI via the Earle Bridge as first years, they cross out the same way as graduates. But the change that happened in those short years is astounding. Our newest alumni are now prepared for an adventure that they can steer in any way they choose.
So, to the Class of 2023, thank you for sharing your light with us. To the faculty and staff who helped to shape these amazing individuals, thank you for your service and care. Class of 2023, we know that your mountain is waiting, and you will conquer the day. But please don’t forget us as you go on your way.
Dean Debora Jackson
 Seuss, Dr. Oh, the Places You'Ll Go! New York: Random House, 1990.