With WPI’s switch to separate commencement ceremonies for undergraduate and graduate students comes a more customized and personal degree-receiving experience for each class. This year is the first time bachelor’s degrees will be awarded separately from master’s and PhDs in two events, instead of in the same long ceremony on a crowded Quad. As associate dean of students Greg Snoddy notes, it allows opportunities for a less-generic ceremony for each.
Shaymus Hudson, who is earning a PhD in materials science and engineering, will speak to the audience of families and friends on Thursday, when master’s and doctoral candidates receive their degrees. Rebecca Stolarczyk, who is earning a BS in biomedical engineering with a minor in bioinformatics and computational biology, speaks on Saturday, May 14.
Hudson, who earned a BS in materials science and engineering from MIT in 2012, is from Buena Vista, Va. In addition to research activities while at WPI, he has served on the Material Advantage Chapter Board, Graduate Student Government, Provost Search Committee, Committee for Graduate Studies and Research, and the WPI Undergraduate Research Journal editorial board.
“Why not?” Hudson asked himself when he received the email in late March, soliciting willing students to speak at graduation. Candidates were asked to draft a three-to-five-minute speech and audition before a committee composed of students and faculty. His parents, he says, were very excited to hear he’d had been chosen, as he is a first-generation college graduate—the speaking honor is “just icing on the cake of an already-exciting day,” he says.
The committee didn’t propose a theme to work with, so students were able to express themselves freely. Hudson is mum about the exact content of his speech—and its title—but says it has a definite focus on the future with a dash of inspiration.
“It’s more of a charge to the graduates, more of a general speech,” he says. “I wrote it as a charge: ‘Here’s what we can do, here’s what we need to do, here’s how far we have come.’”
Stolarczyk, of nearby Sutton, is ready to get before an estimated 900 or so graduates and their guests. Having previously served as speech and debate team president at Mass Academy of Math and Science, she enjoys the feeling of accomplishment public speaking brings, and is drawn to these kinds of opportunities.
“When again in my life will I get this opportunity? For me, that’s exhilarating,” she says.
Stolarcyzk, who has been working as a research intern at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Diagnostic Molecular Oncology Laboratory since 2012, has been practicing her speech. It focuses on her time at WPI, what memories she’s made here, and what things she’s learned that will carry her through the rest of her life.
She admits that public speaking is somewhat outside of her comfort zone, but says she enjoys the challenge: “It doesn’t come naturally, I make myself do it. I think the biggest thing [I like] is being able to share what you think and influence so many people,” making it well worth the butterflies, in her view.
READY TO GO
Stolarczyk suspects her parents forgot she told them she was auditioning for the Commencement ceremony, but says that after she got word that she was the pick and told them, they were choked up. “I am very, very excited,” she says. “It will be cool to have them there.”
“I think I’m going to be fine,” Hudson adds. “Obviously I will be a little nervous. But I think it’s going to be great.”
– BY SUSAN SHALHOUB