WPI Class of 2023 Charged to Apply Knowledge, Values, and Resilience to Improve the Future
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) capped its 2023 Commencement Week celebrations today as 1,088 undergraduates received their diplomas on the stage under a sprawling tent on the campus quadrangle. This ceremony followed Thursday night’s graduate commencement, where 784 master’s degrees and a record 88 doctoral degrees were bestowed. On Friday, WPI hosted the Commission Ceremony for the Worcester Consortium of Colleges Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
President Grace Wang and Board of Trustees Chair William Fitzgerald presided over the 154th Commencement exercises Saturday morning, marking the first time for both in their respective positions. In her remarks, President Wang, who officially joined WPI in early April, applauded the graduates for their dedication, persistence, passion for their field of study, and achievements. “You have earned your place among generations of exceptional WPI alumni. I hope you will take the opportunity, as they did, to push boundaries, explore unknowns, and deliver a tangible and profound impact to the world.”
In his commencement address to undergraduates titled, “Don’t Switch Off Your Conscience,” Congressman James P. McGovern, who represents the Massachusetts second congressional district, urged graduates not to forget about the moral and ethical consequences of their work. “I ask you to stay true to yourself and the values you have learned at WPI. As citizens of the world, you have a responsibility to the greater good. To ask yourself not only what is profitable, but what is just. To ask yourself not only what is efficient, but what is equitable. And to ask yourself not only what is innovative, but what is honorable.”
McGovern received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the event. Honorary degrees were also bestowed upon Shankar Balasubramanian, the Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Cambridge University, and John T. Mollen, former chair of WPI’s Board of Trustees.
The undergraduate student speaker was Susanna Oppong, biology and biotechnology, who led the graduates in a resounding cheer, “I am here because I am resilient!” Recalling the unprecedented times the Class of 2023 has faced, Oppong said “They say resilience is born through experience and I truly believe that the resilience of our generation has come from the situations we have endured as students and how we have gathered as a community to advocate for them. We have broken through the stereotypes given to our generation and created the definition of our destiny.”
During the graduate students' ceremony Thursday evening, speaker Catherine Ball, a scientific futurist, author, and tech influencer, left the graduates with some homework: “Question everything. Consider the system effects of new technologies, think of the frameworks that are needed, wonder about the modus operandi, the reason why. There are changes coming, and it will be more to do with adoption and adaptation of technology for good, scalability of social empowerment and enablement, and the design of things with society and the planet in mind.”
Ball joined Gebisa Ejeta, executive director of Purdue University’s Center for Global Food Security, and WPI Professor Emeritus David Lucht, the first head of the Fire Protection Engineering program, in receiving honorary degrees as part of the ceremony.
Representing the graduate students this year was Mahvash Jebeli, who received her doctorate in biomedical engineering. In her speech, “Our WPI Graduate Degree: Story of Grit,” Jebeli, a native of Tehran, Iran, shared that none of her four grandparents could read or write and neither of her parents graduated from high school, but she was fortunate to grow up in different circumstances. “As we consider the opportunities many of us were given to earn our degrees, let us remember that those opportunities have given us the power to make the world a better, safer, more humane place.”
WPI’s 2023 Commencement Week also included a Commissioning Ceremony for the Worcester Consortium of Colleges Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). On Friday, 23 cadets in the Army and Air Force programs at Assumption University, Brown University, the College of the Holy Cross, WPI, Worcester State University, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell were commissioned as officers. Commissioning Officer was Lieutenant General Douglas A. Sims II, Director for Operations, J-3, The Joint Staff.