Class of 2017: Remember Your Roots

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Commencement Ceremonies Honor ENG Graduates

Story and Photos by Sara Cody

All eyes were on the Class of 2017 as more than 360 graduates gathered at Commencement Exercises on May 20 in Agganis Arena to celebrate the next chapter of their lives. A common refrain throughout the day urged graduates to remember their roots as they moved forward in their new careers.

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The excitement was palpable during the processional of graduates, faculty and the platform party.

“Many of the attributes that we attempt to begin instilling in you beyond your degree so you can become successful societal engineers. But it turns out there is one attribute that may be the single most important ingredient to have success in life. And that is the ability, the willingness, the desire, the passion to work really hard,” said Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen. “It’s really hard to become an engineer, and not everyone can do it. But you can.”

Next, student speaker Lauren Etter (ME’17) shared her connection to the College mission of creating the societal engineer. She recounted her experience designing a water filtration system for a community in Zambia while participating in Engineers without Borders. A majority of the system was built in Boston and brought to the developing country for implementation. However, when she arrived she realized the tools that were so readily available in the United  States were no longer at her disposal in the field and she had to improvise using the limited resources available. With help from the community elders, they worked together to devise a simple solution that allowed the water filtration system to be implemented successfully.

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Student speaker Lauren Etta (ME’17) shared her connection with the College mission of creating the societal engineer.

“The societal engineer is the bold idea of having an awareness of your surroundings and being able to contribute positively through problem solving,” said Etter. “We have an obligation to engage with our world. We have the technical foundation and the moral obligation to make a difference. Through our education here at BU, we’ve come to realize that being a societal engineer means being dynamic in our solutions.”

Colin Angle, CEO and co-founder of iRobot Corp., presented the commencement address, which focused on his experience building a company and provided advice for graduates moving into the working world, particularly around finding the best cultural fit.

“Most of you are about to enter the workforce and you want a job that you will enjoy at an employer that will value in return. Companies, like people, have personalities and there are ones that you will like and some that you will not,” said Angle. “Your longer term happiness in any job and your career is based on being a part of something you believe in and that align well with who you are.”

Angle went on to describe the values and culture that he has built at iRobot. He told how his company provided aid to Japan to mitigate the Fukushima nuclear disaster after a tsunami triggered a meltdown. His company donated a half a million dollars’ worth of robots and sent a team of engineers to train the disaster team in how to operate them. The robots were deployed into the reactors to create radiation maps to seek out the safest pathway to allow an operator wearing protective clothing to reach to the control room and shut down the reactor without receiving a fatal dose of radiation.

Lutchen presented Department Awards for Teaching Excellence to Associate Professor Michael Smith (BME), Senior Lecturer and Research Assistant Professor Tali Moreshet (ECE) and Senior Lecturer Caleb Farny (ME), who also received Outstanding Professor of the Year. Associate Professor Tyrone Porter (ME, MSE) was recognized with the Faculty Service Award.

Later that afternoon, more than 280 master’s and 59 PhD graduates were celebrated for their achievements in the Fitness and Recreation Center, while their friends and families looked on.

Families and friends gathered in the Fitness and Recreation Center to celebrate the graduates.
Families and friends gathered in the Fitness and Recreation Center to celebrate the master’s and PhD graduates.

“When you go for a PhD or master’s degree, you have chosen your profession and that obligates you to continuously question the central tenants of your discipline and your field,” said Lutchen. “Therefore, you constantly advance the forefronts of knowledge and translate that new knowledge into discoveries and innovations for society.”

Professor Daniel Beard (BME’93), Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Carl J. Wiggers Collegiate Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology at the University of Michigan, addressed the crowd, crediting his experience as an undergraduate at BU to inspire him to follow a career in academia.

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Commencement speaker Professor Daniel Beard (BME’93).

“Having a career in academia means you get paid to learn. You get to think, to design, to try, to dream, to build things and break things and you fail and you learn, and I never knew this was possible until I came here,” said Beard. “Now, it’s time to follow your potential and get to work.”