“The View from Here”
June 13, 2019
Thank you, Provost Blake. Welcome Drexel University Trustee Kevin O’Hara, Keynote Speaker Nicholas Donofrio, honored guests, faculty and staff, family members and dear friends, and of course, the singular Class of 2019.
Since I became dean only last September, this is my first commencement at Drexel’s College of Engineering too—so I feel like, today, we’re all in this together.
It’s customary for people making these sorts of speeches to tell you what you’ll be doing, what the future looks like from here. But I’d like to tell you what the view looks like from here—what I see as I stand in front of the nearly 700 members of the Class of ’19.
What a sight you are!
The view from here is of a class of young men and women brimming with intellectual vigor and promise who have completed one of the most difficult collegiate careers of any students anywhere.
I probably don’t have to remind you—but for those unfamiliar with your crucible: you have endured thermodynamics, probability, fluid dynamics, Senior Design projects, dissertations and defenses, hours in the polymers and composites lab or the materials electrochemistry lab or the biological colloids lab, and 10-week quarters that demand unrelenting focus and commitment. This is an accomplishment few students anywhere can lay claim to.
The view from here is of a class of engineers hailing from 36 countries, places that are just names on the map to many, but which give us a global perspective that informs our sense of connection—countries like Angola, Lithuania, Vietnam, Peru, Nepal, and Venezuela.
And of course, the view from here is of so many of you who hail from the great city of Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.
You have excelled in contests both athletic and academic outside of this great University. Drexel’s paintball team—chockful with engineers—won the national championship this year! Our NASA-RASCAL lunar design team advanced to nationals; our Steel Bridge Team advanced to nationals; our Formula SAE car team, our college-sponsored sailing team, and our DragonRadio teams are bringing new renown to the College through their innovation and their creative design.
The view from here is of brilliant young minds already pushing the boundaries of what we think we are capable of.
As your new dean, the view from here fills me with pride. But it also reassures me. Because we—who have taught and mentored and instructed you—know how talented you are, and society is going to demand every bit of that talent from you.
You are graduating today into arguably the most challenging ecosystem of any generation of scientists and engineers.
You’ll be working on not just a job or a graduate degree, but on what scientists call “wicked problems”—problems that are so intractable they will probably never go away. But they still need solutions that reduce the threats they pose.
You’ll be engineering solutions to climate change; to urban infrastructure that is crumbling and dated; to the cyberworld so desperately in need of security; to medical technology that will ensure quality of life for individuals living longer; to safer, cleaner water and safer food production systems to service an exploding world population; to Artificial Intelligence and machine learning that must serve our greatest and most generous impulses; and finally, to diversity of access to all that’s best in society today.
Innovation and startups are leveling the playing field: the ability of one individual—one engineer—to impact the world is greater than it has ever been. That brings unprecedented opportunity, but also ... and I hope you’ll remember this … great responsibility.
As Drexel alums, you will always be welcome back home. I encourage you to stay in touch with your alma mater. I look forward to your return visits and your involvement with our family of scholars. I am certain that staying connected to the Dragon community will refresh your sense of who you are and where you came from.
I want to wish you all the best of success and joy in the years ahead. Honor your life and your chosen paths, whatever they may be. Come back and visit. Hold fast to your sense of purpose. Contribute. Reach across every divide. Solve problems, big and small. Be resolved—because we need you.
In closing, here is the bottom-line on how I—on how we—see all of you, the graduates of Drexel’s College of Engineering Class of 2019 - the view from here is, you are equal to the challenges before you. Class of 2019, you’ve got this!