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2016 Senior Recognition Celebration Recognizes Outstanding Students and Faculty

Engineering Students donning their caps and gowns at the 2016 Senior Recognition Celebration

On Saturday, May 7, the College of Engineering and Dean Tim Anderson celebrated the successful completion of another academic year by paying tribute to several award-winning students, honoring this year’s outstanding faculty award winners, and sending some 400 seniors into the engineering profession with words of wisdom, advice, and good humor.

As Dean Anderson told the seniors and their families and friends at the celebration, “We are gathered here today to celebrate your successful completion of a bachelor of science in engineering.  As you now appreciate, our engineering curricula are by many measures the most challenging ones on campus. You made it through differential equations, mastered thermodynamics, and completed an open-ended capstone design project. This is indeed a significant accomplishment. And all the while you took full advantage of the residential educational experience offered by UMass. And 80 percent of you participated in an open-ended and enriching learning experience such as: REU or internship or coop or study abroad or Engineers Without Borders.”

He added that “I recall the tremendous change in my own children, although I was somewhat concerned upon walking into my son's dorm room and seeing a refrigerator magnet with the statement, 'College, the best 7 years of my life.’”

The honorees at the celebration were many and well-accomplished.

 At Commencement Matthew Sparks of our Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department was honored as a 21st-Century Leader, and he graduated with a cumulative GPA of 3.8. Incidentally, Sparks was also a four-year letter-winner on the UMass Football Team and two-year starting member of the offensive line and named a 2015 member of the Rimington and Outland Trophy Watch Lists. The Rimington Trophy Watch List tracks the top centers in the nation, while the Outland Trophy Watch List tracks the top offensive or defensive interior linemen. Sparks was also a Distinguished MAC Scholar-Athlete and made the MAC All-Academic Team and Capital One Academic All-District Team.

In addition, Senior Jeremiah Davis of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department won a Senior Leadership Award, which recognizes graduating seniors who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the UMass Amherst community. Award recipients have distinguished themselves through important contributions to student organizations, campus jobs, academic excellence, and community service. Davis won this award for his huge part in organizing and fundraising for HackUMass III, held last October.

The college also recognized faculty members Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, Joseph Bardin of ECE, Wei Fan of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, and Scott Civjan  of CEE as winners of various outstanding faculty awards for 2015-2016. In an announcement this spring, Dean Anderson said that “Dr. Baker received the Outstanding Senior Faculty Award. She was cited by the selection committee for her outstanding record in research, teaching, and service, as well as her demonstrated leadership as a senior faculty member. Doctors Bardin and Fan are co-recipients of the Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. The outstanding scholarly contributions of both of these young faculty members led the committee to take the rare step of recommending joint awardees.”

Professors Civjan and Fan were named the 2015-2016 College of Engineering Outstanding Teachers. As an announcement by Dean Anderson said, “Scott’s consistently excellent student evaluations, and the recognition by his colleagues of his longstanding dedication to teaching were cited by the selection committee. Wei was cited for highly effective teaching in some of the most challenging courses in his department and outstanding mentorship of undergraduate researchers in REU and Honors programs.”

In Dean Anderson’s remarks to the Senior Recognition Celebration, he noted that “Over the next  40 years  or so you will  likely  contribute to: affecting broad  penetration of affordable renewable energy; insuring  a clean and plentiful water  supply  system; reshaping  the  built  environment to net zero energy  consumption; recovery  of our dwindling natural  resources to ensure  a sustainable economy; translating medical  research  into  useful  medical  technology.”

The dean offered three major pieces of advice to the graduates. First, he quoted Winston Churchill: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Accordingly, he advised the seniors to look for a chance to make a difference with their careers.

“My second piece of advice is to do something you are passionate about,” said Dean Anderson. “There are 168 hours in a week, and you will spend about 1/3 sleeping, 1/3 working, and 1/3 everything else. Be passionate about what you do with your engineering degree.  You will find it more satisfying, you will do a better job, and you will make more of a difference.”

Thirdly, the dean said that “Many opportunities lie at emerging interfaces — Don't be afraid to work at these boundaries…Take the engineering thought process and don't be afraid to apply it to problems at emerging interfaces. In doing so you may have to create your own career path.”

Dean Anderson closed his remarks with a word to the wise: “Remember: Professionals do their best even when they may not want to. Ethics are what you follow even when you know no one is looking.” (May 2016)