Carnegie Mellon University
May 20, 2015

Class of 2015: Highly Interdisciplinary Graduates

Class of 2015: Highly Interdisciplinary Graduates

On May 16, Department of English graduates, their families and friends, faculty, and staff gathered in McConomy Auditorium for the presentation of diplomas to the Class of 2015.

Chris Neuwirth, Department head, delivered a welcome message to 65 graduates and nearly 300 of their family members and friends. She, first, gave the students an opportunity to stand and applaud their families and friends for their roles in supporting the student’s academic success.

“Our Class of 2015 is a strong and accomplished class of achievers,” said Neuwirth. “This class is also highly interdisciplinary. In addition to majoring in English, many of our graduates this year have majored or minored not only in other languages, in other humanities disciplines, but also in the arts, in business, and in the sciences. This achievement is very much in keeping with the spirit of Carnegie Mellon as a small, intense, and intellectually-rich environment for interdisciplinary studies.”

Neuwirth also offered advice and encouragement to the graduates. She quoted award-winning novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s inspirational words of wisdom addressed at Duke University’s Commencement Ceremony a few years back: “The best I can to think to tell them is to quit smoking and observe the posted speed limits. This will improve your odds of getting old enough to be wise.”

On a more serious note, Neuwirth said, “The future of the humanities has been a national concern.”Graduate Alexander Helberg poses with Department Head Chris Neuwirth.

She looked to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ recently published report “The Heart of the Matter,” which focused on the relevance and importance of the humanities in American society.

Neuwirth hopes graduates will continue to advance this dialogue.

“Whether you end up working as editors, journalists, screenwriters, speech writers, public relations specialists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, technical writers, grant writers, and yes – even professors at universities, I hope that you keep the value of your broader education in mind as well as the disciplinary expertise that you’re bringing to the world and aspire not only to contribute that expertise, but to be able to explain its value to others and as well to yourself – know that as you do so, your faculty will be proud of you.”

Student speakers representing a range of programs offered their reflections on their time at Carnegie Mellon and their hopes for the future:

  • Souri Somphanith, M.A. in Literary & Cultural Studies
  • John Godfrey, M.A. in Professional Writing
  • Alexander Helberg, M.A. in Rhetoric
  • Elana Goldberg, B.A. in Creative Writing
  • Jasmine Xie, B.A. in English
  • Jenna Bodnar, B.A. in Professional Writing
  • Soniya Shah, B.S. in Technical Writing and Communication

MA in Professional Writing graduate, John Godfrey, stands with his family.“I’m not from here. I attended a private liberal arts college that you’ve probably never heard of,” said Godfrey, a M.A. in Professional Writing graduate.

Godfrey’s message conveyed the impact Carnegie Mellon had on his success. In 2010, he was a graduate student in Asheville, North Carolina, but he eventually dropped out when the education budget was cut.

Looking for a graduate school to attend, he was instantly drawn to Carnegie Mellon’s motto, “My Heart is in the Work.”

“I enrolled in the M.A. in Professional Writing program in August 2013 and that next April, I accepted an offer to write for tech company, IBM, in California,” said Godfrey. “In this program it took me eight months to go from a mountain side in North Carolina to Silicon Valley.”

The student speakers were followed by the presentation of doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate diplomas. This year’s class included: 

  • 11 B.A. in Creative Writing
  • 12 B.A. in Professional Writing
  • 5 B.S. in Technical Writing and Communication
  • 5 B.A. in English
  • 5 Bachelor of Humanities and Arts
  • 26 Additional Majors and Minors
  • 14 M.A. in Literary and Cultural Studies
  • 5 M.A. in Rhetoric
  • 14 M.A. in Professional Writing
  • 1 MLitt in Investigative Journalism
  • 3 Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies
  • 1 Ph.D. in Rhetoric

The diploma ceremony was followed by a reception in the Schatz Dining Room in the Jared L. Cohon University Center.

View more photos from the 2015 Diploma Ceremony.


By: Amanda King

Photos: 65 English Department graduates gathered in McConomy Auditorium for the 2015 Diploma Ceremony; M.A. in Rhetoric graduate Alexander Helberg stands with Chris Neuwirth, English Department head; M.A in Professional Writing graduate John Godfrey stands with his family in the Schatz Dining Room.