May 22, 2018
Diploma Ceremony Celebrates Class of 2018 and Its Great Potential for Impact
By Daniel Hirsch
This spring, ninety-four students received diplomas from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of English at a ceremony in front of over 300 gathered family members and friends.
For the mix of undergraduates, masters students, and doctoral graduates, Department Head and Professor of English Andreea Ritivoi had a clear piece of advice. The kind of deep-thinking, creativity, and analytical rigor that comes with a degree in English has great potential for meaningful impact— it can be applied to do no less than “set the world right.”
"Problems don’t come already tagged,” Ritivoi said in her remarks to graduates. “You are the ones who can decide what is a problem to begin with, because you are the ones who have the imagination and the social, political, and moral consciousness to figure out when and where the world is ‘out of joint’—as Hamlet would say, Hamlet who, after all, was a humanities university student.”
Ritivoi explained that while many may seek technical solutions to complex problems, it requires a humanist, someone who can think in complexity and nuance and with extreme empathy, to identify the most pressing problems of our moment.
"There was first a wrong that someone noticed because they had the right values, and the ability to reflect, to imagine, and to communicate," Ritivoi said. "This is you, and this is the power of your humanistic education."
The theme of the possible impact of an English degree echoed throughout the seven student speeches.
Invoking Pittsburgh’s own Fred Rogers, student speaker Emily Dejeu who graduated with an M.A. in Rhetoric implored her classmates to think of themselves not solely as achievers or creators but "helpers."
"What would it look like to also imagine ourselves as helpers?" Dejeu asked her fellow graduates. "As people who take the knowledge and skills we’ve cultivated in this place and who use them not simply to secure our own success, but to do the good, hard work of helping other people?"
B.A. graduate in Professional Writing Maria Navarro-Gutierrez spoke about how her experience documenting the stories of refugees for her Dietrich College Senior Honors Thesis transformed her understanding of the impact of her degree.
"I realized I was holding something precious in my hands: Someone’s story," Navarro-Gutierrez said. "A story that’s fragile and unique and that breathes. I wasn’t just writing; I was connecting with people, I was connecting some people to other people, I was making bridges where there were gaps."
Marcel Legros, who graduated with a B.A. and spoke on behalf of the Creative Writing Program, also emphasized the power of story.
"We live in a world that constantly needs new and interesting stories to be told," Legros said. "Stories that address social issues, stories that comfort us, stories that make us laugh, adventurous stories, puzzling stories."
For the class of 2018, the story continues.
Watch full video of the 2018 Department of English Diploma Ceremony
See diploma ceremony program for a full list of graduates
If you're unable to view the symposium program above, please click here to download the program to your computer.