May 21, 2019
Diploma Ceremony Celebrates Department of English Class of 2019!
By Angela Januzzi
On Saturday, May 18, 2019, 55 students received diplomas from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of English at a ceremony in McConomy Auditorium, with 95 students graduating this year.
Department Head and Professor of English Andreea Ritivoi addressed the wide range of graduates in multiple English programs, before over 300 of their friends and family. Ritivoi also acknowledged the dedication of the English department staff and faculty in supporting the students throughout the course of their studies at Carnegie Mellon. "In every class you have taken,” Ritivoi reminded students, “we have done our best to prepare you not only for your careers but also for entering a world with problems that we can neither laugh away nor cry over. These problems have found their match in your intellectual flexibility and creativity. So many of you are double-majoring and minoring in different disciplines, across departments and colleges, and your intellectual reach, your depth, and your ambition are what this world needs.”
The student speakers echoed this sentiment.
Ann Rucker, Master student in Professional Writing, offered similar wishes for her fellow graduates: “In your next life chapter, I hope you realize the power of your education and use it for good. Give back to communities. Be curious, compassionate, and tenacious. Treat everyone with love and respect…Combine your passions and what you have learned at CMU with your values and aspirations. When in doubt, think about the people you encountered throughout the English program.”
Laine Weatherford, Master student in Rhetoric, noted, “In Rhetoric, and really in English more broadly, we learn a lot about the systems that make up our world. In my experience, the more you learn about policies, institutions, and relationships that make the world work, the more you want to fix; the more you want to create a just status quo.”
Hyunho Yoon, a Psychology Major with an Additional Major in Creative Writing, recounted his experiences in South Korea, where he had volunteered in a mental health hospital as well as on a farm. “It’s only when you truly see the people who make up that world, and try to empathize from each individual point of view, that you begin to have an idea of what needs to be changed and how.”
Jacob Bentley, English Major, spoke of how “coming here was the best decision I ever made.” Bentley went on to say, “I wasn’t the typical English student. For my entire four years, I was the only football player who was also an English major. I was the only member of my fraternity ever to be an English major. And to be truthful, sometimes that made me feel nervous when starting a new class. I was afraid that a professor or fellow student would have preconceived notions about me and write me off as a 'dumb jock'— but that was never the case. In my life, I have never felt more welcomed, more included, or more part of a community.”
Professional Writing Major Autumn Armega-Finger pointed out, “Studying English at a school like Carnegie Mellon forces you to develop a certain kind of resolve…I believe that it’s during this questioning process that the most important skills develop. It’s during this process that you learn to challenge yourself in your own beliefs as our coursework inevitably requires you to take on and consider perspectives that might drastically contrast your own.”
For the final student speech, Technical Writing & Communications Major and Minor in Biomedical Engineering Aisha Rashid told of her time working in a hospital when equipment could not be used efficiently due to lack of technical writing instructions, and a patient’s procedure was delayed because of it. “The work we do as writers, communicators and analyzers, bridges the communication gap between those who create, and those who utilize that creation to make a difference,” said Rashid. “And without our work, something that is meant to make a task more efficient, can end up causing more harm than good.”
The English Department Class of 2019 is aware that tech-centric societies will require English graduates’ communication skills but also imagination and the social, political, and moral consciousness to figure out when and where something is wrong. “For every solution that requires complex technical expertise,” Ritivoi told graduates, “there was first a wrong that someone noticed because they had the values and the skill to convince others—and this is you, and this is the power of your humanistic education in the English Department at Carnegie Mellon.”
The ceremony concluded with a video featuring messages to the graduates from English department faculty and staff, and ending with the words of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.”
Pictured above, center left: Graduates Vidya Palepu and Bernice Yu; Banner photo: The Class of 2019 from the Department of English take their seats after receiving their diplomas.
From left: Vidya Palepu: B.S. in Technical Writing & Communication; additional major in Creative Writing, minor in Film & Media Studies; member of Student Advisory Council (SAC); member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.
Bernice Yu: Scheduled B.A. in Professional Writing; minor in Design.
Sydney Roslin: B.A. in Creative Writing; B.F.A. in Music Performance (Voice); member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.