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Hundreds of Graduates Receive Master’s and PhDs in McCormick Ceremonies

Though we live in uncertain economic times, students who are graduating with a master’s or PhD in engineering remain in demand: their thinking and problem-solving skills can be used across many industries.

That was the message sent to graduates at McCormick’s two graduate ceremonies on June 17 in the Ryan Family Auditorium, recognizing 374 students who received master’s degrees and 108 students who received PhDs.

At the professional master’s degree ceremony, where 144 students participated, Ken Porrello, principal, Deloitte & Touche, delivered the convocation address.

“You are graduating as professional masters at an amazing time,” he said. “We live in an age where science and technology, the humanities, business, the social sciences and communications, and the performing arts are combining in dramatically new ways and are reshaping our world. No university has figured out this trend better than Northwestern and, within the Northwestern community, the McCormick School has been a leader in this regard. You are in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge and skills. The potential in this room today is fantastic.”

Porrello urged graduates to be present, honorable, and generous. The Japanese have a concept called Hon, he said: the idea that you build goodwill through good actions. That, he said, is the key to success.

“Today, non-traditional collaborations drive much more of the innovation and change in our world than do traditional organizations,” he said. “Less and less power is derived from position and more and more comes from relationships. In an environment like that, the person with the most Hon is truly the most powerful person.”

Later that day, at the PhD and master’s degree ceremony, Dwight McBride, dean of The Graduate School, congratulated the 166 participants as they received their degrees, and Barry Nelson, Walter P. Murphy Professor and Chair of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, delivered the keynote address.

“This is the perfect time for masters and PhDs in engineering,” he said. “What you find interesting, and what you do so well, is exactly what the world needs, and more importantly, wants.” Nelson said that graduates will have an advantage knowing math, but they must be able to put as much effort into explaining what they do, in a way that can be understood, as they do in getting it right.

“Keep in mind that the complex business and societal problems that need engineering solutions live in the real world,” he said. “Expect ambiguity, uncertainty, and misunderstanding. Be aware of your own biases and fight them. Address problems in research and practice with an open mind; ask questions; and don’t assume everyone else (or anyone else) is thinking exactly the same way as you. Embrace the McCormick ideal of the “whole brain engineer” whose master’s and PhD-level technical skills are amplified by creative and humanistic thinking.”