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  • Destenie Nock

Reflections on the 1st Virtual Graduation

May 20, 2020 By: Destenie Nock


Graduation is defined as the successful completion of a course of study at a university, college, or school, for which you receive a degree or diploma. Seems pretty basic. On the outside graduation is getting a piece of paper that says you passed your classes. When you look deeper it is so much more than that. The thing that makes graduation special is to stand with your friends and family at a single moment in time with the ability to look back at the struggle you went through, and look forward at all the places life can take you. The videos capture the past while the toasts capture the future.

Shout out to Dr. Deniz and Dr. Rodrigo!

This past weekend Carnegie Mellon held its virtual graduation. Leading up to graduation many of my colleagues and I were worried that it wouldn't feel so personal. What is a graduation without sitting in an auditorium? I think the students echoed this worry. To overcome this the Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Engineering & Public Policy departments worked hard to make graduation videos and give toasts to each graduating student individually. Individualizing the speeches when the group was small enough, and having the videos when the group was too large, really made the event seem more personal. From gauging the reactions of the students, and talking to a few, it seemed like this was really appreciated. I believe it is because the videos capture the past while the toasts capture the future. This captured the essence of being able to stand at a moment in time looking forwards and backwards.

To all those that graduated I welcome you to the other side of your degree and say a huge congratulations! If you did not have the pleasure of receiving an individual toast on your graduation I would like to offer one for you right now.

  • "A toast to you, the person reading this. (Raising my glass) You have come through so much in your life. From the first day when you didn't know what was going on, or where your classes were, to the last day when you took your last final exam. While we are holding a virtual toast, and it is not what any of us could have imagined, I hope you know how strong you are. The world literally threw a pandemic at you and even that could not stop you from getting your degree! As you journey through life's many roller coasters please remember to carry this strength with you where ever you go. You are destined to do great things and I can't wait to see what they are."

Shuchen and I at the EPP Christmas Party

Now for my specific shout outs:

Yesterday Shuchen Cong graduated with her MS in Engineering & Public Policy from CMU! This future Dr is an emerging leader in food and energy system analyses. As a part of my research team Shuchen has been leading the development of a framework to assess how many CO2 emissions come from our food consumption patterns and the energy we use to store and prepare our meals. Huge congratulations on this great achievement!

While I may be at CMU I could not leave out my UMass crew! Deniz Besik, Ekin Koher, and Rodrigo Mercado Fernandez all graduated with their PhDs! This picture is one year out of sync with your graduation, so hopefully we can take a real photo when the craziness dies down. Dr. Rodrigo is an emerging leader in the energy field. His PhD focused on using optimization to lay out pathway for Mexico's electricity grid. Dr. Deniz is a leader in supply chain analysis, with 6 publications in her PhD! Now Dr. Deniz Besik is off to Richmond to join the professor club. Dr. Ekin is doing big things at Philips as a healthcare operations data scientist.

The UMass Crew back when we were Drs. in the making

To anyone I missed in this post please accept my sincerest congratulations!

Note about the author: Destenie Nock holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering an Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a Post-Doc in the Carnegie Mellon Engineering & Public Policy (EPP) Department and and Adjunct Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) for 2019. In August 2020 this will transfer to a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in EPP and CEE at Carnegie Mellon. She earned a MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Development at Queen's University of Belfast, and two BS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Applied Math at North Carolina A&T State University. She is the creator of the PhD-ing It Blog site which posts articles about graduate and undergraduate advice, and research updates in energy and sustainability. In her free time she enjoys hitting the gym, painting, and cooking with friends.

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