Burns to give Commencement address

1,500 graduate students and 1,000 undergrads collect their degrees

4082 commencement
Danielle A. Hinton G, PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is hooded by Chancellor W. Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80 and interim department head Srini Devadas in Rockwell Cage midday Thursday.
Jessica Liu—The Tech

Today, at the end of MIT’s 150th anniversary celebrations, the Institute holds its 145th commencement ceremony. MIT will be awarding degrees to 983 undergraduates and 1,471 graduate students. Collectively, 1,161 bachelor’s degrees, 1,547 master’s degrees, and 609 doctoral degrees were awarded by MIT, according to Registrar Mary Callahan.

The soon-to-be graduates will be taking their degrees far and wide. Forty-nine percent of bachelor’s and 78 percent of master’s recipients will be entering the workforce all over the world, with the most popular international destinations being China, Japan, and the U.K. Of those receiving bachelor’s degrees and entering the workforce, 17.6 percent will head to the consulting industry. A survey administered by the MIT Career Development Center reported that graduates will be working at world-renown companies and organizations including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, JP Morgan, Proctor and Gamble, the U.S. Army, and NASA.

Ursula M. Burns, chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, will be giving the commencement address to the Class of 2011. Burns is currently listed as the 20th most powerful woman in the world according to Forbes magazine, and she has been a member of the MIT Corporation since 2008. Burns earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and is the first African-American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She works closely with the U.S. government to improve science and math education in public schools.

2011 Class Council President Anshul Bhagi ’11 praised the selection of Burns as MIT’s commencement speaker. “I think she was selected as a speaker because she is a very hardworking woman … she’s gone through a lot of hardships, much like a lot of students at MIT. I think it connects very well,” he said.

Today’s commencement is the culmination of MIT’s semester-long sesquicentennial celebration. Since January, MIT has held a series events to mark 150 years since the Institute’s founding in 1861, including an open house, a “Next Century Convocation,” several symposia, and a science, technology, and art festival.

Schedule for Commencement

The doors to Killian Court will open to ticket holders at 7:30 a.m., and the ceremony will start with a procession from the Johnson Athletic Center at 9:45. In preparation for the arrival of the procession, entrances to Killian will be closed off from 9:45 to 10:15.

The MIT class of 1961 will be joining the graduates, faculty, and members of the MIT Corporation in the procession. John S. Reed ’61 will kick off the commencement ceremony with opening remarks. Following Reed, Institute Chaplain Robert M. Randolph will call upon the new graduates for the Invocation.

Burns will then give her commencement speech. After the speech, Graduate Student Council President Ulric J. Ferner G and Bhagi will speak on behalf of the class. Finally, MIT President Susan J. Hockfield will give a charge to the graduates, who will then receive their degrees. MIT Alumni Association President Anne Street ’69 will close by welcoming the graduates into the Alumni Association. The ceremony recession will begin at 1 p.m.

Seniors reflect on 4 years at MIT

With commencement imminent, seniors have been reflecting on their past four years at the Institute. A common thread among them is the friendships forged during their time here.

“I think I can say with a lot of certainty that looking back, a lot of students will be fond of people that they met or the places they became so used to,” Bhagi said. “These things we all take for granted, the friendships and places we’ve experienced. I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most about MIT, more so than the classes I took.”

Brian L. Ross ’11, an undergraduate who will be receiving his degree in biological engineering, said that he valued all of the group work that was encouraged at MIT. “I felt like a lot of the work I did at MIT was done with my peers … I liked working together and having fun.” He is looking forward to more flexibility in his schedule and more spacious living quarters in the future.

While an MIT degree is important, students are also aware of how much an MIT experience will benefit them in the future. Mathematics major Brayden A. Ware ’11 said, “I think an MIT degree is like a degree at every other place except the group of students here work so much harder and push themselves so much faster that you are encouraged to do that yourself as well. You pick up those good habits.”

Bhagi agrees with that sentiment. “It’s the MIT experience more than the MIT degree. It’s useful, most obviously because of how hard you have to work here. It’s kind of hard to find a place where you’d end up working harder,” Bhagi said. He believes that MIT students won’t complain about heavy workloads.

“All nighters? I do that all the time,” he said with a chuckle.

Senior Gift

At Commencement, Bhagi will present the 2011 Senior Gift to MIT. The Senior Gift is an annual fundraising campaign that is both organized and contributed to by the senior class. In the past, the project has supported a variety of charities including donations, funds for summer housing, externships, and study abroad opportunities.

For this year’s project, the Class of 2011 will be establishing a fund that will provide additional financial aid to MIT undergraduates. The Senior Gift website cites “recent challenges to the economy” and “an ever-growing need for financial aid at MIT” as the reason for focusing on scholarships. According to Senior Gift Committee chair Samantha D. Marquart ’11, the scholarship is not limited to a particular type of student; any aid-qualifying student will have access to it.

The campaign achieved a record 76 percent participation rate, raising over $15,000. Seven hundred thirty four gifts were made in total, with an average gift of $20.

MIT alumnus Douglas G. Bailey ’72 challenged the seniors this year to reach 75 percent participation; since this goal was achieved, he agreed to donate an additional $30,000.

“The Senior Gift is a way that students are able to say ‘thank you’ to MIT for everything they have received over the past four years,” Marquart said. She hopes that the Class of 2011 will continue to donate to MIT as alumni.

For additional information about the commencement schedule, visit