Sheryl Sandberg speaks at MIT Commencement
Over 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students received their diplomas at MIT Commencement June 8.
1,044 undergraduate students, 1,788 master’s students, and 645 doctoral students earned degrees in the 2017–2018 academic year, according to Registrar Mary Callahan.
Sheryl Sandberg addresses graduates
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, delivered the keynote speech. “The most difficult problems and the greatest opportunities we have are not technical. They are human,” Sandberg said. “In other words, it's not just about technology. It's about people.”
She emphasized that technology empowers people to do both good and harm, and urged the graduates “to be clear-eyed optimists, to see that building technology that supports equality, democracy, truth, and kindness means looking around corners — and throwing up every possible roadblock against hate, violence and deception.”
Sandberg acknowledged that Facebook has not always lived up to these standards. The company has come under fire for not preventing Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm which President Trump’s election campaign hired, from harvesting data from more than 49 million users without their consent. Facebook has also been criticized for enabling the spread of fake news and hate speech.
“It's painful when you miss something, when you make the mistake of believing so much in the good you are seeing that you don’t see the bad,” Sandberg said.
Continuing her message about responsibility and technology, Sandberg emphasized the importance of diversity in the tech industry and in any problem-solving setting, because “we cannot build technology for equality and democracy unless we have and we harness diversity in its creation.” She urged the graduates to continue to connect with persons of backgrounds different from their own.
Reif delivers charge to the graduates
President L. Rafael Reif urged the Class of 2018 to “hack the world — until you make the world a little more like MIT,” as he has said to the past several graduating classes. Referencing alumni participation in the Olympics, Reif said the graduates’ training has made them “fearless.”
“In your time at MIT, you have moved faster, stretched farther and accomplished more than you ever thought possible,” Reif said. “You know how to face, and overcome, difficult challenges.”
Reif recognized that the graduates are entering a divided world whose many problems need solving. “Our society is like a big, complicated family, in the midst of a terrible argument,” Reif said, emphasizing the need “to listen to each other, to understand our differences, and to work constantly to remind each other of our common humanity.”
Reif thanked the graduates for their work to make MIT a better place. He thanked Izzy Lloyd ’18 for starting the Tell Me About Your Day campaign for student mental health. He also praised Class Awareness, Support, and Equality’s tackling food insecurity among students and the Graduate Student Council’s keeping graduate education affordable. Reif was also grateful to many members of MIT for keeping students affected by the travel ban in the U.S.
Colin Webb delivers salute as class president
Colin Webb ’18, senior class president, urged the graduates to seek to understand people of diverse backgrounds and unite to solve problems around the world. He emphasized how the graduates have been taught this lesson at MIT, the place that “makes the magic happen.”
To great applause, Webb spoke in languages from around the world to emphasize the need to “put ourselves in shoes of the people for whom we’re solving problems.”
Webb also called for unity. “In a world where it seems like people are becoming increasingly siloed and separated, we learned how to see beyond our differences,” he said. “And we learned, as the graduating MIT engineers, that our job is to build bridges.”
Webb presents class gift
Webb offered to Reif the senior gift on behalf of his class, who raised $14,321.97 and had a 51 percent participation rate. The top five designations for seniors’ gifts were unrestricted, D-Lab student projects, scholarships, UROP, and Student Life and Wellness, according to Rosheen Kavanagh, director of class and affinity giving.
Webb also announced another gift from the Class of 2018: a record of the names of all who have ever been part of the Institute inscribed in a six inch diameter wafer modeled after the Great Dome above Building 10, which will be displayed in the lobby of MIT.nano. The structure has a corresponding name-finding app.
Webb presented Reif with a flat model of the gift, and a cutout where the president can find his name inscribed.
Sarah Goodman delivers salute from Graduate Student Council
Sarah Goodman PhD ’18, president of the Graduate Student Council, urged the graduates to tackle the world’s challenges. She emphasized the need to “listen, not only to the loud voices, but also to the silences” in order to “create an inclusive environment everyone that not only keeps everyone at the table, but also elevates everyone at the table.”
Seniors participate in class activities
During the week leading up to commencement, more than 700 members of the Class of 2018 participated in the traditional Senior Week, which had a budget of $100,000 from the 2018 Class Council.
Of all the more than 40 events that the Senior Week Committee has been organizing since the fall, the largest were Senior Toast, Boston Winery, white water rafting, and skydiving, according to Senior Week Co-Chairs Daysi Gomez ’18 and Helen Abadiotakis ’18.
“I absolutely loved the sky diving event,” Trang Luu ’18 told The Tech in an email. “ It was one of those unforgettable experience[s].”
About 55 percent of bachelor’s recipients usually enter the workforce, with computer software, consulting, and engineering as the most common industries. About 35 percent go to graduate school, according to past years’ data from the Global Education and Career Development office’s website. For master’s recipients, about 80 percent enter the workforce and about 35 percent pursue additional graduate studies. About 75 percent of doctoral recipients are usually off to work, while about 15 percent are still negotiating or seeking employment.