The D’Amore-McKim School of Business class of 2021 high-fived one another and offered congratulatory hugs in a graduation ceremony where they were encouraged to build an inclusive economy, think beyond boundaries, and seek purpose beyond a paycheck.
“Always remember that money is the reward, never the purpose,” said Emery Trahan, interim dean of the business school and a professor of finance. “Excellence in what you do will bring you all that you need and more.”
Resilience built up during the pandemic, he added, will embolden graduates to solve problems as they leave a university where they learned with and from a diverse set of people.
“Please continue raising awareness of the importance of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and keep working to eliminate systemic barriers in order to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy,” Trahan offered at the Friday ceremony.
Master’s degrees were conferred in fields such as accounting, taxation, finance, international business, and business administration. As students were called to the stage to receive their degrees, parents and family members held phones aloft to capture the moment. One graduate wore a satin sash of the U.S. flag draped around her shoulders.
The recurring theme of resilience was a hallmark of Wenjun Zhang’s comments as the student speaker. She recounted how the coronavirus upended in-person gatherings, ended valuable networking opportunities, and forced everyone online to continue their studies.
“I am in awe and have great respect for you during these difficult times,” she said.
Zhang added that a Northeastern degree was an “invaluable asset” empowering her and fellow students to pioneer change and innovation in society. “It is now up to us to take the knowledge we have learned and the friendships we have developed to work together, embrace challenges, find opportunities, and create solutions to build a better future.”
Keynote speaker Venkat Srinivasan, a former business professor at Northeastern who now invests in companies, picked up on the theme of a better tomorrow when he shared three pieces of advice with graduates―boundary-less thinking, impact through entrepreneurship, and tolerance.
Srinivasan, who built several knowledge-based technology businesses as well as enterprises focused on education, health, and the public sector, encouraged graduates to look beyond the nay-sayers and focus on achieving goals by out-working everyone else. “The world is full of people who are quick to tell you you can’t. I’ve had my share of that. Perseverance and hard work will get you there,” Srinivasan said in a taped message that was played on the large screens hanging from the ceiling at Matthews Arena.
“Don’t accept any new normal,” he advised. “Build your new normal.”
Many of the messages from the speakers at the graduation program resonated with students such as Sneha Jha, who is a few months shy of obtaining her master’s degree in business analytics.
“The most important thing is your effort and your ability to change the world with the learning we have done,” she said after the ceremony. “And you should not always think in terms of money.” She plans to change the world by pursuing a job in artificial intelligence.
For self-employed real estate entrepreneur Brian Allenby, who obtained a master’s of business administration degree in marketing and business innovation, meeting people and networking were a highlight of his time at Northeastern. “Making the connections, the friendships, that was key,” he says.
The real estate profession, he says, often gets a bad name from agents who are driven by a big commission. “I always find that if you help people first, the money will come. That is directly applicable in my role, but also in any professional career.”