SEATTLE—Maheswari Kanti, a graduate from the College of Engineering, traveled 8,000 miles to be part of the Northeastern community.
“I come from a tropical country: India,” Kanti told families and graduates of Northeastern University.
Over the course of her studies, Kanti,
who is graduating with a masters in information systems, said what she found during her educational journey was “inclusivity, accomplishment, camaraderie.”
She was the student speaker during Friday’s commencement ceremony, which took place inside the Seattle Town Hall cultural center, not far from the campus at the heart of the vibrant West Coast tech community.
Kicking off the ceremony, Dave Thurman, chief executive officer and dean of the Seattle campus, in what’s become a tradition across Northeastern’s campuses, asked the graduates to hoist the flags of their respective home countries.
“This sea of colors, this representation of a shared humanity,” Thurman told graduates. “It demonstrates that we are a truly global community that will have an impact around the world as you proceed with your next endeavors.”
Northeastern is a global university system, with 12 campuses across the world, including Boston, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, San Jose. Toronto, Charlotte and London, as well as Arlington, Virginia; Portland, Maine; and Burlington and Nahant, Massachusetts.
Following Thurman, Northeastern Senior Vice Provost Michael Pollastri highlighted some of the Seattle-born initiatives that have taken off across the university system, such as the university’s ALIGN program—now a mainstay in the Bay Area, Boston, Vancouver, and Portland.
The ALIGN program helps students of different identities and educational backgrounds acquire a masters degree in computer science. Pollastri said the broader computer science community has “taken note of the program’s ability to bring those who, because of race, gender, or other circumstances, had not felt welcome or confident to study computer science.”
“Since I first visited Seattle a decade ago, as a faculty member in the chemistry department, I have always been impressed with the incredible and resilient student population, the committed and accomplished staff and faculty, and the campus’ location in this beautiful city,” said Pollastri, who is also the academic lead for the Roux Institute in Portland, Maine. “I find that the Seattle campus typifies where we all anticipate Northeastern University to be in the future, at the vanguard of innovation in higher education.”
The Seattle event’s keynote speaker, Geng Lin, executive vice president and chief technology officer at F5, Inc., spoke to graduates about perseverance—and how to succeed in the tech industry.
He spoke about growing up in a rural Chinese village in the countryside, where he and his family survived a devastating earthquake. In the aftermath, Lin—then 10 years old—remembers pulling “food and clothes from the rubble.”
He recalled helping treat the wounded, sharing supplies with those in need, and checking on neighbors. Lin said those lessons, which had come at the direction of his father, would serve him 13 years later, when he’d arrive in Canada to pursue a doctorate degree at the University of British Columbia.
“Throughout my career, I’ve learned that this courage to believe in new hope is not something we learn in classes, or books,” Lin said. “It comes from the toughest hardships in life. Those times that we thought would break us, but instead helped us see new possibilities.”
Lin told the graduates that as they navigate their own life transitions, it’s important that they continue to “believe in new possibilities,” to cultivate “courage, compassion, and curiosity.”
“This ability is at the heart of innovation, entrepreneurship, business growth, and social transformation,” Lin said. “It is a potent and rare superpower to be able to look beyond what is and see what can be, and what should be.”
Parents, relatives, and siblings convened on the occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduates. Among the many features that define a Northeastern education, graduates and their families often cite the prospect of finding meaningful work upon graduation as among the most gratifying.
Les Smith said his son, Kendall Smith, graduated with a degree in computer programming after years of searching for the right job.
“He was gradually moving towards programming on his own time,” Les Smith said. “He did a really good job pulling things together.”
Kendall Smith now works at Radiant Earth Foundation as a data engineer—a position Smith’s father credits Northeastern in helping to open up for him.
“There’s no doubt his time here helped him along the way,” he said.
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