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Every mortarboard tells a story. Northeastern graduates prepare for commencement by showcasing their individuality and creativity

A student decorating their graduation cap with a sparkly red and purple N.
Northeastern students decorate their graduation caps in the Curry Student Center on the Boston campus. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

With Northeastern University’s commencement less than a week away, Amber McComb, a fourth-year industrial engineering student, has been thinking about the encouraging words uttered by her late Italian great grandmother, Giuseppina.        


It’s a popular phrase that members of McComb’s family have kept alive since her great grandmother’s death in 2014. She was a large presence and showed her love through cooking and hosting large family dinners featuring classic Italian dishes.   

McComb will carry her great grandmother’s words with her on Sunday at Fenway Park as they are prominently displayed in big red letters on her graduation cap.      

“I think she would be proud,” McComb said while decorating her mortarboard Tuesday afternoon at the Curry Student Center on the Boston campus. “There’s not many college graduates in my family. My mom is first generation, so I think my [great grandmother] would be proud of me.” 

As is often the tradition, seniors like McComb are celebrating commencement by showcasing their individuality and creativity. 

In anticipation of Sunday’s big day, Northeastern Global News caught up with a few students as they customized their mortarboards. 

Inspired by Shakespeare

Jacob Allen’s cap will feature ripped out pages from the William Shakespeare play “Othello.” 

“I got a battered copy of ‘Othello’ from the university bookstore, and I decided to tear it up and glue it onto my morator board,” he said. “I plan to add a big red N on top of it.” 

As a fifth-year English and biology major, Allen has learned a lot about Shakespeare throughout his time at Northeastern and felt it was an appropriate way to showcase his individual style. 

Stops along her journey to Fenway

Some students got a bit more metaphorical. Surabhi Keesara, a fourth-year student studying mathematics and computer science, decided to draw a winding road on her cap, featuring some important stops along her journey to graduation. 

The first stop was her dorm at Hastings Hall, which is connected to the YMCA. Stops were also made to Chinatown, where she conducted a research project involving virtual reality. 

She also made sure to highlight her involvement with the Northeastern chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, a co-ed band fraternity. Keesara played the trumpet for the fraternity. 

The end of the winding road features a small banner that reads: “How to graduate in 1,400 days.” Excluding summer vacations and weekends, Keesara estimates that’s about how many days between her first day freshman year and commencement. 

“It’s a lot more than I can really conceptualize, but it’s also a lot faster in the scheme of how many things I’m going to do after I graduate,” she says.

Graduating was always in the cards

A lover of card games, Sophia Wang, a fourth-year computer engineering and computer science student, felt it was important that her interest was showcased on her graduation cap. 

Placed at the four corners of her mortarboard were a heart, diamond, club and spade. Placed in the center was a white rose. 

Why a white rose? 

While on co-op at Carbon, a 3D printing company based in San Francisco, Wang learned that developers would often sign their work with a unique signature. Wang’s favorite flower is the white rose, so she made that her unique signature.  

Does anybody want to play a crossword? 

Victor Louie, a fourth-year computer science major, wanted to highlight his involvement with the Husky Hunts committee, an annual 24-hour scavenger hunt hosted by Northeastern’s Resident Student Association. 

Louie is a big fan of puzzles, so he decided he wanted to design his mortarboard to look like a crossword puzzle. Those with keen eyes, will be able to read the message inside the crossword that reads: “I AM DONE NEU GRAD”

As a computer science student, Louie loved that he could step away from his study for a bit and meet cool people as part of the hunts committee. 

“It was just a cool way to leverage my interests in puzzles,” he says. 

And finally, a nod to Taylor Swift

Samantha Davidson, a fourth-year business administration and marketing student, evoked the words of the new queen of pop herself, Taylor Swift, on her cap.  

“Long story short, I survived.”