Graduation day has come and gone for the Class of 2014. Over 170 biology students and their raucous support teams of family and friends filled the big tent to full capacity in the center of the Sunken Garden on Mother’s Day, 11 May. The graduates included biology majors plus Neuroscience and other interdisciplinary science majors who chose to march with biology. The 170 students (see entire list) also represented a 20 percent increase in the number of graduates from years past. Biology continues to be one of the most popular majors on campus!
MC for the department graduation event was Dr. Liz Allison, who has been department chair since 2009 but will be stepping down this summer. After welcoming the graduates and guests, Dr. Allison urged students to look ahead to their next horizons, where (quoting Edward Abbey) “something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you.” And if that poem proved too deep for our giddy graduates, she also offered up a simple Suess-ian rhyme for the all the great places our graduates will go.
Following these opening remarks, special awards were handed out to the top students in the department in academics, scholarship, and leadership. The Alumni Prize for Ecology & Organismal Biology went to Jessica Benson (research with Dr. Swaddle); the Alumni Prize for Cell & Molecular Biology went to Ashley Fidler (research with Dr. Wawersik). The Excellence in Neuroscience Award was given to Wendy Herbst (research with Dr. Saha). The Charlotte Preston Mangum Prize for Outstanding Research in Biology was co-awarded to Christina Moore (research with Drs. Bradley and Cristol) and to Ashley Fidler (research with Dr. Wawersik). Finally, the Biology Department Leadership Award went to Veronica Gray (research and teaching mentors Drs. Saha and Forsyth).
All graduating students then were invited alphabetically by name onstage—a feat completed flawlessly and without rehearsal –and handed a diploma by the faculty member of their choosing. Of course, many of the graduates chose Dr. Allison for the diploma hand-off; one student (Daston Sarmadi) was so caught up in the moment that he hugged her and spun her around the stage. Although many called for a re-enactment, the department chair refused, much to the disappointment of faculty and students.
After handing out diplomas from A-Z, the faculty gave our graduates a well-deserved standing ovation to acknowledge their hard work, their accomplishments, and their day in the sun. Dr. Allison brought an end to the program formalities by saying “class dismissed—you may go!”, but in fact no one wanted to leave. The next hour was filled with impromptu pictures, hugs, and laughter as the biology graduates shared their last moments on campus with four years’ worth of friends and faculty in the biology department.
So we toast our 2014 graduates in Biology, and voice our congratulations: Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!