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SEAS students celebrate diversity in graduation celebration

Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

The School of Engineering and Applied Science celebrated its 135th year and this year’s graduates in the Smith Center Friday night in the presence of friends, family, faculty and students.

Dean David Dolling and speakers congratulated the graduates with some of the “most challenging majors” in the University, as well as acknowledged the school’s diversity. Speakers also asked the new alumni to examine what it means to be an engineer and offered “six life hacks for surviving life after SEAS.”

Here’s what the speakers had to say:

1. Diversity in the graduating class

Dolling acknowledged the wide array of diversity present in this years SEAS graduating class.

Women made close to 40 percent of the SEAS undergraduate Class of 2017, which Dolling said was about twice the national average.

Although the graduating class ranged from undergraduates in their early 20s to older professionals in doctoral programs, Dolling pointed to a key commonality.

“A common theme that binds together our community, whether they hail from D.C. or Doha, from Bethesda or Beijing, New York or New Dehli, is their love of learning,” Dolling said. “The drive to master a discipline, the desire to challenge themselves and better themselves.”

2. What it means to be an engineer

Student speaker Kassidy Schmitz, graduating with a B.S. in mechanical and aerospace engineering, said the graduates should ask themselves what it means to be engineers and computer scientists.

“A friend of mine put it best,” Schmitz said. “We are not engineers because a piece of paper we received on Sunday says we are. We are not engineers because we took some courses that were deemed engineering courses. We are engineers and computer scientists because of the ways we solve problems and the way we approach life.”

Schmitz also made sure to thank friends and family for their support, as well as Google and Wikipedia.

“I would not have gotten my degree without you,” Schmitz said. “Sometimes I feel like I minored in the art of Googling.”

3. Embracing failure

Keynote speaker Swati Vauthrin, the director of engineering at BuzzFeed and a SEAS alumna, stayed true to BuzzFeed style with a listicle of “six life hacks for surviving life after SEAS.”

Vauthrin began by reminding the graduates to accept failure.

“I failed two classes here at SEAS in the same semester,” Vauthrin said. “I’m guessing Dean Dolling forgot about that when he asked me to stand here in front of you today.”

Vauthrin lost her scholarship that semester but continued to work hard and earned the scholarship back. She reminded the graduates that the power of failure can be a motivator and said it made her hunger for success even greater.

Vauthrin also advised graduates to get experience early on, take the road less traveled, ask for what you want, never stop learning and enjoy life.

“You have taken an enormous step in graduating from this institution,” Vauthrin said. “The last life hack, enjoy life, it really means pausing next time and appreciate all those big moments in your life. This is what all the work in pursuit of your passion culminates into one, giant win. And guess what, today is one of those moments.”

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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