“Sindy is graduating” (Part 1)



Bill Cosby giving the Keynote
Originally uploaded by sindy.

That’s what I updated my Facebook status to via Blackberry as I waited in the Processional. So, in additional to being a Cardinal alum, I’m a Tartan alum now too. How did I end up going to two universities that used “colors” as their mascots? (Although, CMU has just adopted a Scottish Terrier as their official mascot similar to the way Stanford has the Tree.)

In any case, I have more to say in terms of reflecting on the last two years at CMU and what I think of the program now that I’ve come out the other side, but just a few thoughts on Commencement itself:

  1. First, two years of juggling work and school plus $50,000+ later: totally worth it to get to wear the special gown (with nifty Harry Potter-esque sleeves) and gold hood as a Masters candidate at graduation.
  2. Also kind of a novelty: to participate in a semi-orderly Processional. Masters and Doctoral candidates at Stanford enter the stadium with an orderly Processional, but Bachelors candidates enter with the famous Wacky Walk.
  3. Just in case you forgot how Scottish Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon were, there was plenty of bagpipe action and Tartan plaid around to remind you. In fact, you can actually get a BFA in Instrumental Performance in Bagpipes.
  4. Gold– really a bright yellow– is the hood color for the School of Computer Science. I’m sure the color was chosen a thousand years ago and not to feed into stereotypes, but it’s not a particularly flattering color for Asian people. The irony.
  5. Instead of receiving my diploma on Sunday, I had it mailed to me. Why? Because a) CMU West graduates have their departmental ceremony in August out here on the Moffett Field campus and b) the diploma itself is apparently ginormous and it would have been too unwieldy to carry back on the plane with me. Why does it have to be so big? Are we trying to compensate for something?
  6. Sorry, Pittsburgh, but I see why they call it “the Pitt.” Getting a CMU education while also getting to stay in northern California was definitely worth it.

Otherwise, graduation was fun– there were a few showers early in the morning, but the weather cleared up in time for the Processional and Ceremony and I walked and sat with two of my former teammates. As I had mentioned before and as you can see from the photo, Bill Cosby was the keynote speaker as well as recipient of an Honorary Degree (Doctorate of Humane Letters). You might think it weird that a comedian and man who spent many years selling Jell-O pudding pops would be the keynote speaker at a college commencement ceremony, but what people don’t know or forget is that Cosby, aside from being a particularly influential and brilliant comedian and entertainer, is Dr. Cosby. He earned his BA from Temple University and then his MA (1972) and Ed.D. (1977) from the University of Massachusetts. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids were an integral part of his Ed.D. dissertation and a commitment to education has always been reflected in his work. Definitely a recurring theme in The Cosby Show: remember all the college t-shirts and sweatshirts? Remember the episode where Theo thought that college wasn’t for him– that maybe he just wanted to be a “regular person?”

My point is that Cosby was an apt choice on a number of levels and in short, here’s a summary of the his address:

  • You are nerds. Embrace it. When high school ended and everybody else quit, you went on because you’re nerds. That’s a good thing.
  • Graduations, weddings, funerals– these are big events in your lives, but graduations are special in that there are less likely to be fights.
  • Now that you have graduated, don’t go back home. Get a job.
  • Cosby told an anecdote about when he was rising as a young comedian and was given a big opportunity, he lost his confidence and bombed. In the end, the lesson: be yourself.

All in all, pretty sound advice.