May 28, 2006

With inflated gloves and inflated smiles, Cornell seniors walk toward graduation and to the world beyond

As students walked from the Arts Quad toward Schoellkopf Stadium for Cornell's 138th Commencement May 28, many in the academic procession wore unsuppressed smiles. The mood was festive and celebratory to match the perfect sunlit skies. The jubilant atmosphere was also reflected by enterprising students who decorated their mortarboards or carried objects to wave.

Many graduates of the College of Veterinary Medicine carried latex, arm-length, large-animal examination gloves blown up and tied, which they waved playfully like hands in the sun.

They were followed by graduates from the Johnson Graduate School of Management with oversized copies of $10 bills taped to their hats. "We love money," yelled out one boisterous graduate. "They represent commerce," explained a woman graduate, in an apparent effort to represent the hat decorations in a more intellectual light.

As another group of students passed a camera crew filming the procession, they whooped and hollered, and displayed their fingers in peace signs as one yelled, "Let's go, baby!"

Teddy Mathisen, a senior in the College of Engineering, sported an elaborate Lego castle, complete with flags, on his mortarboard. "I still play with Legos so I figured I'd put it on top of my hat," he said.

Along with the humor and good cheer, many graduates also carried a sense of pride and accomplishment as they headed toward the stadium.

"I feel excellent! Ex-cel-lent," shouted Derrick Bass, a senior about to receive a degree in operational research and industrial engineering in the College of Engineering. "This is a great day, a beautiful day." Bass is soon to be married and has been hired by investment banker Goldman Sachs on Wall Street.

Betsy Kollman, a master's degree candidate from the Department of Horticulture with a minor in plant science, said she was thrilled with the education she had received at Cornell. She talked about her summers at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center working with her adviser, horticulture professor Mark Bridgen.

"The amount of knowledge in all the different areas of plant science at Cornell is amazing," said Kollman. "You throw all that together and it's one hell of a degree, is what it is."

Kollman will defend her thesis in July on the development of the hardy, flowering white alstroemeria, a common cut flower she is trying to turn into a perennial. She is applying for jobs developing new cultivars or improving existing ones with a plant breeder or seed company.

Sam Reynolds was about to receive an MBA he had earned through the employee degree program while working at Cornell's Campus Life department as a residence hall director. He completed the two-year program in three years while working. "I've been pretty well supported by Campus Life and the university," he said, noting he even spent a summer away as an intern while in school. He is moving to Chicago, where he has been hired by a consulting firm.

Jennifer Lee, a College of Arts and Sciences senior who was about to receive a degree in biology and society, noted that she is now "blissfully unemployed" and wants to find work in a health-related field before applying to medical school. "My experience at Cornell made me want to go out in the working world and do something more meaningful before I do more school," she said. That experience included three years of work at the Public Service Center's Translator Interpreter Program, in which volunteers act as translators/interpreters in emergency and non-emergency situations for 200 local agencies. The program had 30 bilingual student volunteers when Lee started in it, and it now has over 100 and will be expanded nationally.

"I definitely want to go out and make a difference in the world," Lee said.