Graduation walk, reinvented

June 7, 2011 by Dean Shankar Sastry

Last month, on May 14, my faculty colleagues and I watched with great pride as more than 1,100 graduates crossed the Greek Theatre stage and walked into the world. Some will go on to more schooling, others to new careers, but all shared a cool, dry Saturday afternoon to mark this major milestone in their lives.

Like any proud parent, I find it difficult to remain humble at commencement. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a talented pool of young people who have not only mastered difficult technical subjects but also offer the human skills and raw drive needed to make a lasting impact. Made in the intellectual rigor and social spirit that is Berkeley Engineering, these young people will create better living conditions, greater prosperity and a healthier planet for all of us.

Case in point: At the campus-wide Convocation ceremony earlier that day, a paralyzed undergraduate named Austin Whitney rose to his feet with the help of a walker and an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton was designed by mechanical engineering professor Homayoon Kazerooni and graduate students Jason Reid, Wayne Tung, Michael McKinley and their research team. More than a year in the making, it’s an elegant combination of metal bracing, sensors, motor, gears and computing power. (Read the full story in our latest issue of Forefront magazine.) Slowly, Whitney walked across the stage and received a hug from Chancellor Birgeneau, to warm and enthusiastic applause. It was moving and inspiring, an example of everyday miracles that can occur when Berkeley engineers put their talents to use in the service of others.

I can only imagine what else Berkeley engineers will accomplish in their lifetimes. We wish our graduates the very best.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry