Photo by Matt Beardsley
This year Berkeley Engineering’s Commencement was a waypoint for several of the college’s major milestones.
Not only did graduates from the college’s baccalaureate and graduate programs gather with their friends and family in the Hearst Greek Theatre to mark the completion of their degrees, but the college itself was celebrating its 150-year anniversary as an institution.
Mining and Mechanical Arts, forerunners to today’s College of Engineering, were founding colleges of the University of California when its first students enrolled in 1868. Since then, engineers have trained to be at the forefront of technology, first building the economy of and infrastructure of California, and now working on pressing global issues.
The Berkeley Engineering community also used the occasion to celebrate the close of S. Shankar Sastry’s deanship after more than a decade at the helm of the college. During the morning’s graduate commencement ceremony, Oscar Dubón, Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion and a professor of materials science and engineering, presented Sastry with the Berkeley Citation, one of the university’s highest honors.
“The last decade has been remarkable,” said Dubón, “thanks in no small part to Shankar’s vision, energy and enthusiasm for Berkeley and its students. With creative new approaches, he met the challenge of preparing our graduates for a changing world, increasing our focus on design, entrepreneurship, hands-on learning, and integrating business or clinical skills with engineering.”
The award, which was kept as a surprise, honors Sastry’s achievements and leadership. As dean, he helped lead the growth of the college’s educational and support programs for students, fostered opportunities for world-class research faculty, and increased Berkeley Engineering’s footprint, through the creation of new buildings, institutes and alliances and partnerships with other university and research partners.
At both the graduate and baccalaureate ceremonies, the idea of educating a complete engineer, one with the skills and experience to tackle big problems while acting with a sense of social responsibility, was a theme that ran through remarks by the commencement speakers and by Sastry.
Civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. graduate Joe Charbonnet challenged graduates to think about the “Go Bears!” cheer as a rallying cry in the face of overwhelming issues such as climate change.
While talking about the breakneck pace of consumer technology over the past decade, UC Davis Chancellor Gary May (M.S. ’88, Ph.D. ’91) said, ”My great hope for you and your generation of engineers is that you apply at least as much vigor and ingenuity toward technologies that liberate people from poverty, illness and suffering — that buffer the harsher effects of climate change and help us adapt to a changing environment.”
While comparing life to a tennis match, former competitive athlete turned roboticist Yoky Matsuoka (B.S. EECS ’93), chief technology officer at the smart home device company Nest, offered advice to graduates during the undergraduate commencement. “Now you are about to embark on you career as some of the best-educated engineers in the world, and that’s really exciting. But you know what? You just hit one amazing shot, and there are a ton more to come during the rest of the match.”
The other 2018 student commencement speakers were Tsai Chu Yeh, a bioengineering graduate getting her M.T.M degree, and Andrew-Ian Gonzales Bullitt, who was getting his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering.
Dean Sastry ended both ceremonies, as he has for the past decade, by asking the students to remember the significance of the ranks they now join. “Remember,” he said, “you are now and forever a Berkeley Engineer.”