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4:47 p.m., May 30, 2009----Excitement and joy were in the air as nearly 120 doctoral degree candidates in the University of Delaware's seven colleges and the interdisciplinary biomechanics and movement science program celebrated the culmination of their academic achievements at Doctoral Hooding Convocation on Friday, May 29.
Families, friends and well wishers and colleagues from the University community filled Mitchell Hall with an overflow in Gore Hall.
Before the ceremony began each candidate's name was flashed on a large screen, interspersed with a brief history of UD and the significance of academic symbols.
Led by bagpipes, the colorful academic procession of students and faculty processed on The Green and into Mitchell Hall.
Debra Hess Norris, vice provost for graduate and professional education, chairperson of the Department of Art Conservation and Henry F. du Pont Chair of Fine Arts, made welcoming remarks, saying it was "wonderful to see everyone here and such a thrill for all of us.”
Pointing out that UD offers 43 doctoral programs and that graduate education is a central focus of the University of Delaware's Path to Prominence strategic plan, she said, “Today we celebrate your success.”
“As vice provost, I have enjoyed nothing more than reviewing your dissertation abstracts,” Norris said. “Their breadth and depth is stunning.”
She then introduced UD President Patrick Harker, who said he was “truly honored to congratulate today's newly minted doctors” and recalled his own emotions at his hooding ceremony -- “pride, relief, anticipation, joy, but maybe most of all exhaustion.”
He told the graduates their tremendous accomplishments reflect “enormously well on this institution, which last year recommitted itself constantly to excellence in research and graduate education.”
“I look at this kind of important influential work being undertaken right here by the people sitting right in front of me -- work that has dramatically raised UD's graduate education profile and put us in the Carnegie Foundation's top tier of U.S. research universities -- and I know that our leadership mission is well within reach,” Harker said.
“And most exciting of all, I know that the work you completed here is just the beginning for you, that far greater things will come, that discovery and invention and innovation will punctuate long and important careers,” Harker said, congratulating all the candidates.
Mary Martin, assistant provost for graduate and professional education, presented the dissertation awards. Charan Masarapu, advised by Dennis Prather, received the Allan P. Colburn Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; Yuning Wu, advised by Ivan Y. Sun, received the George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences; Zara Anishanslin-Bernhardt, advised by Bernard Herman, received the Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in Humanities; and Preethi Natarajan, advised by Paul Amer, received the Theodore Wolf Prize in Physical and Life Sciences.
The Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award was given to Robert L. Hampel, professor in the School of Education, by Martin. The award recognizes a faculty member who has made significant contributions to the quality of life and professional development of graduate students at UD, she said. Hampel has been an adviser to 42 doctoral students and received accolades from those who nominated him.
Havidán Rodriguez, vice provost for academic affairs and international programs, then spoke on “The Meaning of the Wearing of the Hood,” which at UD is lined with University colors of blue and gold. He called upon each of the deans of the colleges and the biomechanics and movement science program to present their graduate students and advisers.
Martin announced the candidates, who received their diplomas from Harker and were hooded by their advisers.
The convocation continued with a convocation address by Provost Dan Rich, who congratulated the doctoral graduates on their “distinctive and exceptional accomplishment.”
“The award of a doctoral degree is the highest level of academic attainment at universities around the world. By your success, you honor not only yourself, but also the entire University of Delaware community of which you are a part,” Rich said.
Rich pointed out that UD is “much more a graduate university and much more of a doctoral university today than it has ever been in the past.”
In 1948, the first doctorates in chemistry and chemical engineering were given and at that time there were 150 graduate students.
“Today, UD awards over 200 doctoral degrees each year, and we have over 3,500 graduate students in over 100 fields of study,” Rich said, adding that in a few years there would be even more.
Rich recognized the students' advisers and asked them to stand, along with family members and friends who supported the students.
He pointed out that the attrition rate for those who enter doctoral programs is about 50 percent. “Those who succeed have an extra measure of determination and stamina,” Rich said.
“Never take your University of Delaware doctoral degree for granted. Never forget how special it is that you were able to earn the highest academic degree in the world from one of the finest universities in the world. Never forget that you are a Blue Hen. That stays with you the rest of your life -- get used to it,” he said.
Rich said that the students' influence would extend beyond academia as 50 percent find their first jobs in the non-academic sector.
Rich called this “one of the most exciting and dynamic times in intellectual history.
“We are going through a remarkable transformation in both the content and structure of knowledge in which established fields and disciplines are converging and diverging and being reconfigured and recreated into new forms with new dimensions -- and leading down new pathways,” Rich said.
He told students to “never forget the bond you have with the University you represent,” and asked the group to rise once more to be recognized for their achievements.
When Rich, who is retiring as provost and returning to faculty, concluded his remarks, Norris and Martin returned to the podium to make a surprise announcement. Citing Rich's many contributions and initiatives to supporting and funding graduate education, Norris and Martin announced the establishment of a new annual dissertation prize, the Dan Rich Prize, for a dissertation that has the potential to make a valuable difference in the lives of Delawareans.
Student Andrea Malkowski led the audience in singing the UD alma mater, and graduate student Kate Raffensperger played the harp during the hooding of candidates. The hooding ceremony ended with a recessional and a reception.
Article by Sue Moncure