The doctoral hood is placed during the Dec. 18 ceremony at Clayton Hall.

New doctors recognized

UD hooding ceremony lauds newest doctoral graduates


1:08 p.m., Dec. 21, 2015--To the delight of their families and friends, the University of Delaware’s newest doctoral graduates were honored at a hooding ceremony, convocation and reception held Friday, Dec. 18, in Clayton Hall. 

Accompanied by the sounds of bagpiper Mark Hurm, University Provost Domenico Grasso carried the mace and led the procession of doctoral degree recipients.

Campus Stories

From graduates, faculty

As it neared time for the processional to open the University of Delaware Commencement ceremonies, graduating students and faculty members shared their feelings about what the event means to them.

Doctoral hooding

It was a day of triumph, cheers and collective relief as more than 160 students from 21 nations participated in the University of Delaware's Doctoral Hooding Convocation held Friday morning on The Green.

The procession was followed by the singing of the national anthem by Shari Feldman, an academic adviser in the Department of Music.

Ann Ardis, interim vice provost for graduate and professional education, welcomed the attendees who came from the First State and from places as far away as Greece, China and India. 

“Today we are recognizing roughly half of the fall 2015 recipients of the doctor of philosophy degrees,” Ardis said. “Some of the fall 2015 degree recipients completed their degree requirements earlier in the semester and left campus months ago to begin their new lives in professional and academic appointments.” 

Ardis noted that some degree recipients will return to the UD campus in May 2016 to participate in convocation and Commencement ceremonies. 

“The candidates being recognized here today are from six of our seven colleges,” Ardis said. “The completion of a doctoral degree is a major accomplishment, not only for the recipients themselves, and their families, but also for their graduate program advisers.” 

UD Acting President Nancy Targett also extended a Blue Hen greeting to celebrants, noting the pride and responsibility attendant upon earning a doctoral degree from UD.

“This truly is a major accomplishment,” Targett said. “It required years of dedication and hard work.”

The journey to earning the highest academic degree awarded is marked by many successes and also some failures, and a few doubts about ever reaching such a milestone, Targett said. 

“About nine out of 10 Americans have a high school diploma, almost one-third have earned a bachelor’s degree and about one-tenth hold a master’s degree,” Targett said. “Fewer than 1.8 percent of Americans hold a doctoral degree.” 

Recalling her own academic and professional career, Targett noted that because she had been so focused, ever since high school, on earning a doctoral degree, she never fully considered what she would do after earning it. 

Starting as a researcher and teacher in Florida, Maine and Georgia, Targett embarked on a path that led to becoming a college dean and serving as acting president of one of America’s most respected research universities. 

“Along the way, I’ve learned the value of making good choices, and clearly you have, too,” Targett said. “Your good choices have led you to this day.”

Society, Targett noted, relies upon the knowledge, insights and contexts that can be provided by holders of its most educated citizens as they participate in the great discussions and debates shaping the world of today and tomorrow.

“The choices you make in your scholarship and research are critical for the future of our society,” Targett said. “They’re also critical for the future of our planet.” 

Targett urged the recipients to continue making good choices on a personal and professional level, especially when things don’t go as planned. 

“Opportunities come when you least expect them, and I hope you’ll be open to pursuing them,” Targett said. “I’m sure you wont regret it.”

In his congratulatory remarks, Grasso said that a graduate education calls on degree recipients to serves as teachers, guides and leaders.

“You have had the opportunity to pursue your passions by continuing your studies and in many cases create new knowledge in fields that excite you,” Grasso said. “It’s certainly a wonderful feeling, but with this luxury comes responsibility and the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.”

Grasso also recognized the efforts of both the degree recipients and the doctoral faculty who encouraged them along the way. 

“As we are beneficiaries of those that came before us, our prodigy will reap the benefits of your accomplishments,” Grasso said. “I also would like to congratulate and recognize the graduate faculty whose hard work and dedication created your knowledge and made your education here among the best in the nation.” 

Graduate degree programs represented included chemical and biomolecular engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, civil and environmental engineering, as well as computer science, linguistics, and biomechanics and movement science. Programs in physics, materials science and engineering, urban affairs and pubic policy, plant and soil sciences, animal and food science, oceanography, economics, and ocean engineering also were represented. 

Joseph Zeni Jr., assistant professor of physical therapy, urged the newest doctoral degree holders to become mentors while remembering that a successful academic or research career does not operate on the all-or-none principle. 

“You represent the next generation of great thinkers to graduate from this University,” Zeni said. ”You carry the responsibility to advance your respective fields, but also to educate, mentor and advise the generation that follows you. Best of luck in all of your future research endeavors.” 

Mary Martin, associate provost for graduate and professional education, spoke about the meaning of the wearing of the hood and presented the individual degree recipients for conferral of degrees.

Graduates thankful, relieved

Xiangbai Wu, who received a doctorate in oceanography, said his journey was marked by a change in the direction of his research and that he hopes to continue research centered on understanding climate change. 

“I’d like to thank my family and friends, my adviser, Xiao-Hai Yan, the Mary A. S. Lighthipe Chair Professor of Oceanography, and the faculty and staff in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. They all helped me a lot.” 

Kristen Nicholson, a biomechanics and movement science doctoral degree recipient, said, “It really feels good to finally be done. I’m excited to start my research and continue working at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington.” 

Nicholson’s work at the hospital incudes helping to improve shoulder movement for children with cerebral palsy, and her research will help doctors in determining different surgery and therapy options. 

Nicholson also thanked family, including husband Jefferson, colleagues and her adviser, James Richards, Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, in the College of Health Sciences.

Joshua Bryson, who received his doctorate in mechanical engineering, said, “It was a lot of work, but I feel great. I’m a different person than when I started.”

Bryson, who works for the U.S. Army, said that earning the doctoral degree represents his continuing passion for robotics. “I like robots so much, I even went back to school to study them.” 

Bryson also thanked family members and his adviser, Michael H. Santare, professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. 

Gregory Barnett, a chemical and biomolecular engineering doctoral degree recipient, said, “The journey was difficult, but I stayed focused on the work and it really paid off. Many of the tools I learned here at UD I will use every day in my work to help develop new drug therapies for cancer and other diseases.” 

Barnett’s adviser was Christopher J. Roberts, professor of chemical and biomolecular energy.

• For a photo gallery of the doctoral hooding ceremony, see UD in Photos

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Lane McLaughlin

News Media Contact

University of Delaware
Communications and Public Affairs

UDaily is produced by
Communications and Public Affairs

The Academy Building
105 East Main Street
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716 | USA
Phone: (302) 831-2792