On May 16, 2016, over 600 students gathered on the Columbia University campus to celebrate the successful completion of their Master of Science degrees.
The inaugural School of Professional Studies graduation ceremony was presided over by Dean Jason Wingard. He began the proceedings by welcoming graduates and their family, friends, faculty, and guests. In his remarks, he gave five recommendations for success:
- Change constantly
- Learn to succeed, not to cope
- Reinvent yourself
- Be excellent
- Engage Columbia
Columbia University Provost John Coatsworth highlighted why, technically, this is the “inaugural” graduation for the School, thanks to its recent name change. SPS is his favorite school at Columbia, he said, because of what its students stand for: reinventing themselves, overcoming obstacles, and preparing themselves to succeed in the 21st century global workforce.
Graduation speaker David Levin, CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, gave a stirring speech about the powerful transitions made by the Class of 2016. He encouraged graduates to seek out challenges, remain curious, and continue their learning beyond the University. “You will have to deal with both success and failure, and the latter is a better teacher—if harsher,” Levin said, when highlighting the need to take risks.
The directors of 12 of the School’s master’s programs then named the degree candidates for M.S. degrees.
Student speaker Shaun Anthony Hoyte, a member of the Sustainability Management program, discussed his personal development and aspirations as well as the strong Columbia community. He reminisced about a party thrown by one of his classmates, which was actually a kickoff party for his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Congress. “I belonged… surrounded by confident individuals seeking to make a difference,” Hoyte said.
Dean Wingard presented two new awards, the Campbell Award and the Dean’s Excellence Award, and closed the ceremony with a reiteration of his call to action. The School of Professional Studies’ Class of 2016 then excited the tents as alumni, accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” With their degrees, the Class of 2016 joins a thriving community and network of Columbia alumni, who number 320,000 former students worldwide.
It was a day of celebration, kicking off a week of honor. On May 18, Columbia’s Commencement celebrated the Class of 2016. University President Lee Bollinger officially conferred degrees to students from SPS and the University’s 17 other schools, colleges, and affiliated institutions. It was a celebration throughout the city, and once night fell, the spire of the Empire State Building lit up Columbia blue.