Monday, May 23, 2016

The Best College Graduation Ever - My Daughter's

Last Thursday, I flew from London Heathrow to Newark to attend my daughter's college graduation and today I returned back to Oxford, England, where I am a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College for the trinity term.

This was a whirlwind trip but truly special - your child graduates college only once (although she may acquire additional degrees).

I have blogged about my daughter's graduation from Deerfield Academy as well as from The Bement School and, since many of my colleagues from around the world know Alexandra and are asking for highlights of her college graduation, I am writing this blogpost. She went to her first INFORMS conference in Boston when she was only 3 months old and one of her favorite conferences was when we were in Iceland. She has followed me on various academic appointments whether in Austria or in Sweden and soon will be joining me in England.

Her now alma mater is Lafayette College, which has a beautiful campus, very successful graduates,  and is one hour away from NYC; about an hour from Philadelphia, and about 2 hours from DC. Hence, there are many opportunities for great educational class field trips as well as internships.

The college was named after General Lafayette.

Although the graduation ceremony from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, was on Saturday, May 21, 2016, already on Friday, May 20, we had many events to attend, beginning with a very special ceremony in the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, from which Alexandra received a BS summa cum laude and graduated with honors in geology and environmental geosciences.
 The faculty that Alexandra has had at Lafayette College were mentors, supporters, and some, I believe, also became friends. She traveled with geology faculty to Hawaii, did a field trip to Wyoming and many more local ones to her college, and was a TA on the second Wyoming field trip. She also had an externship in Oklahoma. Her honors thesis was on Iceland and I Skyped in recently from England for her oral defense.

At the geology ceremony, each senior major received a gift and also a professor or two spoke about what made the student unique. This was very moving event and took place in the beautiful geology building. Dr. Kira Lawrence, the Chair of the Department, who received her PhD from Brown University, was the officiator.

Professor Larry Malinconico, Alexandra's advisor, and Professor Tamara Carley, her honors thesis supervisor, both spoke about Alexandra. I personally had to thank Professor Hovis, a Harvard PhD for his mentorship of Alexandra as well. Dr. Malinconico is a Dartmouth PhD and also a former member of the crew team there.

My husband and I are very grateful for the nurturing that Lafayette College provided in terms of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education within a liberal arts college education. Her faculty also supported her when she submitted applications to various summer programs and graduate school. After her sophomore year, Alexandra did summer research on the environmental impact of fracking at the University of Colorado Boulder under an NSF REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates)  program, and, after her junior year, she was a summer intern at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, working on moon rocks in a very competitive international program.

In August,  she will begin a PhD program in geology.

On Friday, there was also an honors convocation in which the first page of each thesis presentation was displayed in a slide show and each student recognized. My cousin, Andrew Yarosh, a fellow Brown University grad, traveled from Colorado to join us in the celebrations.
There were numerous receptions to attend, which were very festive and, luckily, the rain held off, so the graduation ceremony could take place outdoors.
It was great to see a fellow Deerfield Academy graduate, class of 2012, Brad Marshall, who also hails from western Massachusetts, receive a degree in engineering from Lafayette College.
After graduation, it was time for the Lafayette College crew barbecue which the senior crew team members organized for the families. Alexandra has been both a VP and President of the crew team and, together this amazing group of student athletes,  journeyed together to competitions in the Northeast, including the Head of the Charles regatta in Cambridge and the Dad Vails in Philadelphia, trained during every spring break in Florida, and numerous mornings on the river around 6AM.  My daughter was the cox for the men's 4s and 8s boats and the camaraderie of this team is extraordinary. Special thanks to the coach, Rick Kelliher. They even planned and organized a banquet each year, which President Alison Byerly attended once, raised lots of money for the team, and even hosted an Olympian gold medalist at one of the banquets. President Byerly has been an outstanding President of Lafayette College.

Thanks to Lafayette College for providing my daughter with both transformative educational experiences (even a trip to Costa Rica), nurturing her love of science and research, her love of history and art history, with great classes in environmental sciences, advanced calculus, economics, and statistics.

As an academic, I have been to many wonderful college and graduation ceremonies, not only in the US, such as at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I teach, at Brown University and at Harvard University, but also abroad in Sweden, but when your daughter graduates, that will always be a very special one!

More photos from Lafayette's 181st commencement are available on the college's website. And, by the way, my husband, Alexandra's father, is also a Lafayette College grad and a very loyal alum. He still stays in touch with one of his former physics professors. Those are the special ties that bind.

Congratulations to the Class of 2016!