Saturday, May 12, 2018

A PhD Graduation to Treasure - that of My 20th PhD Student

This is truly an exceptional time of the year in academia - filled with college graduations and celebrations. Tomorrow is also Mother's Day and although I am flying to Switzerland to give a plenary talk and have not yet even started to pack (but my talk is done) I had to write this blogpost.

The special celebrations began on Thursday evening. The Isenberg School PhD Program Director, Dr. George Milne, 3 years ago started a robing ceremony in which PhD advisors get to speak about their PhD student(s) that are graduating and get to "robe" them. The Isenberg School graciously purchases the lovely maroon robes for our PhD graduates.

This year eight PhD recipients took part in the robing ceremony with the program below.
The ceremony took place in the Flavin auditorium at the Isenberg School. I was there to robe my 20th PhD student, Dr. Shivani Shukla, who had traveled from California, where she is now an Assistant Professor of Business Analytics at the University of San Francisco and absolutely loves teaching and conducting research there.

My present doctoral students came to support her and Dr. Milne began the evening with opening remarks and was a fabulous master of ceremonies!
As part of the ceremony, each PhD graduate's dissertation advisor gets an opportunity to give a speech about the graduate. It was a pleasure to speak about Shivani (Dr. Shukla), who excelled in all dimensions of research, teaching, and service as a doctoral student and is now thriving as an academic. She not only was elected President of the award-winning UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, and her thesis: Game Theory for Security Investments in Cyber and Supply Chain Networks, has resulted in multiple top journal publications and a book chapter, but, in 2016, she was recognized for her exceptional teaching, over multiple semesters, of the required undergraduate statistics course for all business majors at the Isenberg School, with the Outstanding Doctoral Student Teaching Award.
We took a few group photos and then proceeded to the Integrated Learning Center where there was a fabulous and very delicious reception for all the Isenberg grads who were receiving graduate degrees!
I enjoyed taking the photo below of Dr. Shivani Shukla and we sampled the exquisite desserts.
The next morning it was time for the UMass Amherst gala graduation at the Mullins Center in which PhD students get "hooded" by their PhD advisors.
Close to 200 received their PhDs and there were over 1,000 Master's degree recipients.
UMass Amherst took the above very special photo, which is a very special remembrance and for which I am very grateful.

After the graduation ceremonies, there was a reception, at which we saw many friends and their PhD advisors.
In the photo above are: Professor Ana Muriel, Rodrigo Mercado, Dr. Shivani Shukla, Deniz Besik, Pritha Dutta, Dr. Michael Prokle (Professor Muriel's student), and yours truly. Dr. Prokle was also a former President of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter. Deniz was this year's President and Pritha, the year before.

And, as we continued to enjoy the refreshments and conversations, we saw more friends and graduates, including Katerina Delaili, who received her Master's in Engineering. Coincidentally, all the students below have taken my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class and all have been outstanding contributors to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, which I have served as a Faculty Advisor now for 14 years.
And, in an extraordinary gesture of kindness and thoughtfulness, I received a letter from Dr. Shukla's parents in India, with words of exceptional gratitude that I hope that I can continue to live up to.

Congratulations to all the graduates, including the Isenberg School undergraduate class of 2018, the ceremony for which I attended this morning, again in a jam-packed Mullins Center!

So honored and grateful to be a professor and to have students, who make a difference, and who continue the lineage of education and research.