Sunday, April 6, 2014

Choosing a Speech Topic and the Winner Is - Our Outstanding UMass Amherst Students

I enjoy giving talks, from seminar and conference presentations to keynotes in exciting locations around the world and these are, typically, of a technical nature.

I also enjoy giving talks to audiences such as at the World Science Festival or at  the NYTimes EnergyforTomorrow Conference or at the AAAS Annual meetings. The audiences at such venues are always fabulous

Certain special occasions also call for a "speech" whether at a graduation commencement or at an honor society induction or, perhaps, a banquet of some sort.

Today I had the honor and privilege of being the Guest Speaker at the UMass Amherst Campus Center Auditorium at the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Induction ceremony. Professor Don Katzner of our Economics Department had invited me close to a year ago. Since I enjoyed the ceremony last year so much I agreed. Phi Kappa Phi, according to its website was founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines.

I have given commencement speeches both at an undergraduate Isenberg School commencement at the Mullins Center and also at the Graduate Ceremonies at the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg, Sweden (on two different occasions).

Selecting a topic of one's speech is very important because it provides a focus for one's thoughts and creates the overall architecture of the talk. The topic should be on a theme that you are really excited about.and the audience would also enjoy listening to.  In the case of the event today,  the audience consisted of student inductees, some of their family members and friends, and a few faculty members.  And there was also a time limit.

I thought about various titles during several walks (I get some of my best ideas while walking or traveling) and I had a big smile on my face when I nailed it down. I was going to speak on Our Outstanding Students at UMass Amherst!

I drafted a transcript of my talk and worked on it over several days, putting in the final touches about an hour before delivering it.

The text can be downloaded here.

Today's ceremony was extra special since two faculty members received a Distinguished Service Award, Professor Alexandrina Deschamps of the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Professor Donald "Don" Fisher, the Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Last semester, Professor Fisher gave a great tour of his Arbella Performance lab, along with a lecture, to the students in my Logistics & Transportation class.

I very much enjoyed hearing Professor Katzner, who is President of the Phi Kappa Phi Society Chapter at UMass Amherst (which is the fourth oldest chapter in the U.S., having been founded in 1904),   give a speech and our Provost, Dr. James Staros, as well as the Interim Dean of Commonwealth College, Professor Daniel Gordon.

But, best of all, was seeing the inductees come to the stage, receive their awards, and hear them speak about their majors, where they are from, and their plans.
There were even several students from the Isenberg School.

The last student came to the stage and had those of us who were seated on the stage take  a selfie with him, after noting  David Ortiz's selfie with President Obama!

Extraordinary students we have at UMass Amherst - what a beautiful ceremony it was on a bright, sunny day! Congratulations, one and all!