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Being bold is a quality that makes engineers agents of change. To be a true change-maker also requires qualities such as teamwork, receptiveness to new ideas, the ability to appreciate contributions of other fields, and a never-ending drive to do more and improve.
Commencement season always reminds me of change. It also reminds me of the opportunities we, as engineers, can create for ourselves, for others, and for the world-at-large. A sea of graduates will move from theory and experiential learning to making an indelible mark in engineering. They will go on to create designs, innovate processes, launch new products, build teams, and develop ways to continue to protect and provide for the needs of our planet and its inhabitants. With one final pronouncement, they move from student to engineer—forging their individual path to become a true agent of change.
Spending time with graduates at Case Western Reserve University’s (CWRU) commencement in May was a highlight of my travels. It also was a proud and humbling moment to be among two individuals selected to receive an honorary doctorate from CWRU. Previously, I spent three years as CWRU provost and executive vice president, so my return kindled many fond memories.
Like many universities nationwide that are rebounding from the effects of the pandemic, CWRU held its first indoor commencement since 2019 with a full, traditional commencement celebration for students and their families, faculty, staff and university leaders. Fellow NAE member and CWRU President Eric Kaler presided over his first commencement since taking on the role last July—and did an admirable job. Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb delivered a profound message, telling students, “This is the time to be bold. To challenge the status quo. To be fearless.”
I applaud all the graduates this season, and will keep watch on the engineering graduates whose work will create a vital and safe world.
Times are changing. Today’s new graduating engineers are the change agents needed to build a better and more sustainable future for all.