College of Professional Studies 2016 Graduation

“Let Your Imagination Set Your Limit”

Words of Advice from Retired Army General David D. McKiernan as Northeastern University College of Professional Studies Confers More than 1,000 Degrees

“When you walk out that door today, the future is in your hands, and your minds…. there’s no magic key to happiness and success.  That requires competency, commitment, courage and lifelong development. “

That was the guidance offered this morning to more than 1,000 graduates at Matthews Arena on Northeastern’s Boston campus by graduation speaker Retired Army General David D. McKiernan, the former top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Thousands of family members and friends were in attendance, celebrating a total of 1,016 degrees conferred— 6 Associate, 212 Bachelor’s, 670 Master’s, 7 Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, and 121 Doctoral.

McKiernan, who once led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and who was in charge of joint forces from NATO and 42 contributing countries, retired from the Army in 2009.  He has served as a special advisor to senior leaders of Northeastern on the expansion of the university’s programs for veterans and active duty military.  McKiernan’s speech comes at a time when the number of degrees conferred to veterans in the first half of 2016 has grown 46% compared to the same time period in 2011.  Today, 38 veterans graduated – 17 undergraduates and 21 at the graduate level.

McKiernan had five pieces of advice for graduates. “Think of it as advice from someone who has been around the global block and experienced the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said.

  1. Be a creative thinker.
  2. Don’t shy away from getting outside your comfort zone.
  3. If you want to be a leader, it is all about interpersonal skills.
  4. Demonstrate the notion of empathy.  “As we say in the Army, ‘The view is different depending on what hill you’re standing on,’” he added.
  5. Be of service to America or the country you’re a citizen of, through professional, volunteer or charitable venues.  Think about ways you can serve people.

Faculty Presented with Teaching Excellence Award

During graduation, the College presented the Teaching Excellence Award to two outstanding faculty members: Darin Detwiler and Corliss Brown Thompson.

Nominated by students in the Master’s in Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program, Detwiler’s students called him an “outstanding and engaging” instructor who shares an enormous passion for his discipline, which he instills in others.  While the students nominating Dr. Brown Thompson, faculty member in the Graduate School of Education, point to her excellence as a “scholar, teacher and guide,” and note her ability to help them realize meaningful and impactful community engagement strategies in their work.

Students Receive Degree of the Highest Honor: Their Doctorate 

On May 12, the College hosted a Doctoral Hooding Ceremony for candidates in the Doctor of EducationDoctor of Law and Policy, and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs symbolizing their transition from student to scholar-practitioner.  Candidates received their doctoral hoods from their thesis advisers at this annual ceremony.

At every doctoral hooding ceremony, one student is selected to receive the Dean’s Medal for Outstanding Doctoral Work, the highest honor awarded by the College to a doctoral graduate. The award was established to acknowledge exemplary academic achievement and to recognize demonstrated creativity.

This year, the Dean’s Medal winner was Dr. Hunter Hustus, in the Doctor of Law and Policy program, for his thesis titled “Nuclear Arsenals at Low Numbers: When Less is Different.” Hustus, who completed his Master’s degree 20 years ago and spent 20 years in the Air Force, noted in his speech how the doctoral program allowed him to rethink what he already knew, develop new perspectives and how the diversity and support within his cohort contributed to his education. “It was an ambitious project,” Hustus remarked. “While many of the results were unexpected, the biggest surprise was in how much I enjoyed doing the research.”

Dr. Cordula Robinson, an Associate Professor in the Master’s in Geographic Information Technology program, was the faculty speaker at the ceremony.  Robinson noted in her speech how her PhD marked the beginning of a life-long adventure for her: she lived and worked in three countries, studied Viking data from the planet Mars, worked on the Magellan mission to Venus, had an asteroid named after her and worked with indigenous people in North Africa and the Middle East on the issue of water scarcity, among many other things.  Her advice to the doctoral graduates before her?

“My PhD truly marked the beginning of this life-long adventure and way of living and so it may be for you. It may not always be easy, and will require perseverance and patience, but it can always be interesting. Continue to represent your experience to your best ability while retaining the panoramic view. To put in motion what your PhD inspired, to integrate your wisdom with practice, and to set forth to be the world’s next senior managers and policy makers, advanced clinicians in a dynamic healthcare system, or prepare for executive leadership and curriculum design. To be trailblazers, innovators, and future leaders.”