Commencement on the horizon for Class of 2010

By Sam Butterfield

After your name is read, you embark on a brief walk up to a podium and exchange a few handshakes followed by applause, it’s all over. Four years of memories, experiences and preparation go into the books, the next name is read and the next journey begins. Donning their caps and gowns, more than 4,000 University of Massachusetts graduating seniors and their 20,000 guests will fill McGuirk Alumni Stadium on the morning of Saturday, May 15, at 10 a.m., as they prepare to leave their days as students behind and launch newly-minted lives as alumni.

This year’s Commencement will feature speakers from a variety of walks of life, with numerous students receiving recognition for outstanding achievements in varying fields and former Isenberg School of Management professor Sheila Bair, now the Chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), slated to deliver the Commencement address.

Bair, the former Dean’s Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy at Isenberg, was also Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2001 to 2002 and also served as Vice President for Government Relations for the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from 1995 to 2000.

In her time at the FDIC, Bair has overseen numerous significant economic moves by the government throughout the recession still affecting the nation. She presided over one of the largest bank mergers in history, as JP Morgan Chase took over the failed bank Washington Mutual, and at one point froze foreclosures on bank-owned loans managed by the lender IndyMac Bank, which was experiencing widespread foreclosures as consumers defaulted on subprime loans. In 2008, she was named the second-most powerful woman in the world behind German chancellor Angela Merkel by Forbes magazine. Bair’s term at the FDIC runs through 2011.

In addition to Bair, two graduating UMass students will be given the opportunity to ruminate on their experiences as student speakers for the Class of 2010. The two graduating seniors were chosen as part of a rigorously competitive process run by Dr. Karin Moyano Camihort, Chairwoman of the University’s Student Speaker Selection Committee. The first student speaker, University Without Walls student Mark Cerasuolo of Redmond, Wash., will receive a bachelor’s degree in marketing anthropology, which he completed nearly 40 years after he first began attending UMass. Cerasuolo has more than 30 years experience in the consumer electronics industry, including management experience in marketing, product-line development, business development, and training.

Cerasuolo described his often windy journey to a degree in marketing anthropology through the University Without Walls program.

Cerasuolo enrolled at UMass in 1971 after graduating from Saugus High School and said while “I wasn’t goofing around or anything,” that he became very involved in politics, ultimately “neglecting some of my studies because of it.”

In 1974 before his senior year, Cerasuolo got a job at a local electronics store, and after several employees were laid off, he found himself promoted to manager, and a job in consumer electronics was born. Since then he has worked for numerous firms such as the now defunct Tweeter and California-based JBL. While working for these electronics companies, Cerasuolo became a marketing specialist, writing advertisements.

He said that as he ascended the corporate ranks and became a father stressing the importance of continuing education to his children, he looked at his lack of a degree as something of a void in his resume.

“As my own kids got older and went to college, I thought, gee, they’re going to graduate before I do,” he joked, adding that “I started feeling the lack of a degree was something I wanted to overcome.”

By then living in suburban Seattle, Cerasuolo enrolled in business classes at a local branch of the University of Washington in 2006. He said that while the classes were solid, they took a long time to complete and that, on a chance visit to Amherst in 2007 traveling between Boston and New York, he stopped in at UMass and asked around about what he could do with his nearly-complete transcript.

“I asked around some professors about what I could do with all these credits and all this prior work, and they referred me to the University Without Walls. I met with them, they were great, they said, ‘We can take everything you’ve done and custom build you a major to finish and here’s how we’d set up a program,’ so I withdrew from UW and transferred to UMass.”

Joking about the long and winding road he’s faced before finally earning his degree this year, Cerasuolo said “I could not possibly have ever written this script for myself.”

Though he would not discuss specifics of what he plans to include in his speech, Cerasuolo explained that he hopes to inspire students by describing how a degree, even in dire economic times, is worth invaluably more than no degree, and that students should take stock in what their educational experience has lent them.

The second speaker will be Commonwealth Honors College student Emily Grund of Rockport, Mass., a journalism major with a minor in psychology. Grund’s travel writing has appeared in a number of publications, and she has been nominated to teach English in Asia as a Peace Corps volunteer after graduation. The selection of Grund marks the third-straight year that a UMass journalism major has been named student speaker for the graduating class.

Grund said she was flattered and honored to be giving the address.

“I’m very honored to be chosen as a commencement speaker, it was something that I put a lot of effort into so I was really excited when I was chosen because I was up against some other pretty good speakers,” she said.

Grund said the main emphasis of her speech is on the relationships students build throughout their time at UMass.

“The theme of it all is about the relationships and the different connections you make here while you’re at UMass, whether it’s friends or faculty, I tried to make it relatable so everyone will be able to take a piece of it with them,” she said.

From here, Grund will teach English somewhere in Asia through the Peace Corps. She will find out where she will be traveling at the end of May and will likely depart in late August.

As for advice for future students, Grund encouraged students not to map out their life’s ambitions during college but to sit back and enjoy the college experience while it lasts.

“A lot of people try to plan out their life and rush through this experience and it’s a lot better to just try to take it all in and enjoy it,” she said.

The Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies will also recognize the 12 students who are receiving 21st Century Leader Awards, which is bestowed upon graduating seniors who have demonstrated exemplary standards of achievement, initiative and social awareness during their time on campus. This year’s group includes Timothy Alden, a double major in accounting and economics from Charlton, Mass., Danielle Dean, a psychology and Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration major from Westford, Mass., Olga Deshchenko, a double major in journalism and legal studies from Brooklyn, N.Y., Peter M. Krafft, a mathematics and statistics major from Canton, Mass., Meghan Krupka, a civil and environmental engineering major from Medfield, Mass., Nicholas R. Morrison, a psychology major from Woburn, Mass., Martin Nolet, a psychology major from Quebec, Canada, Taryn O’Hearn, a psychology major from Sagamore Beach, Mass., David R. Paquette, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Westfield, Mass., Abigail A. Reardon, a double major in English and legal studies, from Ashley Falls, Mass., Jeffrey A. Rothschild, a political science major and Judaic and Near Eastern studies minor, from Worcester, Mass. and Sahil Shanghavi, an electrical engineering major from Kolkata, India.

In addition to the 12 students receiving 21st Century Leader Awards, two graduating seniors will be honored for their leadership and executive ability as Jack Welch Scholars. Those two students this year are Stephan Adams, an electrical engineering major from Watsontown, Penn., and 21st Century Leader Timothy Alden.

The university will continue a long-standing tradition at this year’s Commencement: the Parade of International Flags, which offers graduating seniors in the Class of 2010 the chance to wave their country’s colors as part of a procession entering the stadium at the start of the ceremony, before joining their classmates for graduation. International students interested in the parade should contact Flag Ceremony Coordinator Terry Sall at [email protected] by May 14.

The University is also seeking volunteers to be marshals, aides, ushers and golf cart drivers for Commencement. For their time, volunteers stand to receive a commemorative glass, snacks and a chance to win prizes. Aides, ushers, marshals, and golf cart drivers will have to report to McGuirk at 8 a.m. on May 15, with two pre-Commencement meetings – a volunteer orientation tomorrow, May 5 at 10 a.m. in Flavin Auditorium (SOM 137), and a rehearsal on Thursday, May 13 at 10 a.m. at McGuirk.

Nick Bush can be reached at [email protected] Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected]