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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

The Class of 2017 Graduates from MIT by Chris Peterson SM '13


livestream of the graduation ceremonies



Today occasions the 151st Commencement of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the next few hours of pomp, circumstance, and Tim Cook, 2,988 students will become graduates, turn their rat around, and join the global nerd illuminati far-flung family of MIT alumni.




Of particular interest to our office are the Class of 2017 undergraduates, whom we admitted, in the main, four years ago. In the intervening years, we, as MIT staff, have come to know and work with so many of them, like our bloggers Vincent and Krystal, our student workers and tour guides, and, in my case, the students who took my classes. We have had the chance to see them strive and struggle, and to become the people we knew they were capable of becoming all those years ago when we read their applications.

We are very proud of them.




Two years ago, at the last commencement I covered, I wrote a very sentimental letter to the Class of 2015 on the occasion of their graduation. I told how ambivalent I felt (about myself; about MIT) on my own graduation day in 2013, but how much, in hindsight, I had taken from this place, and the privilege and responsibility that an MIT education confers. An excerpt:

i don’t sleep with my grad rat on. one reason is so that, when i get up every morning, and get ready to go out into the world, the small ritual of slipping it on reminds me to be my best person: the most intelligent, rigorous, enduring, yes, but also the most humane, the most empathetic, the person most worthy of the privileges and obligations that a place like MIT confers and also a place like MIT needs. because the rest of the world is in desperate need of people who are all of those things: intelligent *and* kind, hardworking *and* humane, capable *and* considerate, etc. the ring is not necessary for this kind of reflection, of course, but i have personally found it a useful shibboleth. when you go to turn your rat around today, please, take a moment, just a moment, to think about how you will make the world suck a little less when you’re out there in it. because that’s really all any of us can do on a day to day basis: try to make the world suck a little less.


This is still true for me; I hope it will be true for the Class of 2017 as well. Because, to be frank, the world desperately needs it. I don’t think I will surprise or upset anyone to say that this past year has been tumultuous, and that our graduating seniors are entering a destabilized world, where longstanding political alliances and scientific consensuses are up for grabs to a degree few still among the living have ever seen.

And yet, this past year, I have also seen MIT students become animated by a profound and powerful sense of social responsibility: sharing their hopes and fears, fighting indifference to racial inequality, protesting travel bans on their classmates, marching for science. I have seen them build solidarity with classmates and community members from around the country and across the world. I have seen them develop a deep resolve to bring the best of themselves, and MIT, out into the rest of the world with them. I am so incredibly proud of them. All of us are so incredibly proud of them. And they are, to me, our best hope.

Congratulations, graduates. I look forward to you turning your rat around, and turning your eyes to the world, to bring yourself to bear on its great challenges.

I’ll update the blog with photos from commencement as I can

The platform and dome before commencement commences 

Admissions officers Matt McGann ’00 and Elizabeth Choe ’13 host the pre-commencement welcoming show

The ‘redcoats,’ aka MIT alumni attending their 50th reunion, are guests of honor at commencement


Architecturally interesting mortarboard art == another MIT tradition


Left to right: President Rafael Reif, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Provost Marty Schmidt, Chancellor Cindy Barnhart


Rafael Reif and Tim Cook

Tim Cook exhorts the Class of 2017 to build humane values into whatever they make

President Reif watches Tim Cook’s speech

President Reif smiles as the Class of 2017 cheers

Members of the Class of 2017 receiving their diplomas from President Reif and Provost Schmidt