PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown President Christina Paxson will preside over the University’s 248th Commencement on Sunday, May 29, on the College Green. The ceremony concludes Brown’s three-day Commencement and Reunion Weekend, which brings more than 10,000 people to College Hill.
Brown Commencements have been major events for Providence residents and University guests since the 18th century — and many events and exhibitions on Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29, are open to the public. A summary of the weekend’s main events follows here, and additional information and updates are available on the 2016 Commencement website.
Many of the weekend’s events — including the Baccalaureate on Saturday and the Doctoral Ceremony, Procession and both the College and University ceremonies on Sunday — will be streamed live on the web via Brown's Live Webcast page.
Editors and Reporters
University-issued media credentials are required for access to the procession route, Van Wickle Gates, media platform and student seating area at the University Ceremony. All media must request credentials by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 26. Contact news clerk Jose Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or (401) 863-5450. Journalist’s name, organization, telephone number and email address are required. Upon approval, credentials will be made available for pickup at the Office of University Communications at 71 George Street in Providence. In addition, many streets near campus will be closed to vehicles or designed one-way during Commencement weekend. Access for news trucks and other vehicles must be requested by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 26.
Highlights for 2016
Celebrating Corporation Leadership
For Chancellor Thomas Tisch and Vice Chancellor Jerome Vascellaro, Commencement 2016 year marks their last as leaders of the Corporation of Brown University, with their service set to conclude at the end of the academic year. Incoming Chancellor Samuel Mencoff and Vice Chancellor Alison Ressler will succeed the long-term leaders as of July 1.
Inaugural Award from the First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center
The First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center is awarding its inaugural Class of 2016 Impact Award to nine graduates who made an immeasurable impact on the experience of first-generation students at Brown by creating the First-Gens@Brown student network, leading efforts to create the Center itself and advocating on campus and beyond for enhanced support and resources.
Separate Master’s, Doctoral Ceremonies
For the first time, the Graduate School will hold separate ceremonies for master’s and doctoral students. Master’s students will process to Pembroke Field and doctoral students to the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle. Both locations will have ample seating and improved sight lines.
IE Brown Executive MBA
At the Master’s Ceremony on Sunday, 30 business executives will be awarded the IE Brown Executive MBA as a joint degree from Brown’s School for Professional Studies and the IE Business School in Spain. This year marks the first time the joint degree is being awarded at Brown Commencement.
Alpert Medical School’s Largest Graduating Class
At the Medical School Ceremony, 116 graduates will earn M.D. degrees and proceed to residency training — this year marks the school’s largest class in history compared to the previous high of 106 graduates in 2015.
Campus Dance | Tickets Required
One of Brown’s best-loved traditions, the Campus Dance brings more than 11,000 people to dance the night away under a sky lit with some 600 paper lanterns. The annual Senior Sing happens at midnight on the steps of Sayles Hall.
Beyond the Bottle
Students, the Office of Energy & Environmental Initiatives, and other members of the Brown community have worked to eliminate bottled water. Commencement 2016 will be bottle-free, with graduates receiving pre-filled, reusable water bottles, and mobile hydration stations — “quench buggies” — available for graduates and guests.
Throughout the Weekend
Brown University schedules class reunions and Commencement on the same weekend. The concurrent scheduling allows alumni to welcome graduating seniors into the fold while also celebrating their lifelong connection to the University. Scheduled activities include Campus Dance, receptions, forums, an alumni family field day, and prominent participation in the Commencement procession down College Hill.
Brown’s museums and galleries are open to University guests and the general public during Commencement Weekend. Among the exhibitions on display:
- David Winton Bell Gallery | Works Well With Others
- Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice | The Black Shackle: African Americans and the Coal Economy
- The Cogut Center for the Humanities | Andrew Moore photography exhibit
- Granoff Center for the Creative Arts | Waveform No. 2 (Cohen Gallery)
- Granoff Center for the Creative Arts | Talking to Strangers (Atrium Gallery)
- Haffenreffer Museum | Northern Visions arctic photography exhibit
- Haffenreffer Museum | Brewed for Thought: A Cross-Cultural Explorationof Beer and Brewing
- Brown RISD Hillel | Ethiopian Jewry: A Photo Exhibit
- Brown RISD Hillel | Thread in the Tapestry
Saturday, May 28, 2016
A Commencement Weekend tradition for more than four decades, the Commencement Forums include lectures, discussions and performances by faculty, alumni and guests who are nationally recognized authorities in their fields — with plenty of opportunity for audience questions and comments. All of this year’s forums (18 in total) address timely issues on topics that range from cybersecurity and artificial intelligence to Election 2016 and issues of diversity and inclusion. Saturday’s forums begin at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and at 12:30, 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. Full details and schedules are here. A sampling:
- “Lessons from Apple vs. FBI on encryption and privacy” — Experts will discuss the legal battle between Apple and the FBI and its broad implications for privacy.
- “Robotics and the Destruction of the Human Race” — Computer science and engineering professors will discuss the upsurge in the attention given to robots and artificial intelligence and the idea of the inevitable destruction of the human race if we are not watchful.
- “Getting Reel: Brown Women in Documentary Film” — Brown alumnae making waves in documentary filmmaking will share thoughts on inspiring, provoking and engaging audiences and explore everything from motivations to the roadblocks they’ve encountered.
- “What's Old is New Again: Personality, Party Conflict and Big Money in Election 2016” — With a presidential election around the corner, political science expert Wendy Schiller will discuss its dynamics and draw parallels to how early 20th century politics operated in the Gilded Age.
- “Diplomacy in a Changing World: Reflections of Brown Alumni in International Affairs” — With global affairs as complex as at any point in history, Brown alumni working in the top level of government and international institutions will shed light on the impact of foreign affairs and discuss how their Brown experience prepared them for careers in diplomacy.
- “Transforming Media/Transforming Brown” — Brown alumni who have addressed the topic insightfully in their own works, will discuss issues of diversity and inclusiveness on campus and in society. Three films will be screened in association with this forum on Saturday.
Baccalaureate Service 2:30 p.m. | Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
Brown’s Baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, poetry and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Native American, animist and other religious and cultural traditions, as well as dancing, choral and instrumental music, a Chinese lion dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming. Because the Meeting House can accommodate only the graduating class, the service will be simulcast for family and friends, who can watch it on the College Green, in the Salomon Center for Teaching and in Sayles Hall. This year’s Baccalaureate address, “Choosing our Histories,” will be delivered by Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Gover will receive an honorary degree on Sunday.
Military Commissioning and Graduating Veterans Ceremony 4:30 p.m. | The Front Green
Three members of the graduating class will be commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army:
- Johnathan Davis, Army Reserve Officer' Training Corps
- Amadeo De Luca-Westrate, Army Health Professions Scholarship Program
- William Mangham, Army Health Professions Scholarship Program
The ceremony will also honor six veterans of the U.S. military who are receiving Brown degrees in 2016. They include undergraduates Philip Crean and Nathan Lovejoy along with graduate students John Litherland, Jeremy McKenzie, Anthony Paolino and Derrick Zantt.
A reception will follow the ceremony in Rhode Island Hall, Room 108.
Waterfire 8:30 p.m. | Downtown Providence
Waterfire, a celebrated work of public art brought to life by 1975 Brown graduate Barnaby Evans, will ignite a line of bonfires atop Providence’s downtown rivers.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Commencement Procession 9:45 a.m. | The Van Wickle Gates
The University’s ceremonial Van Wickle Gates open for only two reasons: when new students enter campus to begin their studies and when new graduates depart for the world beyond Brown. The procession begins at 9:45 a.m. at the Van Wickle Gates. In order to accommodate graduates, families and friends who wish to take photographs, the Van Wickle Gates will remain open until 6 p.m. on Monday, May 30.
Doctoral Ceremony 10:15 a.m. | Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle
Peter M. Weber, dean of the Graduate School, will preside. Highlights of the ceremony include:
- Presentation of the Horace Mann Medal to Sridhar Ramaswamy, a 1995 Ph.D. recipient who serves as senior vice president of ads and commerce at Google. Established in 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Graduate School and to honor the famous educator, an 1819 Brown graduate, the medal is awarded to an alumnus or alumna who has made significant contributions in his or her field.
- The doctoral student address, titled “On Making It, and What to Make of It,” will be delivered by Matthew Lyddon, who will receive his Ph.D. in political science. Lyddon was selected as the speaker by the Graduate Student Council.
- Presentation of Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Awards to Ph.D. candidates Francesca Inglese, ethnomusicology; Hilary Elaine Nicholson, molecular pharmacology and physiology; Yumeng Ou, mathematics; and Bhawani Buswala, anthropology.
Master’s Ceremony 10:30 a.m. | Pembroke Field
Shayna Kessel, associate dean of master’s education, will preside, joined by the deans of the schools of engineering, public health and professional studies along with Deputy Provost Joseph S. Meisel. Highlights of the ceremony include:
- The master’s student address, titled “Bridging America's Racial Divide: Our Privilege in Writing the Next Chapter,” will be delivered by Alberto Morales, who will receive his master of public affairs degree. Morales was selected as the speaker by the Graduate Student Council.
- Thirty business executives will be awarded the IE Brown Executive MBA as a joint degree from Brown’s School for Professional Studies and the IE Business School in Spain. This year marks the first time the joint degree is being awarded at Brown Commencement, and the candidates will be presented by Martin Boehm, dean of programs and professor of marketing at IE Business School.
- Awarding of three Master’s Awards for: (1) Academic Accomplishment: Adam E. M. Eltorai, biomedical engineering; (2) Professional Excellence: Joseph Michael Codega Jr., public affairs; (3) Engaged Citizenship and Community Service: Elizabeth Ann Bunzli, public health.
- The Graduate Student Council will award the Wilson-DeBlois Award to Melissa Nicholaus, student affairs coordinator (public policy) at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
Alpert Medical School Ceremony 10:15 a.m. | First Unitarian Church
Dr. Jack A. Elias, dean of medicine and biological sciences, will preside over the ceremony and will administer the Physician’s Oath, a version of the Hippocratic Oath prepared by the M.D. Class of 1975, the school’s first graduating class. The largest graduating class yet, with 116 degree recipients, will begin their practices with residency training. The ceremony will feature two addresses:
- Dr. Angela Anderson, associate professor of pediatrics and of emergency medicine, will deliver the faculty address, titled “Listening… With and Without a Stethoscope.”
- Elizabeth Rubin will present the student oration, “Incredible! A Commencement Address in Three Parts” to her colleagues in the M.D. Class of 2016.
College Ceremony 11:55 a.m. | Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America
Since 1776, all but two Brown University Commencements have been held at the Meeting House. In 2006, when the graduating senior class had grown too large to be safely accommodated, the students voted to preserve the tradition by holding a portion of the Commencement ceremony on the church grounds. President Christina Paxson will greet the class, deliver brief remarks and confer bachelor degrees on the church grounds. The ceremony will be videocast to the College Green, Salomon Center and Sayles Hall.
University Ceremony 12:45 p.m. | The College Green
Graduating seniors march back up College Hill to the College Green, where they join family members, friends and guests for the University ceremony, which includes:
Since its founding in 1764, Brown has selected members of the graduating class to speak during the Commencement ceremony. Two members of the Class of 2016 were chosen by a committee of students, faculty and administrators to deliver orations at Commencement:
- Jamelle Watson-Daniels, a physics concentrator from Collinsville, Illinois, will deliver an oration titled “Storytelling.”
- Sabrina Imbler, a nonfiction English concentrator from Hillsborough, California, will deliver an oration titled ““How Do We Want to Become?”
Honorary degrees are awarded by the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation and conferred by the University president — in English and in Latin — on the College Green. The University will honor eight candidates who have achieved great distinction in their fields:
- Cornelia Isabella Bargmann — neurobiologist and brain scientist
- Thomas G. Catena — medical doctor, humanitarian and TIME magazine most influential person
- Umberto Crenca — artist, performer and community leader
- Angus Deaton — Nobel Prize-winning economist
- Kevin Gover — director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian
- Antonia Hernández — social justice champion and nonprofit leader
- Jean Elizabeth Howard — teacher, scholar and Shakespeare expert
- Charles M. Rosenthal — business executive and civic leader
Awarding of Diplomas 2:00 p.m. | Various locations
Graduating seniors receive their diplomas at more than 50 departmental ceremonies immediately following the University ceremony. Location information, including a map and key, is printed in the Commencement program, which will be available online on Sunday morning.