On Saturday, May 21, the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin celebrated the graduating Class of 2022 with an in-person convocation for the first time in three years (the previous two spring graduation celebrations were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Excited graduates, their families, faculty, staff, and friends of the iSchool gathered at the William C. Powers Jr. Student Activity Center Auditorium for the event, which was also live streamed on the iSchool’s website for guests who were unable to attend or preferred to watch virtually.
Dean Eric T. Meyer
Live music provided by Central Texas Philharmonic accompanied the processional, lead by Dr. Soo Young Reih, who served as marshal and provided welcoming remarks. Dean Eric T. Meyer then congratulated students on the enormous accomplishment of completing their studies in the midst of a pandemic, saying, “Working from home, taking classes online, using Zoom and Panopto and a huge range of technologies and devices to cope with an unexpected and sudden pandemic is causing many to rethink the ways we work, communicate, and connect. You are setting out on careers that will play an intimate role in that conversation, and I am confident that you are well prepared to be leading voices in the coming years.” Next, Dr. Randolph Bias introduced the guest speaker, Joyce Durst, CEO and co-founder of Growth Acceleration Partners (GAP).
“iSchool grads, you are more educated that any generation before you,” Durst said. “You are more diverse and more global thinking. You possess a mindset and ability to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, including the environment, healthcare, data privacy, social justice, cybercrime, the digital divide, designing the technologies of the future and the writing of history just to name a few.” A self-proclaimed superfan of superhero movies, Durst remarked that standing on stage she felt as if she were looking out on the next generation of superheroes with the skills, moral conviction, and courage to conquer the collective that Durst dubbed the “Legion of Information Doom.” She encouraged graduates to use their superpowers as highly trained information professions to defeat villains such as Invisio, the Space Burglar, and Apatheetus by embracing the mission to serve and making the world a better and fairer place with information and technology.
In addition to celebrating graduating students, this year’s commencement was also an opportunity to acknowledge, reflect, and learn from past injustices that some people have encountered in their pursuit of higher education, Dr. Edgar Gómez-Cruz, the iSchool’s Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion reminded the audience. The iSchool officially awarded Ada Collins Anderson, the school’s first Black student, with a Master of Science in Information Studies degree posthumously in recognition of her academic accomplishments and acknowledgement of the racial barriers that prevented Mrs. Anderson from obtaining her degree in 1953: despite completing all of the required coursework for the degree, Mrs. Anderson was denied placement for a mandatory field internship at the Texas State Library because of racial segregation practices in effect at the time.
Following a video presentation about Ada Anderson’s legacy as a civil rights leader and philanthropist, Dr. Gómez-Cruz presented Anderson’s family with the master’s degree, stating, “I’m sure you all will agree that 60 years of work in education, arts, mentorship, and helping others is a valuable internship. And because an internship was all Ms. Anderson needed to obtain her master’s degree in library science, it is time for us to finally correct that injustice and acknowledge that Ada Anderson fulfilled all the requisites to obtain her degree.”
Following remarks from Dr. Suzanne Barber, Director of the Information Security and Privacy master’s program, all of the graduating students in attendance were honored: 40 MSIS students, 12 MSISP students, and two doctoral students.
Congratulations, master’s of information! Go forth and change the world!