Friday, May 20, 2011

Master of Science

I graduated today! I can attach M.S. after my name in all things now, though I'm still extremely inspired to get a PhD, if for nothing else but the hats. My mom said PhD regalia reminds her of Hogwarts.

Anyway, I was selected as one of the student speakers for graduation, and for those who weren't there, this is what I said:

"Good morning. I am honored to represent the first graduating class of the Boston University School of Medicine Program in Forensic Anthropology today. For the past two years, my classmates and I have had to figure out how to explain just what it is we do. The simplest definition of "forensic anthropology" I can offer is "the study of skeletal remains in a legal context." Comprehensive training in forensic anthropology exposes the student to skeletons, clandestine graves, and other things too ghastly and horrific to mention here...such as the Master's thesis. That said, I'll admit it was a challenge finding something from within my studies to relate to the future in order to provide an inspirational graduation message.

"In forensic anthropology (and forensic science in general), we learn about the importance of a multidisciplinary approach: one person's expertise is usually not enough. As scientists in a relatively specialized field, we must learn to rely on the strengths and training of others to provide us with all the evidence we need. Essentially, it takes a village to complete a case. This is something I've learned to apply as a student and as a member of the academic community. I am grateful for the academic environment at the Boston University School of Medicine, which exposes its students to vast resources, multiple specialties, and caring faculty and staff. We have never had to go through our journey alone. To all of the faculty members in the Forensic Anthropology Program, I thank you for your direction and your confidence; to my friends and classmates, I am grateful for the laughs and commiseration we've shared, and for the support you've provided these past two years.

"Though at school I put on the airs of a dyed-in-the-wool scientist, I have a confession to make: I love musical theatre. In the Broadway musical Wicked, Galinda the Good Witch observes, "There are bridges you cross you didn't know you've crossed until you've crossed ("Thank Goodness," lyrics by Stephen Schwartz). For most of us, we saw our Masters' programs as bridges: the two or three years spent between our undergraduate educations and the rest of our academic and professional lives. It's easy to get lost in the minutiae of coursework, exams, projects, and thesis writing as we trudge forward toward graduation and our future plans, but I encourage all of you, when you have a moment to breathe, to reflect on the past years. Try to remember what you knew (or didn't know) before you came here. In the eternal scheme of things, our time as Masters' students is but a small moment, but the effect of this time on us is staggering. When we look back, it is amazing to see how far we've come. Let us never forget to appreciate in this short time all that we have done, all that we have learned, and most importantly, all that we have become.

"As we stand at the juncture between the bridges that were our Masters' programs and the road ahead, I'd like to offer one last piece of advice gleaned from my forensic anthropology coursework: learn to adjust your strategy. As anthropologists in the field, we make neat and organized plans for a systematic search and excavation effort, but the world is messy, and more often than not, human or environmental factors force us to reevaluate the scene and adapt to a situation that is far from our ideal. The same applies to our lives: what we have planned for ourselves isn't always what the future has in store for us. Sometimes when we're reaching for what we want (or what we think we want), we fall, but where we land might not be so bad, and when we get back up, we may find that our "backup plan" is really what makes us happiest. Instead of stubbornly fighting against fate for what we thought we wanted, we can be flexible and let the road take us somewhere even better. Wherever your paths lead you, I wish you luck, hope, and good sense. Congratulations, Class of 2011!"

I pretty much gave the best speech ever, even the Dean was jealous.

1 comment:

  1. hooray! just wish I could've heard this in person. I'm glad you managed to quote musical theatre! That last paragraph was really good for me to read right now.