The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill honored more than 250 doctoral graduates during a ceremony held in the Dean E. Smith Center featuring keynote speaker Anna Maria Siega-Riz ‘82 (Ph.D. ‘93), who encouraged graduates to be compassionate change-makers during their careers, whether in the academy or in industry.
“Make compassion a critical element of who you are. We all need a bit more compassion in our fields,” she said. “Congratulations for your hard work, tenacity, and perseverance.”
Siega-Riz is dean and professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Beth Mayer-Davis, dean of The Graduate School, said alumni of graduate education in North Carolina are among the next generation of leaders.
“Our graduate alumni are at the crossroads of research and impact — they become public servants, scientists, business leaders, and world-renowned experts,” she said. “And through years of near-constant change and the grand challenges facing our society, they have triumphed and made our world a better place.”
During the annual hooding ceremony, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz reflected on the beauty of Chapel Hill and its low stone walls — and how graduate students shape our University community.
“You have built friendships with colleagues across campus, found opportunities to share your expertise and enthusiasm outside your own discipline, and appreciated all the ways Carolina benefits from its connections to the wider world,” he said. “My charge to you today is to take that culture of openness and low barriers with you into the world.”
The Graduate School, founded in 1903, oversees the administration of more than 160 degrees that span more than 80 programs. It will confer more than 1,400 master’s and doctoral degrees during spring 2023 commencement exercises.
“Welcome to the community of innovators, to the community of compassionate change-makers who want to make this a better world,” she said. “Having mentors is critical to your success and well-being,” Siega-Riz said.
Faculty Awards for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring
Two faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill have received The Graduate School’s Faculty Awards for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring. This year’s recipients have encouraged students to establish their own record of scholarly activity or performance; provides a supportive environment that facilitates the development of best performance and talents from individual graduate students; and achieves a successful record of graduate degree completion among the students they have advised.
The 2023 recipients are Gary Pielak, from the Department of Chemistry, and Kumi Silva, with the Department of Communication; both are part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Pielak has mentored more than 50 graduate students during his more than 30-year career at UNC-Chapel Hill.
One nomination for this award noted his ability to create a welcoming, fun, and intellectually stimulation environment for pursing a Ph.D. Another noted his work as an “outstanding advisor who consistently provided exceptional support.”
Similarly, Silva has mentored dozens of graduate students and is committed to building community so graduate students can succeed. She is currently the acting director of the Asian American Center and came to Carolina in 2011. One nominee wrote: “Dr. Silva has been an immense support as I earn a doctoral degree while also parenting two young kids.” and “Dr. Silva has done everything in her power to support me. … She is the epitome of a caring mentor.”