Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, Alain Kaloyeros told graduates at Schenectady County Community College, that soon a laptop will have the computational power of the human brain.
It was one of several points used by Kaloyeros, the region’s technology “rock star” and CEO and senior vice president of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany, to get across his message to students that learning doesn’t stop with a diploma.
“You must therefore learn how to teach and learn in an ever-innovation-driven economy,” Kaloyeros told the graduates. “Even us old dogs, meaning the teachers, must continue to learn new tricks, and we can.”
Kaloyeros gave the commencement address Thursday evening at the 42nd SCCC graduation ceremony, held at Proctors. More than 600 students received degrees or certificates at the ceremony, including some from SUNY Delhi, with which SCCC has a partnership.
There were hoots and hollers as the graduates’ names were called, even an air horn. The attire of the graduates included the traditional caps and gowns and nontraditional adornments on the caps. One graduate of the culinary program had a rolling pin and beater on her hat. Another ditched the cap altogether in favor of a foam chicken wing hat complete with tassel.
In her remarks to the graduates, college board of trustees Chairwoman Denise Murphy McGraw singled out the graduate with the chicken wing hat, saying she wanted to make sure to get a picture with him before the evening was out.
It was McGraw who put in perspective the importance of the event’s main speaker, Kaloyeros, calling him one of the best speakers they’ve had.
“He’s a true rock star,” McGraw said. “He’s such a rock star that the president went to see him a few weeks ago — and we got him to come see us. How about that for us?”
President Obama visited the nanocollege May 8.
Kaloyeros’ speech could be called unconventional, often using humorous videos culled from the Internet to emphasize his points. The tone of the speech was set with Kaloyeros delivering a crowd-pleasing line congratulating the graduates: “You did it!” he said. “The tassel was worth all the hassle.”
Then there were the graduates themselves.
Speaking on behalf of the students were 2010 SCCC graduate and 2012 SUNY Delhi graduate Emily Miller and 2012 SCCC graduate Deryle McCann.
Miller, who graduated from Delhi with a degree in travel and tourism management, spoke of the years the graduates spent waiting to hear what classes would be offered and what internships they might get and waiting for their post-graduation life. But, Miller said, Thursday’s graduates shouldn’t rush into that new life.
“Take a minute to stop today, soak in the accomplishment that you graduated,” Miller said. “Turn off the cellphones, the computers and the iPads and realize how far you’ve come.”
McCann, a graduate in chemical dependency counseling, called it a great time to be at SCCC. The degrees the graduates received show they are well-educated, she said.
She urged her fellow graduates to go out into the world with a positive attitude and a strong spirit.
“Celebrate the days of success, and always prepare for the challenges that meet each of us as we venture through life,” McCann said.
SCCC President Quintin Bullock made it a point to praise the professors and the students’ parents and friends, saying both groups played important roles. After the ceremony, graduates gathered with those family members and friends for photos.
Erica Stark, a graduate in hotel and restaurant management, posed for a photo with her 2-year-old daughter, Anya, and a friend. Stark, of Scotia, said she’s still working on finding a job, putting out resumés.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Stark said, “but I’m just taking it one day at a time, really.”
Ben Barbur of Middle Falls earned his fire science certificate. He was one of those who went without the traditional mortarboard, instead choosing a firefighter’s helmet. He’s already a volunteer with the Middle Falls Volunteer Fire Department.
Barbur gathered with his family in the Proctors arcade.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “These guys were the ones that really pushed me go to. But my father here was like ‘You’ve got to go, go now.’ So I went and did it, and I’m glad I did.”