Hello my name is Andrew Nieuwsma and it is my privilege to speak to you tonight.  We are gathered here because we are now proud alumni of the MSSE program. We have run our race with endurance, we have fulfilled our joyful struggle. 

When Mike asked me to speak at “commencement” I thought he meant that long one we all just came from, I was very relieved when he clarified he meant this party instead. I asked him for a bit of guidance on what to speak about and of course he said, “it depends”.

I considered whether or not I should write this speech or if I should do what I’ve done the last two years and make things up as I go.  Hopefully I’ll stick pretty close to my notes.

Over the past two years we have been on a journey.  It has been a journey of self-discovery, a journey of learning, and I believe it has been a journey worth undertaking.  When I got interested in the MSSE a little over two years ago Mike said this journey would be ‘short but painful’. Ladies and gentlemen I can tell you with great certainty that Mike is a man of his word.  In the past two years we have neglected weeks of sleep, we have made sacrifices and pushed ourselves to do more than we thought we could.

In the past two years we have all shared so many memories.  We have spent countless hours studying, reading, preparing. We have enjoyed our lunch times together, philosophizing and sharing stories.  Making one another laugh, and blowing off steam before we had to return to hours of more … “fun”

We have sent 10s of thousands of slack messages, most of them great memes, expressing our feelings on a wide variety of topics.  Collectively we have written thousands of pages of homework, design documents and write ups. We have learned that creatures achieve skills. And that anything is possible when you know how to ask google the right question. I am confident that we couldn’t have done it without one another and many of the people you see here in this room.

To that end I would like to thank a few people.  I’d like to thank the spouses, partners, children, families and friends who we’ve all had less time that we could spend with, but have given us their undying support on this journey.  Let’s give them a hand…

I would like to thank the countless baristas and bartenders who helped keep us motivated and on track with the right mix of caffeine and alcohol.

I would like to thank the US Federal loan program, who have given me this awesome opportunity to pay back all the money I just borrowed.

I would like to thank Mats, our CS department head. His commitment to education and his never ending use of the phrase ‘it depends’ have given us the courage to label ourselves as experts in our field.  Thank you to Mike, our program director, who taught us to question things… like what the heck have we gotten ourselves into? And is he a sadist? Or a masochist? Assigning us all this work. I would like to personally thank Mike for the  longest and most painful assignment of the entire program (our phase 3 architecture project). I hope that someday you can be repaid all the joy you gave us.

Thank you to all of our instructors, who put up with us week after week and worked hard to further our education. Kevin, Neil, Praveen, Steve, Ian, Amy, Rick, Dan, John… any to anyone else I may be missing.

I would also like to thank John Carlis, who we all wish could be with us here right now.  As many of you know, John lost his battle with cancer, and we miss him greatly. It was John who greeted us before class, with hand puppets, tired puns and a strong admonishment to embrace the ‘joyful struggle’.  It would be in some of our most tired moments that a classmate would remind us to embrace the joyful struggle, and I had to admit, they were right. I had signed up for this, I knew what I was getting myself into, and I could choose to face the work with joy, or with pessimism.

Finally I would like to thank my classmates.  Each and every one of them. You’ve made this a great experience, one I wouldn’t trade for anything else.   I would like to think it is our sense of questioning that got us here today. It was that built in drive to know more, to find answers that compels us to this program and one another. I would like to thank my peers because you helped one another, you talked us back from the ledge, you showed up and did not slack on assignments.  Thank you.  Let’s give them a hand…

When I think about my experiences and the opportunities I have had while in the MSSE it gives me pause for consideration.  I know many of us have migrated to better work opportunities as the MSSE has equipped us to be leaders in our fields, and I think that is very awesome. We can now proudly call ourselves masters of software engineering.

And it is that technology that surrounds us; it has redefined our human experience, but of course our families and friends all know this, because we are their on-call IT support. But technology is more than just computers and appliances, technology is a tool.  As a tool it knows no evil or good, it cannot think for itself, it cannot reason for itself (… yet…) it depends on good women and men to use it in the betterment of our world; and I am honored to be among those who will fulfill that mandate.

I will leave you with these words, from a U.S. president, a New Yorker with a reputation for always speaking what was on his mind,… no not that one… Teddy Roosevelt.

“There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced person– and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.”

In closing, As I look at the world around me, I see many complex and beautiful systems.  Some of them are very healthy and others cry out to us, looking for selfless leaders who will imagine the change we all need to see. I see so many opportunities for us all to be leaders.  We are positioned to use our skills and God given talents to make this world shine brighter, to not just do a job, but really make a difference. I am encouraged and inspired to think of all the good that we will accomplish. I am excited to think of all the light we will bring.

Please join me in this toast, “to our future, to our happiness and to a good life”…  Cheers


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