On Saturday, December 12, 2020, 43 students from the University of Washington’s M.S. in Technology Innovation (MSTI) degree graduated in a virtual ceremony streamed live to hundreds of viewers around the world. The event marked the culmination of 15 months of intensive virtual and in person work at the GIX Steve Ballmer Building in Bellevue. Some graduates are preparing to start their careers, while others will continue on to earn a MS in Engineering (Data Science & IT) from Tsinghua University as part of the GIX dual degree program.
Bridget Frey, chief technology officer at Redfin Real Estate delivered the commencement address. Frey shared some of her personal experiences, while imparting the value of addressing meaningful problems, celebrating diversity, and fostering inclusivity through one’s work. “As an industry, we’re maybe more aware than we’ve ever been about how critical it is to be inclusive of people of all backgrounds, and yet there’s been more talk than action,” Frey said. “There are a lot of people throwing up their hands and saying [the lack of diversity] is just too hard to solve. But when was the last time the tech industry said something was too hard? My ask is to make sure that the spaces you occupy in the tech industry are inclusive ones. When you disagree, disagree respectfully. As you take on more responsibility, recognize the power you have to make a difference. I encourage you to always remember the perseverance and drive you showed in navigating this year of shattered expectations.”
Jerry Liang, selected by his peers to speak on behalf of the class, reflected on the importance of remaining positive in times of uncertainty, and relying on peers for support. “There is a saying in Zulu: ubuntu. It is the essence of being human,” he shared. “To be human, you must learn from other humans. The better you are, the better I am. We celebrate the accomplishments of the entire cohort, not just those of individual people. The things we did were more impactful together; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
“I thought it was a super unique experience to graduate virtually from my bedroom,” said MSTI student Kelsey Guo. “GIX did a fantastic job at making the event feel special even though everyone was not physically together for the event.”
Dr. Shwetak Patel, interim executive director of GIX (UW), explained what makes the educational experience unique. “We’ve assembled a network of leading academic institutions and industry partners that are pushing the boundaries of experiential learning and education,” said Patel. “Our mission is to graduate and develop talent that leverages emerging technologies in unique ways that have a true societal impact. One of the things that has been near and dear to me is that [the program provides] a holistic experience to our students, including design thinking, entrepreneurship, technology prototyping, and [an understanding of] the impact that technology can have.”
Yunhao Liu, Dean of GIX (Tsinghua University) shared his message of congratulations to the graduates of the MSTI program. “During these 15 months, you have studied in the heart of innovation in the US,” he said. “You have experienced the pioneering interdisciplinary learning model. You have developed your knowledge to a deeper level, and you have launched your final project. I congratulate you most ardently on your successful completion of the MSTI. Some of you are about to step out of campus and swim in the ocean of innovation. We are proud of you and wish to hear your voice in the future that is soon to come. The world’s most pressing problems demand innovation, and they know no bounds between disciplines or geography.”
Working with mentors from GIX Consortium companies and partner organizations, students on ten Launch Project teams addressed real world challenges through solutions that included novel uses for emerging 5G networks, higher-quality rapid diagnostic testing, early screening of ear infections using noise-cancelling headphones, and more. Learn about these and other projects here.
“Congratulations to all the students of the UW MSTI graduating class of 2020,” said Linda Wagner, director of academic programs for the UW MSTI. “You have shown an unprecedented ability to adapt and thrive, and we are very excited to see what you continue to design, build, and launch throughout your careers.”