Manjul Bhargava delivering his commencement address. Behind him are the other honorands. Left to right in the front row: Joan Benoit Samuelson, Thomas Moser, and Mark Abelson.
In what is definitely a first for Bates College, and a rare occurrence for Liberal Arts schools in general, this year’s commencement speaker was a mathematician. We were incredibly lucky to have Manjul Bhargava, Fields Medalist and Princeton professor (and hopefully new friend), deliver this year’s address. Our math majors, a particularly strong and happy group, were really excited to have him, but I was really happy to see that the reception from the Bates graduating class and their families was really positive too.
O, the bittersweet feeling of the end of the school year. So much happiness to be done with the exhausting cycle of teaching and grading, but so sad to see many students graduating and leaving your classes. These last five weeks were particularly brutal and particularly rewarding in different ways, since I was teaching a course that we affectionately refer to as “Math Camp”. Today is the last day of this intense experience, and I wanted to share some thoughts on the pros and cons of teaching such an accelerated and focussed class.
I had a rude awakening a few weeks ago when I realized I was driving with almost no brakes. I commute to work (45 minutes each way), so driving is a big part of my day. I knew something was not quite right with my car but I kept ignoring it and putting it off because I was too busy. “I’ll get to it when the semester is over,” is my motto for pretty much anything that is not work-related (and some that is, like research). But only after realizing that (had I not been pressured by a colleague to get my car checked out) I could have ended up driving on I-95 at 70 miles an hour with no brakes did I see how messed up and dangerous this life philosophy is.