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Graduate Commencement Celebration

A message from Department Head Dr. Eileen Van Aken
Messages from members of the ISE Department

Doctoral Graduate Messages from their Advisors

Earning a doctoral degree is a big achievement. For many, the hooding ceremony represents more than the culmination of graduate studies; it also symbolizes the transition from student to colleague in higher education. Since the traditional hooding ceremony is not possible this semester, the students' doctoral advisors have left special messages below.

A special message for Kara Cave from her advisor, Dr. John Casali.
A special message for Gisou Haghighat from her co-advisor, Dr. Brian Kleiner.
A special message for Gisou Haghighat from her co-advisor, Dr. Niyousha Hosseinichimeh.
A special message for Alexandria Noble from her advisor, Dr. Charlie Klauer.
A special message for Natasha Smith from her advisor, Dr. Eileen Van Aken.
A special message for Brandon Thompson from his advisor, Dr. John Casali.
A special message for Taylan Topcu from his advisor, Dr. Kostas Triantis. 
A special message for Guangrui Xie from his advisor, Dr. Xi Chen. 

ISE Graduate Student Awards

ISE Outstanding Ph.D. Student


Alexandria Noble

ISE Outstanding Master’s Student


Nayara de Oliveira Faria

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants

Paul Bartholomew

Paul Bartholomew


Nan Jiang

College of Engineering Outstanding Master’s Student


Messages from ISE Alumni

Virginia Tech's Class of 2020 experienced a final semester unlike any other. Our alumni have sent heartfelt congratulatory messages just for you. 

"Deep knowledge and ideas on how to solve problems will be needed in this era of uncertainty. Whether you start immediately your future in industry or academia, you must always be aware that VT ISE graduates are extremely well-prepared to rise to the occasion. We will be watching as you meet all expectations. Congrats!"

-Alexandra Medina-Borja '95, '02

"Congratulations! Know other significant achievements are ahead. The work completed for your degree created a solid foundation for your career, family, friendships, and personal wellbeing."

-Marilyn Smith '84

"Congratulations! With all of the change we face today, I cannot think of a better time to be an Industrial Engineer. In upheaval lies opportunity. Find something in our world that is changing and focus on making the change and the world in which we live better."

-Steven M. Belz, Ph.D. '95, '97, '00

"This 2020 year has already presented humanity with many, many challenges. Given these uncertain times, the VT ISE Class of 2020 is uniquely poised to enter the workforce with a bang and make a hugely positive impact very quickly. CONGRATS ISE CLASS OF 2020!!!"

-Dan Surber '10

"The more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. As you go forward in your career, be open, be generous, be humble, and stay hungry for knowledge."

-Suvrajeet Sen '82

"Congratulations class of 2020. You can now face the world as a Virginia Tech graduate, able to deal with all the issues this virus can cause. And help others cope as well. This event will be long remembered; you survived and will prosper! UT PROSIM. GO HOKIES!"

-Carroll Garland Hagen '67

"Your life's path is determined by your choices; so choose well. If you are afraid, then don't do it. If you are going to do it, then don't be afraid. Never be afraid to help others or to promote the common good for you are a Hokie!"

-Vinod Chachra '69, '72

"Stay confident and pursue all opportunities. In a time of crisis, there are new openings that could prove to be valuable. You have worked hard and will get through this."

-Kirk Spitzer '67

"I studied industrial and systems engineering as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech about 25 years ago. After graduation, my career started in industry, and then transitioned to public service. I am forever grateful for all the amazing professional opportunities this degree has positioned me to pursue. I hope you have enjoyed your time at Tech, and wish you all the best in the next phase of your life. Go Hokies!"

-Olivier A. Girod '96

"Congratulations, what a huge accomplishment. We are so thankful for all of the research and work that has been put in during your time in doctoral and masters programs. It is people like you who will step forward and drive innovation and progress during unsure and difficult times like we are facing now."

-Rebecca Ovelgoenner '11

"Congratulations and welcome to the Hokie Alumni Association! Wherever life and jobs may take you, trust your instincts and rest in knowing your VT education ranks amongst the best in the world. You are a problem solver and the world needs you and your talents. Wishing you all the best. Ut Prosim!"

-Scott Pearl '84

"Our world needs you, your talents and knowledge, your energy and enthusiasm, and your leadership. You are well prepared to serve now and in the years ahead. Best wishes!"

-Curtis J Tompkins '65, '67

"As Shakespeare said: "Be great in act, as you have been in thought," and, "No legacy is so rich as honesty." Congrats and good luck!"

-Maggie Dozier '15


"Find your passion and pursue it with vigor. Always look to be a part of the solution and never a part of the problem. Choose happiness. Finally, live the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim."

-Thomas Davis '01


"My major professor told me when my planned dissertation subject failed to materialize to select a topic that meant something to my profession (I was an Army officer at the time) - your dissertation does NOT define you - it's how you use the skills necessary to complete your dissertation that matter. Go forth and do great things with those skills. Life is a challenge - but it's so worth doing."

-Daniel Gower '92

"I am so sorry that you did not get to experience those final days on campus that are filled with such excitement, stress, and anticipation...all worth it because you are living in Blacksburg!!! We can't reclaim those missed moments, but trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in this moment, and all of your experiences up to this point have well prepared you for the tasks ahead of you. God bless you and your families as you celebrate your success and toast your future! Ut Prosim."

-Alana Mason Love '87


"There is no one, and I mean no one, that is better equipped to handle this new world than you are. 30-Year industry veterans have just had their world turned upside down. We all just got put back on the starting blocks. Forget corporate hierarchies, you all are now the experts. Younger, hungrier, and better prepared than any alumni. Now make your mark. Go Hokies!"

-Rew Dickinson '10

"You will soon be a Virginia Tech graduate and your accomplishment, in light of the challenges facing the world, is no small feat. Many more adverse events will hit you in life, but like the ocean tides, they push you around a little, and then go away for awhile. Keep your ground, move a little if you have to, but remember this next time, like the last time, you will manage to stay afloat. You have endured and are most welcome in this fraternity of Hokie grads, and may you always find solid ground when you think back on the education you earned, of which no one can take away, as well as the great memories you have from Virginia Tech!"

-Don E.K. Campbell '90

"Congratulations! Wear your Hokie gear proudly, and maintain connections with your classmates. You'll really treasure sharing memories and accomplishments with them in the coming decades."

-Cole Smith '00

"Einstein said "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." You have deepened your craft, your passion, and your knowledge. Now, go find the opportunities that await you. Hokie pride!"

-Chris Rockwell '92

"As you move into the unknown and find yourself without a light to guide yourself, think back on your core purpose and how your work, in any setting, is important. Deming said it best with "Motivation - nonsense. All that people need to know is why their work is important."

-Neal Moriconi '14


"Congratulations! It may seem like a challenging time to enter the workforce, but your experience at Virginia Tech will serve you well. The COVID-19 crisis will put a premium on resiliency, adaptability, and problem solving - all things I know you learned as a Hokie. Find reasons to stay engaged with your classmates. It may not seem like it now, but this network will be more important than your specific academic knowledge. Don't be anxious to "start a company" immediately. Find a passion. Get deep into an area and really understand it intimately. This is when the business opportunities will appear. We are proud of you all! Go out and represent Hokie Nation with pride."

-Jaime A. Smith '89

"I've always been told (and found it to be true) that in times of chaos (for everyone else) are the best times to take control of things and drive them to the way you want them to be. Be the first to act and propose a plan or new way of thinking / acting. Having made a conscious decision to take time and continue your education, I'm sure this isn't exactly how you expected it to culminate. But use this time afterward to help society (and companies) rethink how they should be prepared for the "no way that will happen" events of the future. E.g. In this case, companies who had prioritized digital offerings are thriving while those that did not are feeling the pain. For those who have had their job search/offerings impacted by the pandemic--I can only try to empathize and I was in grad school during the financial crisis; completely different but similar contraction of the economy. I didn't get my job offer until the week of graduation, and I know many who did not have jobs until months after graduation. They are all doing great now and leaders of their company; and had I not gotten the job I took at that point I would have never made it to Google or had nearly the impact on others that I've had now."

Khalif Oliver '04

"I graduated during the Vietnam war crisis. I lived through other wars, tragedies, and economic setbacks. They all pass into history, eventually. What is important is to remember the lessons learned and become wiser with time. And to cherish the relationships with friends and family during the tough times. I have been in touch with several of my dearest friends from Virginia Tech this week and we still support each other. Remain confident and use your new problem solving skills to get through this trying period. Good luck!!"

-Jerry Batt '72