Sal Khan to deliver 2012 address

Record 80 percent participation in Senior Gift Challenge

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Fred F. Chen G, PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, receives his doctoral hood from Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 and department head Anantha Chandrakasan in Rockwell Cage Thursday.
David Da He—The Tech

MIT’s 146th Commencement exercises will take place this morning on Killian Court, where more than 2,400 graduating students will receive about 3,200 degrees.

According to Registrar Mary Callahan, for the Academic Year 2011-2012, 1,013 bachelor’s degree, 1,605 master’s degrees, 17 Engineer Degrees, and 573 doctoral degrees were awarded. These figures include September and February graduates. At today’s ceremony, 939 undergraduate students and 1545 graduate students will be present to receive their diplomas.

According to Associate Director of MIT Career Services, Deborah L. Liverman, who cited results from this year’s senior survey, 38 percent of responding seniors said they will be attending graduate school after graduation, 52 percent will be working, 4 percent will be enrolled in some other educational program, and 1 percent will be participating in a distinguished fellowship.

84 percent of seniors and graduating masters students will be working in the US whereas 15 percent will be outside the US, Liverman said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, half of the senior class had responded to the survey, which opened two weeks ago.

This year’s commencement address will be given by Salman A. Khan ’98, the founder of the not-for-profit Khan Academy online educational organization.

Khan’s site hosts more than 3,200 online tutorials with more than 6 million monthly viewers.

Khan, 35, is MIT’s youngest commencement speaker in at least 30 years and was recently named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. On May 12 this year, Khan gave his first commencement address at Rice University.

As The Tech reported on Dec. 6, Khan was the senior class president as an undergraduate at MIT and earned a bachelor’s and master’s in Course 6 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) along with a bachelor’s in Course 18 (Mathematics). He also served on the committee that advises the MIT President in choosing a commencement speaker the year that U.S. President William J. Clinton and AIDS researcher David Ho spoke.

Also addressing the graduates will be Nathaniel S. Fox ’12, the president of the class of 2012 for the past three years. His speech, he says, focuses on the idea that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He aims to encourage seniors to avoid losing sight of the “big picture” in life and to “have purpose, have meaning, and have something that drives” them as they leave MIT.

2012 was the class that saw a visit from President Obama, the search for a new MIT Chancellor and President, the opening of a new undergraduate dorm, and the flight of its brass rat in space. As a final notch in its legacy, the Class of 2012 set the record for participation in the Senior Gift Challenge.

In 2000 only about a quarter of the senior class participated in this program, as MIT President Susan A. Hockfield mentioned at the Champagne toast to kick off Senior Week last Friday. Since then, participation has increased to 76 percent with the class of 2011, and so the class of 2012 Senior Gift committee set a goal of 80 percent class participation. The class of 2012 just barely met this goal, setting a new record of 80.5 percent participation, according to Zachary R. Dearing ’12, co-chair of the Senior Gift committee with Philip D. Hunt ’12.

In the past, the seniors have donated to a single cause on behalf of the Institute. “This year there isn’t a single senior gift — instead, every donor got to decide where their donation would go to whether a sports team, dorm, extracurricular activity, etc.,” Dearing said.

The strategy to get a new record of participation? Dearing said his committee of about 25 seniors “living in all different dorms and involved in many different sports and activities on campus” set “baby goals” along the way to inch the senior class’ participation up over the year.

Because the seniors met the 80 percent goal, Lois Champy MAR ’71 has pledged to donate $30,000 to the Institute.

Despite the rainy week, the seniors spent their last days as undergraduates at a variety of fun events as part of Senior Week. From clubbing at The Estate to skydiving in northern Massachusetts to riding rollercoasters at Six Flags New England, the events organized by the Senior Week committee, chaired by Kimberly M. Sparling ’12 and Carter A. Chang ’12, marked a memorable end to the seniors’ time at the Institute.

Sparling said the experience of organizing these events has been rewarding despite the challenging logistics.

“It’s great to see classmates really enjoying themselves and relaxing,” she said. “It’s also cool to meet a lot more seniors than I knew previously; we go to events and check people in, so I feel like I know a good portion of our class now.”