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Kevin Jeffay speaks during the 2024 UNC CS Commencement Ceremony
May 17, 2024
Composite photo from the kick-off reception; left: graduates pose with faculty member Kris Jordan, right: Rameses and Spot compete in a push-up competition
The weekend began with a reception outside Brooks Building. Left: Professor of the Practice Kris Jordan receives a gift from former COMP 110 learning assistants | Right: Spot and Rameses compete in a push-up competition

Carolina Computer Science Celebrates the Class of 2024

The Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill honored its nearly 500 new graduates with a weekend filled with celebration and Tar Heel spirit. The festivities culminated in a departmental commencement ceremony at the Dean E. Smith Center, where 2,500 enthusiastic guests gathered to cheer on the Class of 2024.

A Weekend of Celebration

The celebrations kicked off with a reception on Friday, May 10. Graduates, along with their families, friends, and UNC CS faculty and staff, gathered at Sitterson Hall and Brooks Building to begin the weekend’s celebrations. The atmosphere was filled with nostalgia and excitement as attendees reminisced about their time at UNC, took photos with Rameses and Spot the robotic dog, and grabbed some UNC CS swag to represent the department wherever they go.

Left: Youngjoong Kwon (center) is hooded by Director of Graduate Studies Jasleen Kaur (left) and her dissertation adviser Henry Fuchs during the department hooding ceremony | Right: Professor Mohit Bansal (center) poses with six of his dissertation advisees who were hooded during the ceremony

Honoring Doctoral Achievements

On Saturday, May 11, the department hosted a hooding ceremony and celebratory lunch reception for doctoral graduates. Kevin Jeffay, chair of the Department of Computer Science, welcomed everyone, emphasizing the historical significance of the hooding ceremony.

“These graduates have shown us that technology, when used responsibly, is a powerful catalyst for growth and change,” Jeffay said.

The hooding ceremony was an intimate and personal event where advisors hooded their students, symbolizing their transition from students to masters of their research area. Each graduate’s accomplishments and contributions to the field were recognized, highlighting their expertise and marking a significant milestone in their academic careers.

A Grand Celebration in the Smith Center

The department’s annual commencement ceremony took place on Sunday, May 12, in the iconic Dean E. Smith Center. Jeffay acknowledged the faculty’s role in guiding the students through their rigorous academic programs and emphasized the significance of this milestone.

“Today, we celebrate not just your academic achievements, but the resilience and innovation you’ve shown through unprecedented times,” Jeffay said. “Your adaptability and dedication will lead you to make significant impacts in the tech world.”

The ceremony was a vibrant celebration of student achievements and personal milestones. Graduates personalized the moment with shout-outs to friends and family, expressing gratitude and love. There were heartfelt “thank you” messages to faculty, celebratory backflips, and even a wedding announcement, adding to the excitement of the day. Messages to mothers were especially poignant, celebrating both Mother’s Day and the graduates’ accomplishments.

A recording of the commencement event in the Smith Center can be found on the department’s YouTube channel.

bachelor's degree graduates celebrate after crossing the stage at commencement

Celebrating Excellence: Awards and Honors

The department ceremony was also an opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements of its faculty and students, including the department’s annual awards.

  • Computer Science Student Association Excellence in Teaching Award: Faculty members Andrew Kwong and Shahriar Nirjon were selected by the graduate students of the department to be recognized with the annual award for excellence in graduate-level education.
  • Undergraduate Faculty Award: Professor Connor “Cece” McMahon was honored for her impact on the undergraduate community in her first year with the department.
  • John M. Glotzer Teaching Assistant Award: Ryan Brown, a teaching assistant for COMP 550, was recognized for his inclusive support of his students.
  • Diane Pozefsky Learning Assistant Award: Vrinda Desai and Aziz Al-Shayef were recognized with the awards for lower division and upper division courses, respectively. Desai was honored for her outstanding work in COMP 110, bringing optimism and dedication to her role. Al-Shayef received the award for his support in COMP 311, making complex topics accessible and creating tutorial videos for his peers.
  • Stephen F. Weiss Award for Outstanding Achievement: Felipe Yanaga was celebrated for his exceptional academic journey, research involvement, and leadership within the department.
Students and faculty gather before the commencement ceremony in the Smith Center
Students and faculty gather before the commencement ceremony in the Smith Center. Left: Associate Chair for Academic Affairs Montek Singh congratulates some of his former students | Right: A group of undergraduate degree graduates poses for a photo

Inspiring Reflections from Graduate Grace Coleman

Grace Coleman, a Bachelor of Science graduate in computer science, delivered a commencement address that resonated with her peers. Reflecting on the unique journey of the Class of 2024, Coleman emphasized the importance of problem-solving, resilience, and the strong bonds formed during their time at UNC.

“We found solutions, sometimes obvious, sometimes hidden, but we always found a way forward,” Coleman said. She also highlighted the invaluable friendships and connections made within the department, which extended beyond academic pursuits.

Looking to the Future

As the ceremonies concluded, Jeffay encouraged the graduates to be bold in their ambitions.

“You are the trailblazers of tomorrow. Use your knowledge and skills to push boundaries and drive innovation,” he said.

Grace Coleman echoed this sentiment reminding her peers of their collective strength and resilience.

“We’ve faced challenges head-on and emerged stronger. Remember that the friendships and connections we’ve made here will support us as we navigate the future.”

The weekend’s festivities ended with a sense of accomplishment and excitement for what’s to come. Graduates, now equipped with the skills and experience gained at UNC, are ready to embark on their next adventures, carrying with them the friendships, knowledge, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Congratulations to the Class of 2024! Go Heels! We cannot wait to welcome you back to Sitterson Hall and Brooks Building!