Fall commencement celebrates graduates and distinguished alumnus

December 19, 2016

The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) hosted its fall commencement on Sunday, December 18, in Wilson Library. The event celebrated graduates who earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Science (BSIS), Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS), Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS), and Doctor of Philosophy in Information and Library Science (PhD).

Xin Fu (PhD ’08) delivers the commencement address.

The ceremony included recognition of the most recent SILS Distinguished Alumnus, Xin Fu (PhD ’08), who also delivered the commencement address, “Go together, Go far.”

Fu, who is now a senior Director of Data Science at LinkedIn, related stories from his own professional path to help demonstrate the importance of relationships, networking, and teamwork. When he was a SILS student, Fu said that he only considered applying for an internship at Google because a friend had succeeded in landing a job there. The internship eventually led to Fu’s first permanent position after graduating from UNC. Later, he transitioned from Google to Microsoft after a former manager recommended he apply for a position with the company.

“This is the power of networking,” Fu said. “It helps expand your horizons and exposes you to new opportunities.”

Fu told the graduates they were fortunate to be joining a strong network of SILS alumni and encouraged them to continuing growing their networks, both through personal interactions and by taking advantage of online tools like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Graduates smile after turning their tassels.

Working at LinkedIn for nearly five years, Fu said he had been greatly influenced by two aspects of the company’s culture, an emphasis on relationships and on career transformation. He cited an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” to underscore the importance of teamwork in many modern working environments. He then related how he had used each of his educational and professional experiences to help build his skills so he would be ready for the next opportunity.   

“At the core of this journey, I know what ultimately drives me and motivates me is my passion and curiosity about understanding how people interact with information, and how we, as information professionals, can help make their experience better,” he said. “Graduating from SILS, one of the most important skills we have is the ability to analyze, to organize, and to plan. We also care so deeply about people so we always bring a human centered perspective into everything we do. I’m surely biased, but I am convinced that with the advancement in technology, the world needs more, not fewer, professionals who deeply understand both the technology and human needs so we can leverage the right technology to create the right experiences. For that reason, I believe that you are the luckiest graduates in the entire university, because you know what the world needs and you know how to meet those needs.”

Graduates and faculty on the steps of Wilson Library.

After Fu’s address, SILS Alumni Association (SILSAA) Vice President/President-Elect Doug Diesenhaus (MSLS '12) formally welcomed the graduates to SILSAA and explained the organization’s mission. Diesenhaus then presented Fu with a framed certificate acknowledging his selection for the SILS Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his accomplishments in human-computer interaction through his professional work and scholarly publications, and his ongoing support of SILS. Click here to read more about Fu’s selection for the 2016 award.

Graduates were then called by name to ascend the stage and shake hands with SILS Dean Gary Marchionini and all faculty members in attendance before accepting their diplomas. Dean Marchionni closed the ceremony by instructing the 2016 graduates to turn their tassels.

Click here for a pdf of the commencement program with a full list of graduates and honors. For more photos from the event, visit the SILS Flickr album.