NPI Services, Inc. and The Big Commencement

Recently, NPI Services has participated in a goodly number of University of California events, particularly in sciences and engineering at UC Irvine. The first three weeks of June have seen ARCS Scholar Anne Kelly of the Earth System Science Department at UCI defend her California-focused doctoral thesis, “Climate controls on ecosystem range, biomass, and water cycling.” The next day, UCI’s School of Engineering and School of Information & Computer Sciences hosted Ingenuity 2014, an event introduced by a timely and important keynote address, presentation of awards to benefactors of the schools, and a showcase of the top student projects from the two schools, with plenty of opportunity to meet the students and discuss their work. That weekend the concert finale at UCLA conducted by distinguished retiring professor Donald Neuen, husband of Sue Neuen, director of Science@OC, was a joy and privilege to experience with them.

The next week was the last of the school year, and included a tightly scheduled morning meeting ot the Engineering Leadership Council of the School of Engineering at UC Irvine, in which members of the business community heard updates, plans and presentations from Dean Washington and the engineering staff, and were treated to demonstrations from the Make Lab and Solar Decathlon. On the weekend that followed, the history-making UC Irvine Commencement was held at Angel Stadium, where President Obama gave the commencement address. Once the commencement activities at the ten UC campuses had concluded, a three-day systemwide UC Bioengineering Symposium was hosted at UC Irvine, and although the POTUS did not attend, the PONPI Judy Greenspon did, serving as a judge for the Student Shark Tank event on the first day of the Symposium!

A flurry of activity surrounds the last weeks of an academic year, and it seems there is barely time to take it all in. What stands out is how meaningful and important these events have been. For instance, Anne Kelly’s work in the Earth System Science Department has led her to a position as senior plant ecologist for the Catalina Island Conservancy, setting up vegetation monitoring and conservation research, while managing the Wrigley Botanical Garden, the invasive plant control program, and the habitat restoration program for 90% of the island, a unique and treasured California ecosystem! Student projects at Ingenuity 2014 included an economical and practical mobile treatment system to treat and reuse hydraulic fracturing water. Such student accomplishments reflect the high caliber of professors who instruct, mentor, and conduct ongoing research. When ten thousand post cards came to the White House inviting the President to give the 2014 UCI commencement address, the decision to accept, and the topic chosen for the speech, reflect the stellar environment-related science research at UC Irvine!

Ten days after the commencement, UCI Professor Jay Famiglietti posted a great article in National Geographic’s News Watch Water Currents, “Obama’s ‘This American Moment’ Climate Change Speech: Real Science and Hope Trump a Moon Made of Cheese.” Professor Famiglietti addresses the question why the President would choose to deliver a major climate change address in a regional venue such as a university commencement, as well as during a time when the world’s attention is turned to the World Cup. The President himself stated that It’s no accident that when President Kennedy needed to convince the nation that sending Americans into space was a worthy goal, he went to a university.” (Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962, more than a year following his famous speech to Congress stating this objective.) So it’s no accident that President Obama is pursuing the same strategy. And why select UC Irvine? To quote Famiglietti, “The answer, it turns out, is well-known to the UCI community and to water and climate researchers like myself. It is because of the rich history in global change research at UC Irvine.”

This excerpt from the President’s commencement address has shout-outs to several researchers at UC Irvine, whom Famiglietti has identified and given links for in his article.

“So the question is not whether we need to act.  The overwhelming judgment of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades, has put that question to rest. The question is whether we have the will to act before it’s too late.  For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children, but to your children and your children’s children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place.  And that is to leave the world a little bit better for the next generation.

Now, the good news is you already know all this.  UC Irvine set up the first Earth System Science Department in America.  (Applause.)  A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  (Applause.)  A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s reports showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat.  Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables — working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas.  And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.  Done.  (Applause.)  So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve.  All of you are ahead of the curve.”

The Big Commencement address is a call to action, addressed to the entire nation, in a most appropriate setting. It is a call for leadership, activism, and enterprise, powered by people who vote and learn and innovate. And who choose hope rather than cynicism! It has been uplifting and inspiring to share in the Big Commencement and to be in a position to support academics, businesses, and entrepreneurs bringing their innovations to light. We can all make it possible!

View the Big Commencement address here:

Here is a transcript: