Bren School Celebrates its 1000th Graduate


Professor Roland Geyer (center) tosses rose petals above Louisa Smythe (center right) as Chancellor Henry Yang applauds her as the Bren School’s 1000th graduate.

Amid a cacophony of kazoos and a shower of rose petals, the 2014 Bren School Commencement program came to a momentary halt last Friday to celebrate the moment when Louisa Smythe (MESM 2014) became the school’s 1000th graduate.

“It was an honor to be the lucky 1000th graduate of the Bren School,” said Louisa, who beamed on stage as the celebration occurred, with members of the Bren School’s dynamic all-student band Brengrass blowing kazoos while professors and Chancellor Henry Yang showered Smythe with rose petals. “It was a happy send off after two fantastic years, surrounded by amazing people. I felt like my classmates were up there with me. The whole day was such a nice celebration that really represented Bren.”

Smythe, who is getting married in two weeks, called the brief interlude “good practice” for that happy event.

The awarding of diplomas was going along as usual, but when Smythe got to the stage, the kazoos sounded and Associate Professor Sarah Hughes who was standing by gave her a big smile. When Assistant Dean Satie Airamé, who announces the graduates, told Smythe to stop, she put it together and said, “Oh my gosh am I the 1000th?'”

Dean Steve Gaines congratulates the Bren School’s 1000th graduate, Louise Smythe (MESM 2014) before saying a few words about the Bren School, which received its first students in 1996.

The Bren School accepted it’s first students in 1996, and there were twenty graduates in the Class of 1998. The first PhD student was graduated in 2001. Back then, said Dean Steve Gaines, “The school had no building, no full-time faculty and a curriculum that was very much in flux—primarily because there was no model for a school like this.”

The Class of 2014 numbered 75 master’s students and four PhDs.

As Smythe received her diploma, 18 years after the first students entered Bren, Gaines added, “The school has achieved international recognition as a leader in interdisciplinary education and research focused on solving environmental problems. We have a great faculty, great students, a great staff, a ground-breaking building, tremendous support from UCSB, and a most promising future.”

Congratulations to Louisa and to the entire Class of 2014!

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