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Congratulations MOT Class of 2017: A Message from Dr. Massoud Amin | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
May 1, 2017
Photo of MOT Class of 2017

Commencement reception remarks by Dr. S. Massoud Amin to the M.S. in Management of Technology graduating class of 2017:

We are delighted to celebrate your hard work, commitment and a successful culmination of your efforts. Your journey the past 20 months has required your tremendous efforts as well as the support and commitment of many around you. To everyone who has helped you to get here today, I say thank you. Please take a moment to recognize them for their love and support.

Thanks to your commitment, efforts and tenacity. For the 11th year in a row, the MOT Class of 2017 has a perfect 100 percent successful Capstone project completion! My colleagues and I are very proud of you, and know that you have changed in so many positive ways. 

Will Rogers once said: “You may think you are on the right track, but you get run over if you keep sitting there.” We are delighted that you didn’t “sit there”. You took action and worked hard and intelligently by completing this challenging course of professional development in a rigorous graduate environment, and a world-class graduate/professional program, to make a difference in your life, your families and your companies.

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally lost. In striving for excellence, or for that matter reaching your goals, leadership begins from within and fundamentally depends on values like courage, decency, honesty, empathy, and care - values independent of the course we choose in life. They apply to whatever position we hold and in whatever situations we may be. A key issue is choice and resoluteness. Choose what confers value on life, “do the virtuous things” and then decide to cultivate it.

If you aspire to leadership, park your ego at the door and cultivate a quiet mind and know the road ahead. Humility is fundamental; I quote from George Washington Carver: “How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”

Great teaching by great researchers and scholars is at the heart of our education. You are not here to be made. You are here to make yourselves. Today’s graduates have taken this challenge and responded exceptionally well. A life-changing experience, and it will shape the way you engage the world. Every teacher, every one of us, harbors the hope that he or she will have made a difference in the lives of students. Looking back on your MOT experience 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from now, I hope there will be MOT professors -- perhaps some you do not yet fully appreciate -- who will have planted a seed and given you insights and intellectual curiosity that will shape your professional and personal lives; professors who will have inspired you through their integrity and fervent advocacy for the public good, to take on the responsibilities of professional service and engaged citizenship.

This commencement also carries much responsibility and expectations as you are now alumni of the MOT program. Much is expected of you— as past data on the impact of our MOT classes is outstanding— in all aspects of our states’ technology-intensive areas including electronics, defense, chemical, industrial equipment, instruments or medical equipment, information technologies, finance and banking, services, food, and transportation areas.

The MOT program plays a significant role in helping you and our alumni fulfill their current job responsibilities, especially in the areas of strategic management, leadership, critical thinking, general management, and collaboration. We provide our students with proven training in leadership skills and qualities, business, technology, policy analytics, and scholarship. The 20th Century in particular marked a period of technology triumphs. Electrification, telecommunications and the internet, fast and efficient transportation, modern medicine, scientific agriculture, and other advances changed—and continue to change—the conditions of human life all around the globe. In little more than 100 years, the average human lifespan nearly doubled. Many times greater still have been the new opportunities and possibilities afforded by technology to each individual during that longer life. It is clear that technology and its effective management is a major driving force in shaping global society.

Norm Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, and a passionate supporter of research and development in higher education, put it this way: If you happen to find yourself on an airplane that is losing altitude, and if you have to throw out things to cut weight . . . the absolute last thing you would throw out is the engine. … We must invest to keep our engine running. We have witnessed only a few drops of the waves of innovation addressing pressing human, life, and societal challenges – many may remember Austrian Economist Schumpeter’s idea that technology is a series of explosions—just in the last 225 years these include: steam power, textiles, railroads, iron, coal, construction, electrical power, automobiles, chemicals, steel,aerospace, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, synthetic and composite materials, Information technology, medical technology, genetics, alternative energy, artificial intelligence, the material sciences, and nanotechnology.

From where will the next set of breakthroughs come? Don Randel, a former president of the University of Chicago, said it best – “The ultimate foundation of any society ought to be the human imagination, honed to the greatest degree and in the company of its faithful companion . . . curiosity.” I agree. In this era, ideas and what you do with them can be much more transformative than material forces that dominated previous periods of economic growth. As you know, information technology (IT), automation, analytics and a lot more are dominant forces - medical technology and genetics have already played and will continue to play important roles. Alternative sustainable energies are now a reality – a slow but steady and massive global energy transition has been underway for the last 10-15 years. Other areas include artificial intelligence, increasing security while maintaining or increasing civil liberties, material sciences (including nanotechnology) and much more have the transformative potentials in our civilization.There is increased consciousness on the need for core technologies and capabilities to strategically enhance our security and quality of life. The future is bright if we make a conscious choice and be committed and resolute.

Here are a few nuggets for you to consider:

1) 12 years ago in 2005, NSF’s fastest natural language translation tool competition: Google won by a most basic approach, why and how? What came out of it, Siri? … How old is the iPhone?

2) Plastic cards at the movies by the time the movie Mission Impossible 7 (MI-7) is released, with over 2000 HD movies that you’ll select to have on it.

3) Pinpointing evolution: Point your cell phone to a can or box at the supermarket and the service provider has your secure confidential medical data and knows whether the food is medically OK for you or not. Push buy/Not buy alternatives

4) Procession evolution: On a single fiber optic you can carry all the information in the World!

5) Powering evolution: Batteries, Nanotech… plastic batteries with up to eight times their nominal capacity charged in less than a minute. 

On the flip side, this position of leadership can’t be taken for granted; we must put deliberate mechanisms, diversity, workforce development, and funding in place to nurture and grow our many areas of strength.Technology development, management and its impact on societies around the globe are immense .“The empires of the future,” said Winston Churchill, “are the empires of the mind.” Echoing this in his 1981 book, Investing in People: The Economics of Population Quality, Economist and Nobel Laureate, Theodore Schultz, argued that the wealth of nations is not limited by land or minerals, it comes predominantly from “the acquired abilities of people, their education, experience, skills and health.”

Together we want to turn out students who have recognized their nature as ethical leaders with all the manifold possibilities and the limitations such a nature implies. I also want our “student” to understand that his/her ultimate test is the posture and response in the face of obstacles he/she cannot surmount. At such a moment I want our “student” to know a purpose, a solid confident core, a capacity to endure and succeed which his/her days at TLI developed. Only then such a center is, I believe, is worthy of you. A classroom and an atmosphere in TLI which finds us totally committed to the best interests of the students and alumni here – a commitment made by a faculty and staff whose names are different from TLI’s founding 30 years ago, but who continue to be unstinting in their time. Thank goodness; they have proven leadership, energy, and innovation on their side. Together, we innovate and create the future to make a better community and a better world. Together, we can serve the land-grant vision of the nineteenth century to meet the global needs of the twenty-first century. You have in your hands the future of our health, our competitiveness, our companies, our government and our society.

I conclude my remarks by remembering Mary Oliver’s approach to poetry (seamless from her approach to life and to faith). One section within the poem “Sometimes” sums up all three. Instructions for living a life: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. “That’s why I’m asking you – alumni, faculty, staff, friends, colleagues and distinguished guests –  to help us move TLI forward, and to tell your wonderful stories. I’m asking you to help me to instill pride, based on evidence – YOU -- in this great program among every citizen in our state and beyond.

Together, we can fulfill this University’s and our center’s extraordinary promise. Wrapped in traditions of excellence and service, lifted by know-how, driven by our shared desire to fulfill our great promise. We have much work to do. Congratulations and thank you!

About the Author

Photo of Dr. Massoud Amin

Massoud Amin, DSc

Director, TLI
Honeywell/Harold W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership

Honeywell/Harold W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership

Since 2003, Dr. Massoud Amin has been with the University of Minnesota as Director of the Technological Leadership Institute, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Honeywell/H.W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership. While some know Dr. Amin as “father of the smart grid,” he teaches several courses each year at TLI, has authored or co-authored more than 200 research papers, and serves on the editorial boards of six academic journals.

If you aspire to leadership, park your ego at the door and cultivate a quiet mind and know the road ahead. Humility is fundamental.

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