The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) marked its fourth graduation ceremony on Friday with an afternoon of awards, speeches, tears and laughter at the Skolkovo Technopark.
Skoltech students celebrate receiving their master's degrees. Photo: Sk.ru.
It was the biggest graduation ceremony the young graduate research university, which was founded in 2011, has seen so far, with more than 130 students receiving their master’s degrees, as well as one PhD.
“This is a remarkable day for all of us,” said Skoltech president Alexander Kuleshov, describing the graduates as “the best of the best.”
“You can be proud because you graduated from the best university in Russia – and not only Russia. I don’t want to exaggerate, but if you take the list of the top 50 best young universities (young being less than 50 years old), you can see that our scientific results are higher than most of those on that list.”
Skoltech president Alexander Kuleshov cuts a giant cake depicting the new university campus. Photo: Sk.ru.
In just a couple of weeks, Skoltech will start moving into its brand new state-of-the-art campus, not far from the Skolkovo Technopark. Until now, the private university, which was set up in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has operated out of another building inside the Skolkovo innovation centre.
“Our new campus is really the best in the world,” said Kuleshov, noting that its architects, the Swiss bureau Herzog & de Meuron, have designed buildings for the world’s leading universities, including Harvard and MIT.
In his parting words to this year’s graduates, the university’s president urged them to continue learning, whatever they might be going on to do next.
“Today technologies change our world so quickly that every five to seven years, you are facing a new world. So you must be ready to spend your whole lives learning,” he told the graduates.
The university is due to start moving into its new state-of-the-art campus in the next two weeks. Photo: Sk.ru.
Skoltech student council head and data science graduate Nina Mazyavkina said that Skoltech was “a completely different type of university” that gives its students a much stronger voice than most institutes.
“While looking at my fellow students who have shaped the structure of Skoltech and the university itself, whether by debating with their professors on the structure of the course, or discussing the organisation of events for student life, we have got more courage to speak up,” Mazyavkina said in her speech at the ceremony.
Skoltech student council head Nina Mazyavkina. Photo: Sk.ru.
“This is exceptional because I know all of my colleagues are very talented and smart, they think outside of the box and are able to accomplish great things in life, but all of us need this boost of confidence, someone who says ‘you can,’ and for me and everyone else, Skoltech has become this type of catalyst for us to reach our own full potential.”
Ignacio Hernandez Arroyo, a Spanish graduate in space engineering systems, noted the international nature of Skoltech in his speech (classes are Skoltech are taught in English, teaching staff come from around the world, and 16 percent of the students are international).
“There are people here graduating from all over the world, but there’s something we all have in common: we all enjoy learning and creating new things,” he said.
“But new isn’t really the right word; for Skoltech, new is not quite enough. The word here should be innovation – and I know it’s a bit overused,” conceded Hernandez Arroyo.
“We want to make something new, but we don’t want it to stay in the lab, or in a published paper. We want it to get out in the world and make change happen. It has to get out and disrupt. This also applies to us,” he said. “We came to Skoltech because we want to get out there and make change happen, and now we have received the knowledge and the tool set that we need.”
Echoing the thoughts of the ceremony’s keynote speaker, global ridesharing app Gett founder and CEO Dave Waiser, who devoted his talk to the importance of risking failure and bouncing back from it, Hernandez Arroyo said the main lesson the graduates should remember was not to be afraid to take risks.
Gett founder and CEO Dave Waiser urged the graduates not to be afraid of taking risks. Photo: Sk.ru.
“Now we have to move onto something else, we have to go into entrepreneurship, or research, or industry. The choice is ours. There are many paths to take, and this can be quite intimidating,” said the Spanish student.
“However, if there’s something we have learned here, no matter what our specialization, it’s that uncertainty and risk come side by side with untouched potential and the chance to improve and grow … Taking a risk is taking a chance to improve ourselves, improve the people and the world around us, and with the risk of failure there is the chance of succeeding.”
Space engineering systems graduate Ignacio Hernandez Arroyo. Photo: Sk.ru.
As the number of graduates grows with every year, the quality of their work is improving accordingly, Nikolai Suetin, vice president for science and education at the Skolkovo Foundation, told Sk.ru.
“I say this as a member of the state diploma defence commission,” he said.
“Many of their diploma theses are done in conjunction with international universities and leading Russian organisations … This cooperation dramatically increases the standard of their final research papers, and the students themselves are very intelligent, and answer all questions about their work highly competently,” said Suetin.
Some of this year’s graduates will stay at Skoltech to study for a PhD, while many others have already found good jobs in industry, and “best of all, are starting their own startups and becoming the engineer-entrepreneurs that Skoltech was originally set up to prepare,” Alexei Sitnikov, vice president of Skoltech, told Sk.ru.