The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Transportation Secretary, told an audience of 788 graduates and their families at Bryant’s 155 th Commencement Ceremony on May 19 that the students are graduating “at a very good time” in the nation’s history.
"Three million net new jobs have been created in the last year alone. And in April 2018, the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest in more than 17 years,” she noted.
"Competition creates better products and services that previous generations could only dream about."
It is also a time of innovation and ingenuity, she suggested. “The competition and churn of the free enterprise system can be tough,” Chao said. “But competition creates better products and services that previous generations could only dream about.
“I see this firsthand as Secretary of Transportation,” Chao stated. “Autonomous technology, including self-driving vehicles and drones, has tremendous potential to save lives and increase access to transportation. Many traditionally underserved communities, including the elderly and people with disabilities, can regain their mobility and freedom. And many emergency response jobs that once put people in harm’s way can now be done by remotely-piloted drones.”
However, Chao noted, “these wonderful innovations bring challenges, as well. They include ensuring the safety, security, and privacy of new technologies. And workers will need training for the new skills these emerging technologies require.”
Those challenges, she told the graduates, “present many opportunities for the creative problem solving that is a hallmark of our country and the free enterprise system.”
Chao, the first Asian-American woman to serve in a U.S. President’s cabinet, was awarded an honorary doctorate along with Jonathan D. Fain, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Teknor Apex Company, a world-leading producer of custom plastics compounds, and Beverly E. Ledbetter, Vice President and General Counsel for Brown University.
Graduate Program ceremony
At the Graduate Programs Commencement, held on May 17, Sandra Glaser Parrillo, CPCU, President and Chief Executive Officer of Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company, who also was awarded an honorary doctorate, addressed an audience of 129 recipients of graduate degrees in business, communication, and health care along with their families and friends.
“You come from all over the world, have served in the military, played Division I sports, and earned Beta Gamma Sigma honor society distinctions. You will now head off into corner offices, and boardrooms and hospital rooms,” said Parrillo, the company’s 12th chief executive and the first woman leader in its 200-year history.
“I do hope you remember how you feel right now – proud, optimistic, ready to take on the world,” said Parrillo. “I wish you the best of luck in finding the job you love with a company and mission you are passionate about. And, may you do this with the unwavering support of family, friends, and co-workers, especially when it comes to navigating the challenges that don’t come with instructions.”