More Than 2,000 Degrees To Be Awarded at 214th Commencement Ceremony

May 21, 2020

More Than 2,000 Degrees To Be Awarded at 214th Commencement Ceremony

Facts, figures, and useful information provided in overview of Commencement 2020

This spring, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the first technological research university in the United States, will award a total of 2,099 degrees (124 doctoral degrees, 407 master’s degrees, and 1,568 bachelor’s degrees) to 2,074 students, some of whom have earned multiple degrees.

These accomplishments will be celebrated during the 214th Commencement Ceremony, which will be held remotely on Saturday, May 23, beginning online at noon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute is unable to conduct traditional, in-person Commencement exercises. Prior to graduation, students and their supporters are encouraged to download signs and other creative assets that can add to their remote celebrations from the Commencement website.

The following overview provides facts, figures, and useful information about the ceremony and its participants.

The Class of 2020

Students in the Class of 2020 hail from 43 states, including New York, and 37 other nations, including Bangladesh, Burma, Colombia, China, Jamaica, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Of the undergraduate students receiving bachelor’s degrees, 19 earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Among them was Michael McNicholas, an aeronautical engineering student, who will receive the J. Erik Jonsson Prize, which was established by J. Erik Jonsson ’22 to honor the senior who has achieved the highest academic record in the class.

Many graduates will continue their studies after graduation. Among the schools that graduates will be attending are Arizona State University, Columbia University, Duke University, Harvard University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Lehigh University, Princeton University, Temple University, University of Miami, Wake Forest University, and, of course, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Those graduates heading directly to professional positions will be joining such companies as Amazon, Blue Origin, Deloitte, Exelon Nuclear, Ford Motor Co., GlobalFoundries, Google, Microsoft, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pratt & Whitney, and Stryker.

Rensselaer graduates continue to earn higher starting salaries compared to national averages. Last year, the average starting salary for all reported undergraduate bachelor’s degree recipients from the Class of 2019 was $74,820, while the national average was $67,539, as reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. 

Each year, the graduating class presents the university with a class gift. The Class of 2020 has chosen to provide a contribution to the Student Relief Fund, which was started by the Class of 2017 to offer emergency assistance to those undergraduates who suddenly find themselves in financial hardship. The decision to contribute to the fund was made before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 214th Commencement Ceremony

Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, whose accomplished career encompasses senior leadership positions in academia, government, and industry, will preside over the virtual ceremony and address the Class of 2020.

United States Senator Charles Ellis “Chuck” Schumer of New York will also address the graduates. Schumer was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, and he became the senior senator from New York in 2000. Schumer was born and raised in Brooklyn, where he still resides. He has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Class President Sruja Machani, who will be receiving a bachelor of science in biochemistry and biophysics, will speak in the ceremony. The graduate student speaker will be Alexis Marie Ziemba, who earned her doctorate in biomedical engineering. Rensselaer Alumni Association President Matt Siegel ’85 will also address the graduates.

Jeffrey Braunstein, a senior lecturer in the School of Engineering, has been selected as the recipient of the David M. Darrin ’40 Counseling Award, which will be presented during Commencement. This award was established by David M. Darrin ’40 to recognize a faculty member who has made an unusual contribution in the counseling of undergraduate students. The selection of the award recipient is made by Phalanx, Rensselaer’s student leadership honorary society.

Please Note: All numbers and facts include Troy and Hartford campus students and degrees issued in August and December 2019. All of the numbers cited are accurate as of May 14, 2020, and are subject to change up until Commencement.


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit