Meet the Spring Commencement Reflection Speakers

With family, friends, faculty, and classmates looking on, five graduates will address the crowd inside McCamish Pavilion as this year’s Spring Commencement reflection speakers.  

The speakers will be Nikhil Iyengar, a Ph.D. aerospace engineering candidate; Stefanny Arcos, an undergraduate economics candidate; Rishit Desai, an undergraduate computer science candidate; Ritvik Ramakrishnan, a master’s computer science candidate; and Kathleen Devlin, an undergraduate industrial engineering candidate.  

Ph.D. Ceremony: Nikhil Iyengar  

Nikhil Iyengar recalls that he "felt a buzz" inside of McCamish Pavilion when he attended his first Georgia Tech basketball game at the beginning of his Ph.D. program. During Commencement, he'll deliver a message to his classmates in the same arena.  

"So much of our academic journey has been forward-looking. We look forward to finishing our classes. We look forward to completing our qualifying exams. We look forward to proposing and (finally!) defending our theses. It's a wonderful feeling to realize that the moment we have awaited has arrived. I hope every graduate takes a short stroll around campus to celebrate and cherish this milestone," he said.  

Iyengar immersed himself at Tech by competing in the Three Minute Thesis competition, joining clubs, and participating in campus events. These experiences gave him a sense of community, which he leaned on through the challenging moments and shared the successes with along the way.  

Originally from Mumbai, India, Iyengar grew up in Valley Stream, New York, and will join Sandia National Labs in San Francisco to develop climate change models and forecast the impact of environmental policies on climate. As a passion project, he plans to pursue a pilot's license, saying, "If I know why a plane flies, I should also learn how to fly it."  

Friday Morning: Stefanny Arcos  

One grade in one class doesn't define an academic career. After a disappointing grade on her first differential calculus exam, Stefanny Arcos wondered if she was cut out for Georgia Tech, but help from her advisors and friends gave her a new mindset that powered her through to Commencement — and it's one she intends to share.  

"I think imposter syndrome is real, and I want to help remind my fellow graduates that they are enough. It's so important to focus on celebrating our small daily victories just as much as the big ones," she said.  

This opportunity gives Arcos a chance to thank those who helped her throughout her journey, and that support is what she'll miss the most. "I have met incredible friends and mentors, and I will always be thankful for my time here. Even at my lowest lows, I was always surrounded by people who comforted and cared for me.”  

The Douglasville, Georgia, native will graduate with a degree in economics, and before starting law school, she will take some time off to visit family in Ambato, Ecuador.  

Friday Afternoon: Rishit Desai 

Rishit Desai dreamed of becoming a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket since he was a child, and from the moment he arrived, he was determined to make the most of his time on campus. Participating in numerous clubs and student organizations, Desai was searching for his “why,” and he hopes to inspire his fellow graduates to find theirs.  

"We all have our own journeys toward reaching our goals. Find what makes your journey unique to you. Be open to exploring new aspects and opportunities. Discover your passions and strive to make the biggest impact you can make with them. This is something we can carry with us wherever this next chapter takes us," he said.  

Like many in the Class of 2024, the computer science graduate began his degree program at the onset of the pandemic. He believes it instilled a "historic resilience" into the student body that will shape their work ethic for years to come.  

Desai, who hails from Columbus, Ohio, will miss the student section of Bobby Dodd Stadium, but when he joins Manhattan Associates' Atlanta office as a software analyst, he'll be close by to attend future home games.   

Saturday Morning: Ritvik Ramakrishnan  

A speech impediment kept Ritvik Ramakrishnan from finding his voice until middle school. The ability to overcome obstacles is a lesson the Stamps President's Scholar will share from the podium.

"My message to my fellow graduates is to embrace their strengths, persevere through challenges, and use their voices to make a difference,” he said. “I want to encourage them to view setbacks as opportunities for growth, trust the process, and never underestimate their potential as Georgia Tech graduates. Just as I found my voice and learned to embrace my strengths, I know each of them will find their path to success, paved with the white and gold of Georgia Tech." 

Ramakrishnan is looking forward to seeing his classmates' faces as he delivers his speech after his high school graduation speech was delivered virtually. A member of Startup Exchange, a CREATE-X Scholar, and a master's candidate in computer science, Ramakrishnan believes the collaborative energy across the Institute is unmatched, especially in its entrepreneurial endeavors.  

Before joining McKinsey & Company as a business analyst, the Frisco, Texas, native will participate in a six-week spiritual retreat.  

Saturday Afternoon: Kathleen Devlin  

Before college, Kathleen Devlin lived in Mexico, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and New Jersey, but she found a sense of belonging at Georgia Tech. Like many of her peers, the industrial engineering major likes to find solutions with data, but between the number of all-nighters, football games attended, or time spent at the CRC, she knows not everything fits into an equation.  

"I want to share with my fellow graduates that our college experience cannot be defined. It cannot be simply quantified or boiled down to just one particular moment. It is, rather, all-encompassing," she said.  

Analyzing the numbers of Commencement, Devlin has calculated that it takes an average of 32 seconds to cross the stage, shake President Cabrera's hand, and exit, so she encourages all graduates to enjoy every moment of that experience.  

After Commencement, she will head to her "happy place" at the beach and take a European vacation before moving to New York City in August to start as a sales and trading analyst at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.