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The Dartmouth
May 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Professors share six words of life advice with the Class of 2021

From the Russian department to mathematics, Dartmouth professors offer up their wisdom.


This article is featured in the 2021 Commencement special issue.

The Dartmouth asked professors to provide the Class of 2021 their best life advice in just six short words. Providing a quote is simple enough, but condensing one’s sentiments into a succinct blurb proved to be a challenge, and some professors broke the rules. Nonetheless, The Dartmouth presents — approximatelysix words of advice. 

Spanish professor Rebecca Biron: Question everything, laugh and be kind.

Religion professor Randall Balmer: Don’t play it safe. Take chances.

Film professor Jeffrey Ruoff: “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” — Heraclitus

Film professor Mary Flanagan: Do not be afraid of no!

Film professor Jeffrey Ruoff (again): “Perfect is the enemy of good.” — Voltaire

Classics professor Margaret Graver: Find what you do well & do that.

Theater professor Daniel Kotlowitz: Compassion and kindness, the rest will follow.

German professor Petra McGillen: Read, travel, eat, laugh, rest. Repeat. 

Computer science professor Thomas Cormen: Live your life with meaning.

Math professor Peter Doyle: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.

Government professor Charles Crabtree: Don't select on the dependent variable.

Anthropology professor Sienna Craig: Reciprocate. Practice compassion. Cultivate equanimity. Laugh.

Studio art professor Brenda Garand: There are no rules in art.

Sociology professor John Campbell: Life is short … have fun!

Classics professor Hakan Tell: Life is short; live well now.

French professor Scott Sanders: “What is Enlightenment? Using your own understanding.” — Kant

Art history professor Ada Cohen: Always keep art in your life.

Chemistry professor Jane Lipson: Absorb photons. Radiate generosity. Conserve heartbeats.

Spanish and Portuguese professor Jose del Pino: Experiment your life as a permanent discovery.

Anthropology and Russian professor Sergei Kan: Always be true to yourself.

Math professor Anne Gelb: Be robust and avoid ill-conditioning.

Physics and Astronomy professor Miles Blencowe: Always be a student at heart!

Psychology and Brain Sciences professor Jay Hull: Strive for work-life balance.

Earth Sciences professor Bob Hawley: Luck is where YOU find it.

Women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and history professor Leslie Butler: History has its eyes on you. (borrowed)

Film and media and African and African American studies professor Iyabo Kwayana: Let your passion contribute to humanity!

African and African American studies professor Marvin Chochotte: Enjoy life while pursuing your endeavors.

Women’s, gender, and sexuality studies professor Eng-Beng Lim: Always profess queer love and care.

African and African American Studies and religion and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies professor Robert Baum: Speak truth to power.

Geography and earth sciences professor Justin Mankin: Be civic-minded — acknowledge your agency.

Classics and linguistics professor Lindsay Whaley: It’s good to innovatively split infinitives.

Psychological and brain sciences professor Alireza Soltani: Make the world a wilder place.

Jewish studies professor Marc Caplan: Judaism is BIG, like everything else.

African and African American studies and sociology professor Trica Keaton: You are the light you seek!

Environmental studies professor Michael E. Cox: Don’t optimize for just one thing.

Geography professor Sujin Eom: Be strangers to yourselves, not others.

Cognitive science and psychological and brain sciences professor Jonathan Phillips: The deed is everything; the glory, nothing.

Psychological and brain sciences professor Jeremy Manning: Do good, have fun, seek happiness.

Women’s, gender, and sexuality studies professor Mingwei Huang: Think systemically, act collectively. Rest!

Government and quantitative social science professor Yusaku Horiuchi: Be global, be flexible, stay healthy!

Earth sciences professor Erich Osterberg: Let batter rest for delicious pancakes.

Government and medieval and Renaissance Studies professor James Murphy: Write your eulogy, then live it.

Film and media studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies professor Mary Desjardins: Don’t be afraid to change direction.

Ben Fagell
Ben (‘24) is a news writer for The Dartmouth. He is from Bethesda, Maryland, and plans to major in government and economics.