Georgia Tech Presents Satya Nadella With Honorary Degree

The honorary Ph.D. is the most significant honor the Institute bestows on an individual.
Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella received an honorary Ph.D. during a ceremony inside the John Lewis Student Center's Atlantic Theater Thursday.

In recognition of his transformative leadership, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella received an honorary Ph.D. during a ceremony inside the John Lewis Student Center's Atlantic Theater Thursday. 

It is the most significant honor the Institute bestows on an individual and comes at a time Nadella described as a "golden age" of computer science.  

"I think what motivates all of us, as this community of folks who are associated with Georgia Tech, is not just the technology, because it's just merely a tool. But it's a powerful means to a more powerful end, which is about empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. The innovation you're driving here at Georgia Tech comes at one of the most consequential moments in the history of technology. As we enter this age of artificial intelligence, it's communities like this one that will help create the world we want to live in," Nadella said.  

With over 2,000 Georgia Tech alumni on its staff and a prominent presence in the city of Atlanta, Microsoft recently became the second company in history to surpass a $3 trillion market value. Accepting the degree, Nadella, who became the company's CEO in 2014, spoke of aligning values between Microsoft and Georgia Tech and looking forward to working together to create technologies and solutions for the world's most pressing challenges.  

"When you talk to Satya, he always leads with the impact that the company is having on people and organizations around the world," Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera said during the ceremony. "That sounds awfully familiar with our mission at Georgia Tech — to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. Our motto is progress and service. We define our success by the impact that we have in the lives of others. So, that explains why we're so excited to bring Satya into the family of Yellow Jackets." 

A fireside chat between Cabrera and Nadella followed the ceremony. Along with the transformative nature of AI and its ability to improve workflows and productivity in business, Nadella spoke of its potential to bring personalized instruction to students worldwide.  

He also participated in a roundtable discussion with faculty members about the implementation and impact of AI in higher education, robotics, cybersecurity computing, and other areas. Alex Orso, interim dean of the College of Computing, was among the participants and discussed ways to foster the exchange of talent between Georgia Tech and Microsoft. He also discussed how Georgia Tech's online computer science master's program, in collaboration with the Division of Lifetime Learning, can serve as a global platform to educate students before, during, and after college. 

Irfan Essa, senior associate dean in the College of Computing and co-director of Georgia Tech's AI Hub, added that Nadella and the faculty shared ideas for how industry and academia can collaborate to produce a strong workforce in the years to come.  

"We are a leader in this area and a part of the conversation," he said. "Industry leaders like Microsoft and places like Georgia Tech have to figure out a collaborative system to have more conversations about understanding the future workforce but also learning from companies about what kinds of things we should be providing from a broad standpoint educationally." 

Nadella then sat down with a group of students, all former Microsoft interns, to discuss their educational experience and what he called a "paradigm shift" across the industry, similar to the rise of the internet and cloud computing.  

Rynaa Grover will graduate with a master's degree in computer science in May and has accepted a position with Microsoft. "The research that goes on at Georgia Tech is very advanced and in line with the industry. It's incredible to be in this field at this point in time and to be able to contribute to such a big firm; it's really empowering," said Grover, who worked with Microsoft's machine learning platforms as an intern and with large language models in Assistant Professor Srijan Kumar’s lab. 

Yi Qin will also join Microsoft after graduating with a master's in human-computer interaction.  

"This was such a memorable experience for me,” she said. “Conversations like this make me feel like we are capable of doing a lot of great things. We should capture every opportunity that we have, have a growth mindset, and create whatever impact we want to make." 

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