Diversity and sorting by last name

So the wife graduated today. The graduation ceremony was in threes – three graduates were called at a time and presented their degrees (the wife now claims that she has one more degree than me, since my B-school gave me a Post Graduate Diploma and not a Masters).

It was reminiscent of swearing in of Ministers of State in India, who take oath four at a time. My graduation ceremonies, where we collected our degrees one at a time, was more like the swearing in of Cabinet Ministers. This simultaneous award of degrees worked well in finishing the ceremony in good time, though.

As is usual in such ceremonies, the graduates had been sorted by name. Except that since this is a global business school, the sorting was done by <Last Name> followed by <First Name> (at all my schools, sorting has been in the opposite order).

This related to fairly hilarious bunching of graduates from different countries at the same point in time. One batch of three was a set of three Lee’s, for example (rather amazingly, there was not a single Wang in the graduating class). They were followed by two more Lee’s/Li’s. Another set of three were three Japanese who had the same prefix to the last name.

And the wife was one of three Indians in the batch whose last name started with “Bha-“. It’s a rather unique Indian construct, and the three were listed consecutively for graduation. It was only because of a “cut” that occurred in the middle that the three didn’t go simultaneously to receive their degrees.

Different countries have different name forms and the same words might occur as a prefix of a large number of last names from the country. Such prefixes might also be unique to certain countries, thanks to which sorting by last name results in the occurrence of several “country clusters” through the course of the list.

It got me wondering if the diversity of the batch (more than 50 countries were represented in the graduating class of ~300) mgiht have been exhibited better, and people of the same nationality been spread apart more widely through the list had they done (what is to us Indians) the conventional thing and sorted by first name instead!

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