Columbian College picks graduation speakers

by Monica Mehta

Geography professor David Rain will speak at the graduation ceremony for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences this year. The former Fulbright scholar and member of the Peace Corps is on a yearlong sabbatical.
Media Credit: Shannon Brown | Hatchet Photographer
Geography professor David Rain will speak at the graduation ceremony for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences this year. The former Fulbright scholar and member of the Peace Corps is on a yearlong sabbatical.

Geography professor David Rain regularly challenges his students to explore unfamiliar places and take risks, a message he will convey to an audience of thousands next month.

He is one of two faculty members who will speak at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences two graduation ceremonies May 19. Heidi Bardot, a professor of art therapy, will also address graduates.

Rain, an associate professor of geography and international affairs, is on sabbatical conducting research for his next book, which chronicles his cross-country travels observing how locations influence human behavior. A former Fulbright scholar and member of the Peace Corps in Niger, Rain plans to call on graduates to explore new territory.

“These unsettled times prompt some people to hunker down and do what they already know what to do. I would recommend doing the opposite: go someplace you’ve never been before and test yourself,” he said.

Bardot, an alumna and director of the art therapy program, was unable to attend her own graduation because she was traveling internationally for art therapy research.

“It’s always been touching for me to attend graduation with my current students, because I know how important that is,” Bardot said.

Bardot decided to return to GW to teach after working with hospice patients as an art therapy worker.

Undergraduates Megan Buonaiuto and Heather Dingwall and graduate students Maria Crossman and Sarah Stierch will also speak at the college's ceremonies.

Dingwall, a New Jersey native majoring in biological anthropology and archeology, said undergraduate research has played an important role in her education.

Crossman said she was “excited” and “humbled” to learn she would be a graduation speaker. The Washington native will graduate with a master’s degree in public administration.

The Columbian College traditionally forgoes big-name speakers in favor of letting students and faculty members take the podium. A politician, a local education leader, a cybersecurity researcher and a former ambassador will speak at other graduation ceremonies, while the GW School of Business and the School of Nursing have not yet announced their speakers.

"We have a distinguished group of faculty and student speakers this year from the fields of chemistry, history, geography, museum studies, art therapy, environmental studies, public administration and anthropology – representing the breadth and depth of the arts and sciences," Columbian College dean Peg Barratt said. "I'm proud of all our graduates and look forward to celebrating with them as they receive their degrees next month."

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