CCAS professor offers reassuring advice at first ceremony

At the first graduation ceremony of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, associate professor of media and public affairs Lisa St. Clair Harvey brought a little magic. Literally.

As the faculty speaker, Harvey donned a wizard cap and told the audience the hat signified the magic that happens within the walls of GW’s classrooms.

“What we do here at George Washington University, what you’ve been doing for the last four years is really, truly magic,” Harvey said. “Magic at its best, because every single day we walk into a classroom and when we walk out again we are different people.”

Harvey said she knows students are nervous about student loans and the job market, but said after Commencement they would survive. After all, she said, these graduates have persevered through swine flu, blizzards and the recession.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of on the other side of tomorrow’s great ceremony. There’s only more to be discovered,” Harvey said. “You will find work and you will find jobs, you will be well, and you will be GW University graduates. So wizard hats off to you!”

She encouraged students to make their lives joyous, and thanked them for letting faculty be part of their “voyage of discovery.”

Since May 16 is Harvey’s birthday, she requested a present from graduates.

“I want you to go out and devour the rest of your life; I want you to go out and have a ball!”

After the ceremony, graduate Paul Gallo said parts of Harvey’s speech stuck out in his mind.

“Just the importance of remembering that we need to go out there and keep living our lives the way we do, and everything will be all right,” Gallo said.

The ceremony’s first student speaker was graduate student Megan Elizabeth Lebow, who earned a master’s of public policy from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

Lebow told students about teaching at a middle school in the South Bronx before graduate school, and how a student challenged her on the pronunciation of “Arkansas,” by telling her it should sound like “Ar” and “Kansas” combined.

“We have to convince those same people who think that they know the way that things always will be, of the way that things could be,” Lebow said, noting she had to convince adults that her students really wanted to learn.

“Outside of middle school classrooms, the stakes are usually higher. You generally face more seasoned opposition and less tangible evidence. But it is up to all of us to develop unrelenting strength and conviction to leverage our experience and harness our passions so that we can do our part in generating necessary change,” Lebow said.

One of this year’s CCAS Distinguished Scholars, Lauren Chun, also spoke to her classmates. She talked about coming from Hawaii and discovering her passion for criminal justice through an internship.

“I believe that after we graduate today none of us should abandon the passions and the interests that motivated us to succeed here at GW,” she said.

Chun also said that although she and her classmates will soon be “tiny fish in a huge ocean filled with much bigger, older, hungrier fish,” she is confident in the future success of her class.

“Despite the challenges we face, I believe that we have what it takes to thrive in our new environment. I think that we should be more excited than afraid of what lies ahead for us,” Chun said.

At the end of the ceremony, Columbian College Dean Peg Barratt asked graduates to stop by GW in the future.

“Columbian College of Arts and Sciences will always be ready to welcome you back,” Barratt said.

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