GSEHD dean gives final address

America has made progress in education equality, Graduate School of Education and Human Development Dean Mary Futrell said during her school’s graduation ceremony Saturday morning, but added that reform has not gone far enough.

In her graduation ceremony as dean, Futrell referenced the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the Voting Rights Act and the Title IX legislation that barred sex discrimination in education. She said these “milestones” have dramatically increased access to education at all levels.

“While those gains in equity have created a stronger society, there are still too many people who are not being given equal opportunities,” Futrell said. “If 40 years from now we have to reauthorize [Title IX] again, then we as a nation will have failed to achieve true equality in America, especially for women and girls.”

Futrell said in order to remain competitive, America must more than double the number of students enrolled in secondary education programs by 2025.

“When we see growing diversity on our campus, that’s progress,” Futrell said. “As President John F. Kennedy said, our promise as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.”

Student speaker Anoma Hapangama, who is graduating with a degree in school counseling, said she initially felt guilty for not pursuing a career in medicine like her parents had hoped.

In Sri Lanka, where her parents are from, talking about feelings is considered “taboo,” she said. But since she has studied the effects of stress and anxiety on Sri Lankans in the wake of terrorist attacks and the 2004 tsunami, her parents have become her biggest fans.

“At the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, I have learned that the most important thing we need to do is be ourselves and fight to be who we want to be,” Hapangama said.

GSEHD is the second smallest school at GW, but Futrell said the 865-member graduating class was one of the largest the school has ever had.

“Always put first the common good of the people you serve and profession to which you belong,” Futrell concluded in her remarks. “Never stop finding joy and satisfaction in the work that you do.”

Graduates and their parents said they were moved by Futrell’s final speech as dean. Outside the Smith Center, graduate Debra Bright Harris was visibly elated about her degree.

“I feel fantastic,” she said. “It has finally sunk in, I am a graduate from George Washington University’s doctorate program. It’s been a long journey.”

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