GSEHD taps D.C. education official for commencement

A local public education leader will headline the Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s commencement ceremony May 19.

De’Shawn Wright, D.C.’s deputy mayor for education, joins cybersecurity researcher Ron Ross and former ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm, Jr. in the list of speakers shaping up for the Class of 2012’s graduation ceremonies.

Wright has spearheaded the city’s education reform since he was appointed by Mayor Vincent Gray in January 2011. GSEHD Dean Michael Feuer said Wright complemented the school’s strong ties with the District through research programs and teacher-placement partnerships, calling him “an inspirational figure who sets a great example for education students.”

“His past and current successes have helped to shape the education field,” Feuer said.

Wright has spent his career in both education and government, starting as a middle school teacher in Teach for America in 1998 and serving as an education advisor for Newark Mayor Cory Booker in 2006.

Gnehm, an alumnus of the University who now teaches in the Elliott School of International Affairs, was tapped as the school’s commencement speaker last week for his experience at the school and his long career in diplomacy.

“Ambassador Gnehm is a highly regarded member of our faculty, specifically among our students,” said Nick Massella, Elliott School assistant director of public affairs.

Gnehm last served as the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan in 2004 and became a chaired professor at GW in 2005 after a $3.3-million gift from the Kuwait Foundation. He was also an ambassador to Kuwait and Australia.

Polarization among countries was an issue Gnehm said he would look to tackle in his speech, as well as encouraging students to keep an open mind in international affairs debates.

“The challenge in international affairs is the need to understand other countries, their interests, their goals and objectives because we live in a very interdependent world,” Gnehm said.

Last year, Lori Beth Garver, a deputy administrator for NASA, spoke at the commencement ceremony.

School of Engineering and Applied Science graduates will hear from Ross, a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology who works as a computer scientist and information security researcher. He also leads an NIST group looking to standardize cybersecurity standards for the federal government and contractors.

“This is the perfect venue for me to talk about computer security,” Ross said. “We need great students who come out of institutions such as GW.”

The engineering school has looked to grow its academic programs and research in cybersecurity in recent years, and will launch a cybersecurity master’s degree next fall.

“The most important thing is to take all the hard work and the degree and find position in public or private sector, one they enjoy and it’s a challenge,” Ross said. “The are lots of companies who need help.”

This article was updated on April 5, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that it had been 30 years since a faculty member had headlined the commencement ceremony for the Elliott School of International Affairs. In fact, it’s been four years.

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