GSEHD graduates inspired to embrace diversity, discomfort in role as educators

Media Credit: Lisa Blitstein | Contributing Photo Editor

Dora Daniel, a graduate of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, spoke at the school's commencement ceremony Saturday in the Smith Center.

Before masters and doctoral graduates crossed the Smith Center stage at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development commencement ceremony Saturday morning, they were reminded that they have a unique opportunity to shape the future of this country as educators.

Speakers at the ceremony told graduates in the Class of 2017 to welcome their collective diversity, transform the educational paths of their students and embrace discomfort.

Here are a few highlights from the ceremony:

1. ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been’

Dora Daniel, the student speaker who graduated with a master’s degree in educational technology leadership, borrowed a quote from 19th century author George Eliot to begin her speech.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” the author once said.

Daniel told her graduating classmates that she embodied this quote throughout her life. From quitting her job at age 31 to teach in Kenya to enrolling in GSEHD’s masters program at age 50, Daniel always recognized that she had the power to be whoever she wanted to be – no matter how old she was.

She concluded her remarks by reminding graduates that as educators they can be “transformers” in the outcome of a student’s education both inside and outside of the classroom.

“We leave GW with the ability to transform learning outcomes,” she said. “I ask my fellow
graduates to embrace this role of transformer.”

2. Find comfort in discomfort

Sarah Beck, a 2011 GSEHD graduate who now works as an academic dean at Glasgow Middle School in Fairfax, Va., drew on her own experience as an educator to give advice to the graduates and was honored with the outstanding alumni achievement award at the ceremony.

Beck told graduates that discomfort is an important ingredient to be successful in all aspects of life. Beck said that by reframing challenges as opportunities, she was able to learn and grow from discomfort in her career rather than let it discourage her.

“We must be willing to seek out discomfort and engage with it gracefully,” she said. “Discomfort means you’re heading toward the deepest learning.”

3. Embrace diversity and look ahead

Michael Feuer, the dean of GSEHD, said looking out into the audience, he was relieved to see a “magnificent mosaic” of diversity in the school’s graduating class. He reminded seniors that even in trying times, they can pull together and try to better the world through their positions as educators.

Feuer shared quotes from figures like University namesake George Washington, author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his own mother. He said that his mother always told him that she understood the importance of having a good rearview mirror but it was always more important to look forward through the windshield – a sentiment he said graduates should take with them throughout their lives.

“Look through your windshields and as you look, remember we are in this together,” he said. “Your power comes not only from yourselves but also from your community.”

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