CCAS master’s graduates told to be lifelong students, ‘change-makers’

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Kelly Harro, the student keynote speaker and recipient of the Distinguished Master's Degree Scholar Award, addresses the audience at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Master's Program Celebration.

Graduate students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences gathered in the Smith Center Friday to celebrate their master’s degrees.

About 600 graduates received their diplomas and were told by speakers to continue learning and working toward change every day.

Here’s what the speakers had to say:

1. Making your bed

Ivy Ken, an associate professor of sociology, said she was once told the key to a successful marriage is making your bed together every day. Speaking on her 15th wedding anniversary, Ken said striving to change the world requires work every day – just like a successful marriage requires the small task of making your bed.

“Contributing, engaging in activism, fixing the world – it’s an everyday activity. Just like making your bed,” Ken said. “You’ll never get to the point where you’re done.”

Ken acknowledged graduate students efforts to unionize and said she is proud to be part of a community where students organize movements to spark change.

“Within this University, which will always be affiliated with your name, there are movements and moments that should make you really proud of that affiliation,” she said.

Ken told the graduates that, with their degrees, they are equipped with more skills, knowledge, humility and wisdom to contribute to community organizations.

“If you contribute together with the people in your communities every day, just like you make the bed, you really are going to make this world a place where we can all take refuge,” Ken said.

2. From teacher to student

Kelly Harro, the student speaker and recipient of the Distinguished Master’s Degree Scholar Award, spoke about the importance of continually exploring a passion for learning.

As a former high school teacher, she returned to school to get a master’s degree in museum studies and accepted an internship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, even though she had a limited background in science.

“In whatever comes next, sometimes you’ll be the expert and sometimes you’ll be the student, and there is beauty in both,” she said. “Don’t settle into mastery without seeking opportunities to be in awe of how much you still don’t know.”

3. Be a ‘change-maker’

In a final charge to the graduates, Ben Vinson, the dean of CCAS, told the audience to view the past as a “guiding light.”

Vinson said that modern society is divisive and contentious, and in divisive times, deep learning and lateral thinking are important.

“Challenging times can lead to fresh opportunities. And you, as graduates, can determine what happens in this world,” Vinson said.

Vinson ended his speech encouraging the graduates to take advantage of all opportunities that come their way and to continually work to move forward. 

“By the quality of your life, and small kindness or even grand gestures, you are moving our great society forward,” he said. “Graduates, you are the change-makers, and this is your time.”

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