Speakers at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s commencement ceremony Saturday highlighted education’s importance in democracy.
The ceremony was hosted in a packed Smith Center and celebrated the graduation of more than 500 students. Three speakers addressed the crowd, urging students to use their education – and their ability to educate others – to influence governmental change.
Here are the main takeaways from the morning:
1. Knowing and doing
Student speaker Mariela Campuzano, who obtained a degree in education and organizational learning, said her time at the University taught her to use connections with professors and peers for both learning and taking action in her work.
Campuzano said she learned to be a “doer” amid loads of schoolwork with guidance from her mother, who needed to learn English and raise her children at once. She said when she came to GW, her education helped to bridge what she learned with meaningful action, and her professors helped her find the motivation to continue her studies.
“I needed to challenge thoughts and my experiences and seize the world,” she said. “I came to D.C. to know, so I could do.”
2. Democracy and education
Michael Feuer, the dean of GSEHD, told graduates that a good education can be used to improve the state of the government.
He said two recent national incidents – a major romaine lettuce recall after an E. coli outbreak and a scandal about public involvement in the federal review of Bears Ears National Monument – pointed to disfunction in the government stemming from underprioritizing education.
“Democracy depends on educated citizens,” he said. “Invest in education to help democracy thrive.”
3. The value of leadership
Alumna Elizabeth Lodal, who delivered the celebration address, advised students to become leaders in their fields and recognize the value of their undergraduate degrees.
Lodal, a member of the Virginia Board of Education, added that to make valuable connections with people, students should “mix serious with funny” and balance work with other activities, like music and yoga.
“You are good people, go forth and do good – you have a sacred mission,” she said.