As master’s and doctoral graduates from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development geared up to walk across the Smith Center stage Saturday morning, speakers rallied them to fight against inequality.
Here are a few highlights from the ceremony:
1. Rebuking society’s self-interest
GSEHD Dean Michael Feuer said the country has been plagued with leaders who only think about themselves, but GSEHD graduates have the opportunity to be selfless in their careers.
Feuer said graduates should pledge themselves to uphold the public good and remember that the country is trending toward generosity and goodness. He cited a 2018 study that found that philanthropy promotes physical and mental health.
“Don’t let the demagogues of self-interest discourage us,” Feuer said.
He added that graduates have been trained as researchers and can use scientific inquiry to back up their careers as leaders in education.
“Stick with that program,” he said. “Resist the temptations of complacency and apathy. Keep strong the connections between research and practice.”
2. Beacons of hope
Speaker Carl Cohn, a professor emeritus at Claremont Graduate University, said despite receiving invitations to the White House or testifying in front of Congress, his proudest achievements came from volunteering in a first grade classroom in Long Beach, California, where he worked as a superintendent.
Cohn said he worked every day to inspire faculty and staff to infuse passion into their teaching jobs, which he said impacted the lives of the low-income children of color of whom his school’s student body was primarily comprised.
“Whatever success we had there in Long Beach grew out of our commitment to improve the capacity of teachers to be better,” he said.
He told graduates that the effort to improve schools would not be short or easy, but it would be a “long, hard slog” that stable leadership from students receiving degrees will help facilitate.
“I hope that the courageous choice that you’ve made to make a difference in education will always be influenced by a fondness for your days here at GW, knowing that you have received the best preparation possible and realizing the family and friends that have joined you here today represent the best support system possible,” he said.
3. Always becoming
Student commencement speaker Suzanne D’Ambrosio, who received her master’s degree in educational technology leadership, told graduates to appreciate the challenges they overcame to walk across the stage. D’Ambrosio, who completed her master’s coursework completely online, said some of the hardest things in life begin with stepping out of one’s routine, which many students had to accomplish to work toward receiving another degree.
She said the graduating class should be proud of their decision to disrupt their routine and to evolve despite personal hardships.
“We have learned that becoming never needs to end,” she said.