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The students at the first ceremony for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences await their degrees in the Smith Center. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The students at the first ceremony for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences await their degrees in the Smith Center. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Speakers at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences ceremony on Saturday urged the graduating seniors to take risks in their future endeavors and learn from past mistakes.

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Daniel Ullman awarded economics professor Tara Sinclair for her enthusiasm in teaching and said students say Sinclair taught them to think differently, which he called the “ultimate compliment.”

1. Don’t be good. Do good.

Political science professor Corrine McConnaughy spoke at the ceremony, citing an activity she uses in her classes called Prisoner’s Dilemma, where students can choose to either better their grades at the expense of their classmates’ grades or risk their grade with a chance of bettering everyone’s grade. She encouraged the graduates to break the rules in order to change them into something better, instead of choosing from options presented.

“Being good is just downright limiting. It means making safe choices, ones you know will please other people,” McConnaughy said.

2. College is priceless

The student speaker at the ceremony was Matt Zahn, who majored in economics and political science and was the college’s distinguished scholar. He said he considered himself a “sucker” because he could have gone to the University of Vermont for free and instead chose GW, which is “definitely not free.”

“The true value of a college education is more than the cost,” Zahn said. “It is ultimately determined by you, by what you put in and the impact you make on the lives of others.”

3. Live through trial and error

CCAS Dean Ben Vinson told the graduates at the ceremony to realize that learning is a life-long process and that they should make informed decisions, but live by trial and error.

“Each of you through failure have arrived at your success,” Vinson said.

Vinson used a selfie stick to take a picture with each of the graduates as they crossed the stage. He finished his remarks by telling them to “make history,” the slogan of the University’s $1 billion campaign.

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Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health Lynn Goldman celebrates the school's and the graduates' successes during a ceremony. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health Lynn Goldman celebrates the school’s and the graduates’ successes during a ceremony. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

At the Milken Institute School of Public Health graduation ceremony Saturday, Dean Lynn Goldman and other speakers charged graduates to go forward with their passion for public health to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Before the 465 graduates left Lisner Auditorium with their new degrees, they heard advice on believing in the work they were meant to do and encouraging them to lead with their hearts.

Here are the ceremony’s takeaways:

1. Celebrating successes and setting goals

Goldman opened the ceremony by highlighting some of the school’s accomplishments from the year, including new opportunities for research and a rise in the rankings for both the school’s master’s and undergraduate programs.

She recognized their growing online master’s of public health and master’s of health administration programs, which now have more than 700 students around the world. Some of the first graduates of these online programs came to D.C. and attended the ceremony.

Goldman said she knows all of the graduates understand the importance of public health, and she reminded them to work to achieve the goals of the field.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to live longer and healthier lives,” Goldman said. “Public health is about taking care of all people, and it is our duty as public health professionals to reduce disparities that disproportionately affect the poor and underserved.”

2. Sweatpants and statistics

Patrick Zornow, a master’s of public health graduate, delivered a speech that helped graduates and audience members answer the question, “Where do I go from here?”

Zornow said embracing change has helped him answer this question, which is how he found himself studying public health at GW.

He said he embraced changes in his life while pursuing his degree when he no longer cared about wearing the same pair of sweatpants three days in a row during finals and when he realized he had an “unhealthy” interest in statistics, a field he never imagined enjoying.

Zornow told graduates it is imperative to embrace change and keep an open mind, especially when working in the public health field.

“Other times the changes we make can be a little more difficult,” Zornow said. “It’s not enough for us to stand in an ivory tower shouting down science and statistics saying someone is wrong, because when we do that, we fail to meet people where they are and we limit our ability to understand them.”

3. Nonlinear lives

Keynote speaker Michael Botticelli, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, told stories of his own and others’ substance abuse to remind graduates that it is the people who they will help who make their work matter.

“If we choose to put ourselves in the center of our work, we lose the ability to help the beauty in the people we help shine,” Botticelli said. “Beautiful people do not just happen, and every one of us in this room today not only has the great privilege of helping make beautiful people happen, but we’ve proven that through our hard work we do make beautiful people happen.”

Botticelli began working in public health during his own recovery from a substance abuse disorder. He said he “never believed” he would advise the president of the United States on national drug policies, which has taught him to listen to and understand the power of people’s stories.

“The drive to succeed isn’t only found in people with pristine resumes. Sometimes that drive is even stronger for people who have gone through tough times and come out on the other side,” Botticelli said. “Seek out the people who do not present a linear narrative, who have holes in their resumes. People who have experienced setback, suffering and recovery.”

4. Pledging to improve lives

Every year, a group of public health graduates work together to write a graduation oath that encompasses what they learned during their years as students and that serves as a reminder of the work they are setting out to do.

The ceremony closed after all graduates read the oath aloud and pledged to promote wellness in their public health professions.

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International students and their families gathered at the International Student Graduation Luncheon Saturday. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

International students and their families gathered at the International Student Graduation Luncheon Saturday. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A portion of the more than 1,000 international students who are graduating this weekend gathered in Alumni House Saturday afternoon for a lunch reception honoring their passage into the community of GW international alumni.

1. A plea for a postcard

After the group had a chance to sample foods with some international flavor, including stuffed grape leaves and hummus, interim Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development Karen White spoke to the crowd, congratulating students and parents alike.

She devoted most of her time at the podium to sharing the resources available to students after graduation, noting the 60 individual alumni networks both in the U.S. and abroad, and asking almost-graduates to update their contact information so her office could stay in touch.

“This is your University and we want to hear from you, and we want you to be a part of our continuing globalization as well as moving the University forward. One of the first and most important pieces of that is staying in contact so that we know how to find you,” White said.

2. A story ‘of resilience and passion’

White then turned over the microphone to Omayra Chuquihuara, a member of the Class of 2015 from Lima, Peru and the Student Association’s director of international students as well as the founder and first director of the GW International Students Community.

Chuquihuara shared a story from her sophomore year, when she had to return home from GW due to personal reasons and was unsure if she would be able to return as a junior. But she said the international student community was what drove her to do everything she could to return, and gave her the support she needed when she came back.

“I am sure you each have a story of your own, stories of resilience and passion and perseverance and endless support from your family and friends at home and at GW. These are the stories that make us want to work harder, stay involved, give back and be a part of that amazing international student community that we’ve created here at GW,” she said.

3. A local guest

Chuquihuara finished her speech, then broke out in a knowing grin. She chuckled and began ad-libbing congratulations to the audience, eyes frequently glancing to the side at a hallway entering the reception room in the back of Alumni House.

Suddenly, she cut herself off mid-sentence to exclaim, “Here’s George!” as the GW George mascot sauntered into the room to the delight of families and slight embarrassment of students.

Before the international students embarked to graduation ceremonies and perhaps back to their home countries, they got to take a photo with GW’s hometown hero.

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The Commencement Weekend Interfaith Baccalaureate service was held at Western Presbyterian Church. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Commencement Weekend Interfaith Baccalaureate service was held at Western Presbyterian Church. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduates and their families gathered for the 15th annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service at the Western Presbyterian Church Saturday morning to share prayer and celebrate the Class of 2015.

Five graduating seniors from a variety of religious backgrounds shared their reflections on how their religion and the Interfaith community has impacted their time at GW.

The ceremony also included multiple musical performances by the University Singers and graduates and brief remarks from University President Steven Knapp.

1. Turning to faith in times of change

Reverend Adam Park, the chaplain of the Newman Center, opened the morning with remarks on the close connection between education and religion, and offered a prayer for the graduating class in this new period of their lives.

Quoting the namesake of the organization, Cardinal John Henry Newman, Park said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

“[Lord,] may you instill within them a spirit of excitement and joy for this momentous occasion in their lives,” Park said. “May they look forward to the future and with confident hope that in the midst of these changes in their lives, it may lead them to perfection.”

Chaplain Meraj Allahrakha, community adviser of the GW Muslim Student Association, also recited a brief prayer for the Class of 2015 and talked about the many ways God is present in their lives, especially during college.

He said God can come in many forms and go by many names, but said in his tradition it is the person you call upon when you are on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean. He got a laugh from the crowd by following with, “Many of us know this feeling: It was just finals week.”

2. Breaking barriers, building friendships

All five students stressed their personal religious evolution throughout college, but more importantly the growth of the Interfaith community as a whole.

“While I cannot overstate how integral Judaism is to my identity, and how important it has been to me throughout my time at GW, I also must note how critical it has been to be part of an interfaith community,” Kiana Davis said. “We were able to look past labels and prejudices. We supported each other, advised one another and became friends.”

Davis, along with Floyd Jones, a Protestant, Nicolas Pedreira, a Catholic, Farah Albani, a Muslim, and Ross Rattanasena, a Buddhist, elaborated on the close bonds they had formed both with God and each other throughout the year and the progress the Interfaith community has made at GW.

“While the core of our relationship is an exclusive relationship between ourselves and God, we often forget that that relationship can be strengthened by coming together,” Albani said. “We met often over coffee or a meal to discuss the various struggles that come with being a faith leader, to plan events that we could put on together that would redefine interfaith and somewhere along the line we became friends.”

University President Steven Knapp spoke at the Interfaith Baccalaureate service on Saturday. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

University President Steven Knapp spoke at the Interfaith Baccalaureate on Saturday service. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

3. Universal value of compassion

After a brief introduction by Student Association President Andie Dowd, Knapp took the podium to express his pride in the Interfaith community and the graduating class.

He discussed the work of Karen Armstrong, a historian of religion, who sought to answer what all world religions could agree on.

“Her striking answer was a single word. Compassion,” Knapp said.

He explained how impressed he has been with the compassion the Interfaith community and University community has shown throughout the year, especially in times of sorrow.

Knapp also mentioned the deadly Amtrak train derailment and said two current students were on the train and that he had exchanged emails with both of them. He explained Linnea Magsuci, a rising junior, had something she wanted to share with the graduating class. A 1990 alumna also died in that accident.

“’Tell the Class of 2015 to remember that life is the most precious gift, and we sometimes forget how lucky we are to be alive and healthy,’” she told Knapp in an email. “’Use that gift to make a difference. Stay kind and stay generous.’”

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Micheal Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, spoke at the 2015 graduation celebration. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Micheal Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, spoke at the 2015 graduation celebration. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Though the Graduate School of Education and Human Development Dean Michael Feuer joked he had asked Lady Gaga to speak at Saturday morning’s graduation ceremony, the school’s faculty and student speakers still managed to entertain graduates without her help.

The ceremony in the Smith Center featured both faculty and student speakers who asked the graduates to pay attention to their futures and the changes in communication and education.

1. Living out their relatives’ dreams

The event started with opening remarks from the school’s Senior Associate Dean Carol Kochhar-Bryant, who segued into speaker Brianna Rodriguez, a student receiving her master’s in school counseling.

Rodriguez told the story of her grandmother who had to leave school in eighth grade to support her family, despite her desire to continue her education.

“What was once [my grandmother's] fantasy has become my reality,” she said. “I know that achievement is hers, too.”

2. ‘Luck really does matter’

Feuer’s speech highlighted the challenges students may face after they throw their caps on the National Mall on Sunday.

He said students are ready to tackle problems like income inequality and the achievement gap between rich and poor. He said the graduates are ready to find solutions to those challenges, but that it’s OK if they fail a couple times.

“You could imagine how relieved I was to hear from my psychologist friends that failure is the key to success,” Feuer said.

A member of the graduating class from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development wears a cap that reads "Keep Calm and Counsel on!" Katie Causey | Photo Editor

A member of the graduating class from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development wears a cap that reads “Keep Calm and Counsel on!” Katie Causey | Photo Editor

But he said that in times of success, like graduation, it’s important to remember that luck plays a role in those accomplishments.

“You should take credit for your accomplishments, to be sure,” he said. “But leave a little room for humility, will you?”

But before leaving the podium, Feuer introduced the next speaker, education and international affairs professor emeritus Dorothy Moore.

“The fact of the matter is when I approached Dr. Moore to be our commencement speaker, she said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want Lady Gaga?’” he said. “I thought about that, and I called Lady Gaga, and what do you think Lady Gaga said? ‘Oh, is Dr. Moore not available?’”

3. Good communication takes out roadblocks

Moore focused on two points in her speech – communication is one of the most important parts of society, and the digital age causes rapid change in how people interact.

She recalled living in Tokyo when she hired a local woman to help her with housekeeping. Moore said the woman didn’t stop working on her first day of the job — and bad communication is all to blame.

“On her first day, I thought I was being kind and calling her by name,” Moore said. “I found out later, that I thought I was being very kind and calling her by her name. [But] since I was mispronouncing it, it translated to ‘hurry up.’ So all day long I was telling her, ‘Hurry up. Hurry up.’”

And then she turned her focus to how words like “selfie” haven’t even existed for as long as the act of taking a self portrait. She said technology and social media have changed and continue to change the way people communicate day to day, and added that the students will need to learn how to adapt to those rapid changes.

4. From a $5 per week to doctoral degree

Armando Justo, a doctoral graduate in human and organizational learning, addressed his fellow graduates and the audience in a speech about overcoming an imperfect family situation through education.

Justo’s mother died when he was still a young child, which put a strain on his father and siblings to provide basic needs like food for their family. He said he went hungry many nights and used to sell glass to his local grocery store in Mexico.

“Well-designed education is the key to renewal,” he said. “It fosters intellectual freedom, social consciousness and the creation of a more democratic and inclusive society.”

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Faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences congratulated the new graduates Friday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences congratulated the new graduates Friday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Speakers at the commencement ceremony for the School of Engineering and Applied Science Friday suggested the new graduates use their degree to make changes in the world and become leaders.

After David Dolling, the dean of SEAS, had everyone in the Smith Center applaud the parents, spouses and guests of the graduates for supporting the students on their journey to graduation, selected students were presented with awards before other speakers shared their stories from their time as SEAS students.

1. Never be tempted by shortcuts.

Dolling said the engineering school aims to provide students with an in-depth education of the technical components of the sciences, but students should also consider the big picture of the topics and have a broad view of their surroundings. He told them they should never stop learning and make ethical decisions in their personal and professional lives.

“Your reputation and your credibility are your most valuable yet your most fragile assets,” Dolling said. “Both are earned over time, yet both can be destroyed overnight. Never be tempted by shortcuts.”

2. Step outside your comfort zone.

Student speaker Eric Prokop, who studied civil and environmental engineering and received three awards for his academic achievements, said he was most impressed by his classmates’ unwillingness to stay in their comfort zones or conform to the engineering and computer scientist stereotypes.

“It’s the remarkable diversity of interests and talents and personality that the student body possesses that left the greatest impact on me,” he said.

3. Give a little extra.

Kristy McDonnell Ortiz, a double SEAS alumna and vice president and managing director for Pace Global, an energy consulting and management firm, said that although she went to Harvard after GW, her “heart has always been with GW and SEAS.”

She encouraged students to take advantage of the analytical thinking skills they developed in SEAS and use them to both find opportunities to make a difference in the world and to challenge themselves. She recited a quote that hung on the wall of her first manager’s office as advice for the graduates.

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra,” Ortiz said. “Give a little extra.”

4. Be a leader.

Ortiz instructed the new graduates to always be on the lookout for professional opportunities and take them.

“Today, you should celebrate,” she said. “Tomorrow, be an engineer. Solve the challenges. Be a leader.”

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Interim Dean Mary Jane Schumann welcomed the 2015 Graduating Class of the George Washington School of Nursing. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Interim Dean Mary Jane Schumann welcomed the 2015 Graduating Class of the George Washington School of Nursing. Katie Causey | Photo Editor


Speakers at the School of Nursing’s commencement ceremony urged about 300 graduates to balance nurturing attitudes with professionalism in Lisner Auditorium Thursday night.

Mary Jean Schumann, interim dean of the nursing school, told graduates that they would be part of the most personal moments in their patients’ lives – from births to deaths.

1. Thanking support systems

Schumann led a round of applause for the audience members who supported the graduates as they juggled school with jobs and responsibilities at home.

She said spouses, family members and friends helped graduates with everything from doing laundry to picking up kids from school.

“This was a family event, so if you hear a child in the background, please note that that child was a part of the support system,” she said.

2. Changing perceptions of nursing

Student speaker Danielle Melican, who said she never imagined she would be addressing the crowd after becoming a mother and high school dropout at age 16, said she came across stereotypes about nursing while researching for her speech on the Internet.

“While looking through seemingly unending memes and quotes about nursing, I noticed that three words appeared much more frequently than others,” she said. “Those words were caring, calling and compassionate.”

She encouraged graduates to be examples of how nurses could handle a rigorous education and be professional while still maintaining those qualities.

“You are proof that nurses are more,” she said.

3. Making “CHOICES”

Diane Okonsy, a graduate in the doctor of nursing practice program, said she and her fellow students have embodied the acronym “CHOICES,” which stands for choices, hard work, opportunity, initiative, charity, energy and passion and shooting for the stars.

She emphasized the “charity” aspect of the acronym before presenting a check for $2,500 to the doctor of nursing practice program on behalf of her fellow graduates.

4. Launching a new career

After serving as dean of the nursing school for 10 days, keynote speaker Pamela Jeffries said she and the graduates were in similar situations as they embarked on new career paths.

“I’m very much empathizing with each of you every step of the way,” she said. “There are many similarities with our journeys as we forge into new directions.”

She left the graduates with four pieces of advice for the future: set goals, find a mentor, build a network and be a leader.

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Trustee Mark Shenkman delivered the keynote address to graduate students of the business school. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Trustee Mark Shenkman delivered the keynote address to graduate students of the business school. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Students, faculty, family and friends gathered at the School of Business Master’s and Doctoral Programs Celebration in the Smith Center Friday to watch as graduate students were recognized for their achievements.

The graduates heard words of advice from speakers stressing the importance of planning for the future and allowing others to inspire their own success.

1. A new chapter

Mark Shenkman, president and founder of Shenkman Capital and a member of GW’s Board of Trustees, said it was his duty as keynote speaker to provide graduates with real life advice and encourage them to have a plan for the next phase in their life story.

An alumnus, Shenkman said he saw the GW School of Business as “the launching pad” for success in his career.

“My story begins sitting in Monroe Hall in 1967 taking a course called ‘Case Studies in Strategic Planning’ where I was required to write a paper on my career goals and aspirations,” Shenkman said. “It was the best assignment I had ever completed in any undergraduate or graduate course. It made me really think about my future.”

He encouraged each graduate to develop a strategic life plan and identify realistic goals for the future.

“Today begins a new chapter in your life plan. May all your future chapters be filled with remarkable achievements,” he said.

2. “Time equals service, family equals inspiration”

Student speaker Luxi Liu asked graduates to listen as she addressed “two equations — time equals service and family equals inspiration.”

Liu said she saw how fellow classmates were able to make a difference and how it drove her to do the same.

“From the countless hours going to volunteer in low-income communities, to the very long weekends spent in the library developing an idea, from the hours spent talking with a friend in need, to reaching out to a classmate who hasn’t been in class for a while,” Liu said. “I realized the time spent serving others, the more meaningful my time was.”

3. Upholding the Legacy of George Washington

Linda Livingstone, dean of the business school, called the Class of 2015 “a very special class” because it is her first year working at GW.

She told graduates that when she was decorating her office, she wanted a special image reminding her how special GW is. She decided on a picture of George Washington at Valley Forge.

“I chose that image because it’s a touchstone for me, daily, of the legacy that we have the responsibility to build on here as faculty, as staff, as students, and now, as you leave here and become alumni, a legacy of leadership, of courage and a legacy of service,” she said.

4. ‘Make as much noise as you possibly can’

Vanessa Perry, interim associate dean for graduate programs at the school, concluded the ceremony by asking the graduates to “rise up and make as much noise as you possibly can.”

She then called each category of degree recipients and waited as they jumped into the air and cheered at the top of their lungs.

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Provost Steven Lerman encouraged new inductees of Phi Beta Kappa to give back generously. Kendall Payne | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Provost Steven Lerman encouraged new inductees of Phi Beta Kappa to give back generously. Kendall Payne | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony, which was held in Lisner Auditorium, was short and sweet.

The national honor society, which was founded in 1776, inducted about 90 new members on Friday afternoon. Here are three takeaways from the ceremony:

A thanks to all who lent a hand

Jeffrey Brand, president of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, commended the parents and family members in the audience for handling the complaints about exams, late-night papers and even unreasonable professors.

Brand, who is also the associate dean for graduate studies in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and an associate professor of philosophy, said that their support gave students the “faith that the sacrifices they’ve made will be worth it.”

He also demonstrated the secret handshake for the new members.

Becoming a citizen scholar

Provost Steven Lerman, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, encouraged inductees to “give back generously.”

He spoke about “what it means to be a citizen-scholar in the 21st century.” He said the critical thinking skills the inductees have gained in their four years at GW will set them apart in the Information Age.

More than just a line on a résumé

Andrew Steigman, an associate dean at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, is a former president of the D.C. area’s Phi Beta Kappa Association.

He told inductees to treat their membership “as more than an impressive entry on their résumé.” Phi Beta Kappa, he said, could be a part of their lives if they joined regional association.

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The Georgetown rabbi who pled guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism is going to prison.

Barry Freundel was sentenced to six and a half years in prison Friday after secretly videotaping Orthodox Jewish women, including an alumna, as they took ritual baths, according to The Washington Post. Freundel is also required to pay $2,000 in fines, The Post reported.

Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin of the D.C. Superior Court sentenced Freundel after hearing hours of testimony from the women he filmed.

“You repeatedly and secretly violated the trust your victims had in you and you abused your power,” Alprin said in the Post report.

Prosecutors said during his hearing that Freundel filmed nearly 150 women through a camera hidden in a clock radio as they took ritual baths in the Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown. Stephanie Doucette, an alumna, confirmed in February that she was also recorded by Freundel.

Freundel taught religion classes as a part-time faculty member at GW until as recently as 2008, and led services at the synagogue, located on 28th and N streets.

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