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.
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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