SESP Convocation Inspires Graduates to Improve People’s Lives

SESP Convocation Inspires Graduates to Improve People’s Lives

Dean Penelope Peterson’s talk kicked off the Convocation of the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) on June 15 by emphasizing the need for understanding policy in order to change people’s lives. “You leave here well prepared to be leaders and innovators,” Peterson told the graduates.

Her message was for all “SESPians” who want to go out into the world and change lives, whether it is by leading an organization, doing cutting-edge research or leading a K-12 school system. “We know you’ll do good — we hope you’ll also do well,” she concluded.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro also addressed the graduates of SESP, which he described as the “happiest students at Northwestern,” reminding them of the importance of gratitude, service, lifelong learning and friendship. He counseled the graduates, “Don’t be content with life getting in the way of friendship.”

Guest speaker Diana Menley Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for children, welcomed SESP graduates as “new warriors” in the effort to support healthy development of children and close the achievement gap. She became philosophical as she discussed the difference between people who are hedgehogs, or specialists, and foxes, or generalists. “Most of you are foxes,” she said. “Your degree is from a school with a mission to improve all human development.”

“You’re entering a field where there’s no silver bullet, where the easy answers were exhausted long ago,” she said. “An issue this complex requires different perspectives,” she added. She advised the graduates when they find a problem to allow their “inner fox to come out.” When things don’t work out, her advice was to acknowledge failure and try again, trying something different.

“Feed your curiosity, your enthusiasm and your mind. Make this work fun,” she said, encouraging the “new warriors” to be persistent.

Graduating senior Jack Chen, speaking for the graduates, celebrated the uniqueness of SESP, where students are invited to dinner at the dean’s house, do research with professors and find that serving the community is the norm. “Though we graduate, we never leave SESP,” he said.

“We graduate into uncertain times, times with many opportunities for change. We graduate having the opportunity to be part of that change.” Because change doesn’t come easily, each graduate needs to consider carefully “how we can change and how we can change the world,” he said.

“Embrace uncertainty,” which allows for new growth, he commented. Learning is a lifelong process, and “the best thing we can do is learn and help others,” he concluded.

Convocation co-chairs Angela Kim and Curie Lee presented the faculty awards. Professor David Figlio received the outstanding professor award, and Jerry Stermer received the outstanding instructor award.

Alumnus Bradley Wadle presented the Alumni Leadership Awards to undergraduate student Emily Roskey and Learning Sciences graduate student Adam Lupu. Roskey co-chaired the Project Wildcat outdoor education program for incoming freshmen. Lupu has been director of learning and development at the nonprofit Global Playground, co-founder of the first Tedx Evanston and learning architect at the Code Academy.

The award for highest grade point average went to Jennifer Mahlum, with a 3.97 average. A reception for graduates and their families was held immediately after the ceremony in the Sorority Quad.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 6/21/12