“You leave here well prepared to make a difference in the lives and learning of others,” Dean Penelope Peterson told the graduates of the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) at Convocation on June 21. As she recounted the innovations the School is known for, she said, “We know you students will continue this spirit of innovation as you go out into the world.”
Northwestern President Morton Schapiro also addressed the graduates of SESP, which he described as best personifying an engaged learning community and the happiest students at Northwestern. His message stressed the importance of maintaining friendships. “Do the work that makes that happen,” he advised them. “May you always be blessed with the gift of friendship.”
The guest speaker at Convocation was Kelly O’Keefe-Boettcher, a Milwaukee high school English teacher and winner of the Northwestern University Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award. She was nominated for the award by SESP graduating senior Jessica Holden.
O’Keefe-Boettcher gave “a bold invitation to lead a bold life,” affirming Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to do something every day that one is afraid of. “Be unstoppable in the face of no agreement,” she told the graduates, as they right wrongs and show their belief in freedom, justice and community. In addition, she urged them to be responsible, riffing on the word able as part of response-able. “Trust that this School has given you everything you need to be brave,” she said.
Graduating senior Monique Brown, speaking for the graduates, celebrated a diverse graduating class united by the single goal of changing the world. Addressing her fellow graduates as future leaders and game changers, she said, “I am sincerely proud to know you. … “You changed my life forever.”
She described students gaining the ability to “realize the possibilities of our potential” and trading self-interest for thinking of the good of everyone. “Our differences have made us closer. … Our hope for change has brought us here,” she said. “You are more than equipped to change this world for the good.”
Graduating senior Aria Fiat presented the faculty awards, recognizing the importance of professors and instructors “who have helped us get to where we are today.” Professor Emma Adam received the outstanding professor award, and adjunct faculty member Danny Cohen (PhD11) received the outstanding instructor award.
Alumnus Bradley Wadle (MS03) presented the Alumni Leadership Awards to undergraduate student Zoe Goodman and graduate student Diane Rodriguez Rand. Goodman, described as “creative, compassionate and confident,” has been a leader in a range of activities, including Alternative Spring Breaks, working for a youth shelter in India, and acting as Willie the Wildcat. Rand, who received a master’s degree in elementary teaching, is a founding member of a charter school in Englewood and was described in her nomination as “creative, thoughtful, diligent, curious and committed.”
The award for highest grade-point average went to Aria Fiat, with a perfect 4.0 average. Fiat, who earned a Certificate of Civic Engagement, is the co-founder of the nonprofit Supplies for Dreams, assisted in Emma Adam’s research lab and won a Fulbright fellowship.
Convocation co-chairs Caitlin Ahearn and Jessica Holden offered the welcome and farewell remarks at the Convocation ceremony. A reception for graduates and their families was held immediately afterward in the Jacobs Center.