Convocation 2015 Honors, Inspires Graduates

Convocation 2015 Honors, Inspires Graduates



At the Convocation for the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) on June 19, undergraduate, master’s and doctoral graduates received diplomas, and awards were presented to faculty and students. Margaret Beale Spencer, a University of Chicago professor who received an honorary Northwestern degree earlier that day, was the featured speaker, along with student speakers Isabel Garcia and Avi Small.

Convocation co-chair Nicole Reed kicked off Convocation by declaring, “SESP is filled with passionate, caring individuals who want to make a difference.” Dean Penelope Peterson described ways that SESP has been ahead of its time and assured the audience that innovation continues at SESP. “We know students will continue the spirit of innovation,” Peterson told the graduates. “You were well prepared to become leaders and innovators.”

The central theme of Beale Spencer’s talk to the graduates was that their SESP education puts them on the road to positive social change. She quoted Nelson Mandela as saying, “Change starts with you. It is a task for each and every one of us.” Beale Spencer noted that the SESP mission statement gave students the goal of improving learning and human development across the life span. No matter where the graduates focus, their goal is “to maximize learning and development for all,” she said.

At the same time, she advised them to keep in mind that everyone possesses strengths but also has some level of risk or challenge. Reminding students that they have the ability to make a difference, she encouraged them to “maximize all sources of strength and support while engaging opportunities to minimize risk.” She concluded by reassuring the graduates, “Whether direction you take, living the School’s mission will provide strength and opportunity to you.”

Undergraduate graduates Garcia and Small offered lighthearted remarks praising the spirit of collaboration at SESP since they experienced working collaboratively in almost every SESP class they took. “Working together will get you much further than working alone,” Garcia said, as they noted that better solutions and the ability to be a team player could result.

“SESP is a community we’ve been lucky enough to be part of,” Garcia said. “Whatever we’re going to do, we can do it better together.” Small added, “We’re expertly equipped to be stronger partners and better collaborators, and it’s all because of SESP.”

Faculty awards were presented for outstanding professors. Mesmin Destin received the award for outstanding full-time professor, and Lilah Shapiro received the award for outstanding instructor. In addition, high school mathematics teacher Sameer Shah was recognized for his Northwestern University Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award, as he was nominated by SESP student Samantha Yi.

Alumni Leadership Awards went to Andrew Green for undergraduate student and Nick Royal for graduate student. Green was co-founder of Deering Days, a member of the Wildcat Welcome Board and chief of staff of Associated Student Government. Royal, a student in the Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy Program, served as an assistant resident director, instructor and graduate assistant.

The award for highest grade-point average went to Tiffany Wu, who majored in secondary teaching for history. During her Northwestern career, Wu was also a research assistant at the Institute for Policy Research, teaching assistant at the Center for Talent Development, flute player and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Convocation co-chair Grace Casimer concluded the ceremony by stating, “We are grateful for the community we have built here.” She explained that students have learned “who we are and who we are not” as they worked through their practicums. She also noted that SESP is the school for “people who love people” and that no matter what students do, SESP will always provide support.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/7/15