SESP Convocation Features Talks, Awards, Kudos for SESP

SESP Convocation Features Talks, Awards, Kudos for SESP

Convocation Co-Chairs
The Convocation of the School of Education and Social Policy on June 17 offered a celebration and send-off for 172 graduates and their families. The ceremony featured speeches by prominent education researcher Gloria Ladson-Billings and graduating senior Rocio Reyes-Morales, remarks by Dean Penelope Peterson and President Morton Schapiro, and the presentation of School awards.

In 2011, 101 undergraduates, 66 master’s students and five doctoral students earned diplomas. The student co-chairs of Convocation, Colleen Antas and Rosey Martinez, presided over the ceremony with a welcome, farewell and gift to the dean.

Dean Peterson advised the graduates, “Stick to your goals of being agents to improve learning and the lives of others.” She described an emergency airplane landing that she had experienced a couple of years ago that made her realize more strongly than ever her sense of responsibility.  “Live every day as if it’s the last,” she told the students. Reminding them of the knowledge and tools they had gained at SESP, she concluded, “You’ll do good, and many of you will do well. We’re counting on you to make a difference. Safe travels.”

President Schapiro described SESP as “an incredible place” and “a model for the rest of Northwestern” because of its faculty-student interaction, small classes and outstanding advising. He noted that on an early tour of Northwestern, the tour guide described Annenberg Hall as “the home of SESP, the happiest students at Northwestern.” He said, “Everyone should have a SESP experience here at Northwestern.” His advice to graduates was “Prepare yourselves for a lifetime of learning,” and he challenged them, “SESP students, we’re privileged to have gotten to know you here. Go out and do great things.”

Ladson-Billings, the Kellner Family Professor in Urban Education and chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former president of the American Education Research Association, spoke to the graduates of the pressing need for “public scholarship” in today’s world.

Using New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as a metaphor for “the destruction of public education,” she said, “In both instances — the city and our schools — there exist beleaguered institutions allowed to limp along with flagging support from the public and its officials. … This is an environment ripe for public scholarship.”

In describing what public scholarship looks like, she advised the graduates to “stop, look and listen” as they examine problems in education. “I believe the task of this next generation of scholars and teachers we celebrate here today is to help democratize our scholarship by making it both responsive and accessible to broader constituencies and more diverse publics. Thus, the charge that I give these graduates is not to be ‘public intellectuals’ or to be ‘private academic entrepreneurs’ but rather to be the kind of scholars who will make a commitment to public scholarship.”

The student speech was delivered by Rocio Reyes-Morales, a graduating senior from Mexico City who worked on a water sanitation project in Guatemala, was selected a “top college woman” by Glamour magazine, studied in Istanbul and will be working at L’Oreal after graduation. She greeted the graduates with the exclamation, “We did it!”

Reyes-Morales expressed gratitude to faculty, staff and advisers for the experience students had at SESP that has made them “the best we can be.” Looking ahead to the challenges after graduation, she paid tribute to “the power of action and responsibility of choice.” To make a difference, she told the students, “We have a responsibility to be relentless dream chasers.”

She expressed the doubts and concerns of new graduates who feel “the terrifying anxiety of standing at the edge” in “a world that’s a little too real for comfort.” Still, she reminded fellow graduates that “every worthwhile change is never painless.”

“There are people who hang onto their dreams of changing the world. … We chose SESP and we chose ourselves.” She described SESP graduates as people who are committed to action and not just contemplation. She concluded, “There is no better-looking group of people with whom I want to change the world.”

The award for outstanding full-time professor was presented to assistant professor Edd Taylor, who was lauded by students for his “passion and enthusiasm,” and the award for outstanding instructor went to Gail Berger of the Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change program.

Alumnus Brad Wadle presented the Alumni Awards to undergraduate Claire Lew and doctoral student Danny Cohen. Lew has demonstrated outstanding leadership and has been president of Associated Student Government. Cohen has trained Holocaust educators and developed a curriculum for the Holocaust Museum, has been recognized by the governor and praised by his adviser for his unique research program. The award for highest GPA went to Michael Alperin, who has founded student organizations, pursued outstanding research and was described as a future leader in social policy.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Martinez offered a farewell and a reminder to her fellow graduates. “We share one thing. We graduated from the best school at Northwestern,” she said. A reception for graduates and their families was held immediately after the ceremony in the Sorority Quad.

Photo caption:
Convocation co-chairs Colleen Antas and Rosey Martinez cut the cake at the reception following the ceremony on June 17.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/27/17