SESP Convocation Ceremonies Honor, Inspire Graduates

SESP Convocation Ceremonies Honor, Inspire Graduates

For the first time, the School of Education and Social Policy marked graduation with two Convocation ceremonies — one for bachelor’s degree graduates and another for PhD and master’s graduates. SESP alumni Nichole Pinkard (PhD98) and Arnaldo Rivera (MS07) gave keynote addresses at the June 17 ceremonies honoring 244 graduating students with diplomas, speeches and awards.

Pinkard, an associate professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media and DePaul University and the founder of Digital Youth Network, was the featured speaker for the graduate degree ceremony. Rivera, who is chief policy officer for Chicago Public Schools, gave the keynote address at the bachelor’s degree ceremony.

The occasions began with somber recognition of the June 11 attack in Orlando, which SESP dean Penelope Peterson described as an “attack on all of us who treasure diversity.” She said to the graduates, “Because all of you are here and all of you are going out into the world, I have hope. … Here at SESP we have a commitment and passion to be agents for change and to work to improve people’s lives.”

In her keynote at the PhD and master’s degree ceremony, Pinkard stressed the importance of the School’s unusual “ecosystem,” the support and collaboration, and the responsibility that comes with a Northwestern education. “Your education from SESP demands you use your unique education and voice to make a difference,” Pinkard told the graduates at Cahn Auditorium. “You do yourselves, Northwestern and SESP a disservice if you don’t step into the void. As we all know, today’s education and the world is really at a crossroads and needs complex answers to address complex questions.”

Rivera too, in his keynote speech to the bachelor’s degree graduates, stressed the need for passionate leaders in education. He described his own transformation from investment banker to first-grade teacher, living his passion and “growing every day.” He emphasized, “We need a new generation of passionate, talented leaders — you are those future leaders, and we’re gratified to have you on the team.”

Graduating senior Qunsia Daniel delivered energetic remarks that celebrated the importance of embracing learning. Comparing learning to the life cycle of a butterfly, she said, “Learning puts us on the path to transformation, and we have to experience real-life growing pains. Learning can be risky, exposing us to biases and misunderstandings. … Learning leads us to the best version of ourselves.” She concluded that with lifelong learning we are constantly transforming — “we seek change.”

Based on student input, faculty awards recognized outstanding professors. Assistant professor Shirin Vossoughi received the award for outstanding full-time professor, and adjunct faculty member Mindy Douthit received the award for outstanding instructor.

Alumni Leadership Awards went to Khaled Ismail for graduate student and Carly Pablos for undergraduate student. Ismail demonstrated excellence as a graduate of the Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy Program, and Pablos demonstrated leadership in student organizations focused on empowering adolescent girls. Brad Wadle (MS03) presented the alumni awards.

Graduating seniors Alex Tom and Eric Morales co-chaired planning of the undergraduate event, and Lynn Lyster, a graduate of the Master of Science in Education Program, welcomed guests at the graduate degree ceremony. Tom kicked off the undergraduate Convocation by declaring, “I’m sure we can all relate that being a SESPian was one of our favorite parts of Northwestern.” Morales concluded, “SESP has an intense feeling of community that was built from day one, and wherever we go that feeling of community will stay with us.”

By Marilyn Sherman and Julie Deardorff; Photos by Steve Drey
Last Modified: 6/23/16