Convocation 2022: ‘A Tender Time in Education’

Convocation 2022: ‘A Tender Time in Education’

graduation2022-1.jpgScholar Na’ilah Suad Nasir urged graduates to help build a “true multicultural democracy” by rethinking the status quo during the School of Education and Social Policy’s 2022 convocation celebration at Northwestern University’s Ryan Fieldhouse.

Creating a better future “requires our willingness to learn and unlearn,” Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation, told the purple-gowned crowd. “We must learn to see the burdens of others and carry the deep and abiding humanity in each of us, across cultural communities. We must believe that we can all thrive, with the understanding that the secret to my thriving, is supporting yours.”

Nasir addressed more than 280 graduates who, four years ago, never dreamed they’d have the most unusual college experience in modern history thanks to a worldwide pandemic. Learning how to embrace change, creatively problem solve, and work or study from remote locations will serve them well as they move into the next chapter, Nasir said.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a period of “knowing that we can't keep doing what we been doing before and that perhaps we could reach for more,” she said. “It has never been clearer that we are only as strong as our least well-served individuals and community.”

SESP’s convocation ceremony at the Ryan Fieldhouse, which offers stunning views of Lake Michigan, included an address from Interim Dean Dan P. McAdams, student speeches from Citlally Delgado and Julia Koffman, and the announcement of the Alumni Leadership Award winners and the Outstanding Faculty and Instructor Awards.

joanne leeGraduating seniors Joanne Lee (left) and Ren MacClean, who began their Northwestern journeys together four years ago as peer advisors, served as convocation co-chairs. Lee, following in her older siblings’ footsteps, became the fifth member of her family to earn a SESP degree. MacClean’s mother, Kathy Tuan-MacLean is double purple, earning her bachelor’s in 1987 and her doctorate in human development and social policy in 1996.

“SESP has refined our voices to have perspective, strength and creativity, and it has given us the confidence to use them,” said student speaker Julia Koffman, who majored in learning and organizational change and minored in entrepreneurship and legal studies.

“I couldn't be prouder of the way SESP modified its curriculum and adjusted its norms to meet the needs of students,” she added. “I relied on my SESP support system, I learned how to collaborate through a computer screen, and I realized that SESP love extends well beyond the walls of Annenberg.”

Hymn for the Hurting

McAdams, The Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology Professor, Human Development and Social Policy, acknowledged the political, economic, and social turbulence in the US and the world.

He read from "Hymn for the Hurting" by Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history. Though a day of celebration, “her redemptive message speaks to me, and perhaps to you, too,” he said. “It is a hard time to be alive.

“The world needs you, SESP grads,” he added. “The world needs the person you have become by virtue of your Northwestern education and the meaningful relationships you have developed over the past four years, with friends and classmates, professors, and staff, and all the other people who have impacted you in positive ways.”

‘A tender time’

nailah_nasir.jpgNasir, (pictured right) whose scholarly work focuses race, culture and learning issues, called the current era “a tender and extraordinary time to be in education.”

“Tender, not only with respect to death and violence and the loss of reverence for human life, but because the pandemic made it clear that we have so much work to do on so many fronts,” she said.

The extraordinary part? “We are at an inflection point where we are realizing the consequences of doing the same thing we have been doing might be dire,” she said.

Nasir challenged graduates to build and create new systems for a new world, a multicultural democracy. “I have great hope for this graduating class and the contribution you will make in your lives as teachers, education leaders, lawyers, policymakers, and scholars,” she said.

“You have already demonstrated your capacity for creative rethinking and finding a way when it seemed impossible. Quite simply, it is time for a new way rooted in a set of values and commitments.  The world needs you to chart the path.”

More highlights: 

  • Leaders of the Future: Morgan Hodges and Julissa Muñiz received the Outstanding Leadership Awards from the Northwestern Alumni Association. Hodges earned a bachelor’s with a concentration in Human Development and Psychological Services and a second major in cognitive science, “Morgan has said yes to leadership at every opportunity,” her nominator wrote. “She stands up for what she believes in and freely shares her gifts with others.” Julissa Muñiz received her doctorate in Human Development and Social Policy. She helped found and served as the first president of Comunidad Latinx, the first Latinx graduate student organization at Northwester n which has served over 200 masters and doctoral students across the university.
  • You can call them 'Doctor': Our newest PhD’s who were hooded during convocation include Connor Bain and Jamie (Gorson) Benario, (Computer Science and Learning Sciences); Meghan Leggero, Julissa Muniz, Olivia Healy; Courtenay Kessler, Heather McCambly, Lynn Emily Meissner (Human Development and Social Policy); Gabriella Anton, Christopher Leatherwood, Mary Abigail Stein, Sugat Dabholkar, Ruben Echevarria, Jackson, David “Kit” Martin, Jue Wu, Allena Berry, Spencer Carlson, Krystal Villanosa, and Yanning Yu (Learning Sciences). Here's a full list.
  • It's sunnier in Evanston. Still want to go?* The outstanding professor award for a full time-faculty member went to former SESP Dean David Figlio, who starts as provost at the University of Rochester in July. Figlio, who also won the award in 2013, made the SESP student experience a priority and his classes were described as “fresh, new, and enlightening.” He teaches challenging concepts in a very digestible way,” said a student nominator.
    *Sunny days in Evanston: 193. Sunny days in Rochester, NY: 165.
  • Bucket list class: Nancy Rotering, who teaches the popular class Women and American Political Leadership, received the Outstanding Instructor Award. Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, Illinois, is a former attorney who earned her MBA at Northwestern. Her nominator called her “very motivational in helping students find their voice in the policy realm.”
  • Breaking barriers: Citlally Delgado, a Latina scholar and the first in her family to attend college, was the graduate student speaker. “Higher education has been a transformative experience; it has allowed me to reflect on my personal identity as a person who gives, serves, and is part of something bigger than myself,” said Delgado, who received her master’s in higher education administration and policy. “For me, Northwestern and SESP have been places where I have confidently innovated with vision.” To her parents, she said, “muchas gracias por darme la vida que ustedes sonaron. (Thank you for giving me the life that you dreamed of.)"
By Julie Deardorff, photos by Steve Drey
Last Modified: 6/17/22