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673 Receive Degrees at HGSE Commencement

VeritasSmiles, hugs, cheers, and song filled the tent in Radcliffe Yard today as 673 Ed School students left Appian Way with degrees in hand.

Dean Kathleen McCartney greeted the graduating students — who earned doctorates, master’s degrees, and certificates in advanced studies — and welcomed them as alumni of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The HGSE Harmonicas — an a cappella group consisting of Ed School students — kicked off the festivities by performing an original song called, “It’s Our Time.”

Earlier in the day, HGSE graduates gathered at the Tercentenary Theater in Harvard Yard with Sesame Street books — a tribute to late faculty member Gerald Lesser, co-creator of the hit children’s television show – in tow for the annual morning Commencement ceremony, where their degrees were officially conferred.
McCartney asked all the students to look at each other and hug one another in order to create a lasting memory.

“Cognitive psychologists tell us that it takes only a few seconds to form a long-term memory. About seven seconds to be precise. Let’s make one together right now. A collective memory that we will share. Look around you and take in this moment,” she said. “I hope you will rely on this memory when the work gets hard. And it will. One day you may fail to reach a student. One day you may fail to persuade others to take a step you believe is crucial to your work. One day you may fail to raise the funds you need to green light a project. This moment can serve as a reminder of the optimism you feel right now. You get to construct your reality after all.”

During the HGSE diploma ceremony, McCartney ruminated on finding and keeping inspiration. In particular, McCartney shared how she stays inspired through the words of Leonard Cohen song “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets through

Moved by the words that had inspired the late Elizabeth Edwards, McCartney pointed out how to her it means that we do what we can, be as good as possible, but that there is no perfection and that’s how the light – wisdom, love, goodness – can come through.

“We are going to ring the bells for you now,” McCartney said. “Wherever your work takes you, listen for your bell. And use this collective memory when you need it.”

Then, McCartney invited all the graduates to take the stage and accept their diplomas. Students shuffled across the stage excitedly to receive diplomas, often accompanied by their children.

For many of the new alums, their time being over at HGSE has barely sunk in.

“I can’t believe it,” said Language and Literacy alum Lauren Nicole McDonough, who is searching for vice principal positions in Boston. “I feel so lucky.”

Fellow Language and Literacy alum Peta-Lynn McFaden, who plans to return to her teaching position in Australia, was still amazed. “I didn’t expect to be so emotional,” McFaden said. “I’m quite changed but I haven’t worked out exactly how.”

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