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HGSE Commencement Celebrates the Class of 2024

A total of 755 Ed School graduates were honored in Radcliffe Yard on May 23

With a nod to the past and an eye on the skies, the Harvard Graduate School of Education sent its Class of 2024 out into an uncertain future with a message of love and hope on Thursday afternoon in Radcliffe Yard.

After enduring a downpour of rain and flashes of lightning, which initially delayed the afternoon’s presentation of diplomas and certificates, 755 Ed School graduates each had their moment to walk across the stage amid the sounds of joyful cheers and praise.

By the time every graduate received their hard-earned honors — 706 Ed.M. degrees, 24 Ph.D., and 9 Certificates of Advanced Study in the Class of 2024, along with 16 additional graduates from November 2023 and March 2024 — the skies had cleared and sunglasses were once again on the family and friends of those watching in the audience behind Longfellow Hall.

In her final Commencement as dean of HGSE, Bridget Terry Long was given a rousing sendoff from faculty and students alike before returning to the faculty as a professor of practice in the fall. Long — who served as dean through unprecedented challenges and change over the last six years — delivered an emotional speech she called a love letter to educators of all kinds.

“What is common among the best educators is their recognition that teaching is a craft, and they lean into the work because it is also incredibly rewarding. As John Steinbeck wrote: ‘Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit,’” said Long. “That magic we see in the best of education settings does not occur by happenstance, but because the best educators recognize the expertise and experience critical to serving our students.”

Long, who received a standing ovation from graduates several times during the speech, used the moment to offer a loving tribute to her mother, who passed away earlier this year. Also a teacher, Long’s mother served as inspiration to the departing dean as well as an example of the long-lasting impacts educators have on those they love.

“The true beauty of being an educator is the compounding effects we can have. This is the legacy we all share, and it is the legacy my mother leaves behind that I am reminded of each and every day,” said Long. “As educators, the things we do have ripple effects through our students, families, and communities until our impact adds up to something extraordinary.”

HGSE’s Commencement events included Convocation festivities in Radcliffe Yard on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon, where outstanding community members were recognized for their efforts in and out of the classroom throughout the year. Lecturer David Dockterman was named the 2024 Morningstar Family Teaching Award winner. Kavya Krishna was given the Phyllis Strimling Award, while class marshals, the cohort of Equity and Inclusion Fellows, and Intellectual Contribution Award winners from each master’s program were also honored.  

Senior Lecturer Irvin Scott was selected by students to give the faculty address on Wednesday, delivering a speech where he celebrated graduates through song and spoken word. Singing bars from Kirk Franklin’s “Love” and the modified lyrics to a Black Eyed Peas song, Scott offered a “praise break” to the graduating class, a tradition he borrowed from his own faith. He implored the graduates to commit themselves to using their “words and works” to teach with radical love.

“I implore you today to draw deep from the well of radical love. People are thirsty for this love. This degree that you’ve earned is not a marker of your status or intelligence to be flaunted before others. It’s not a ticket to get the cushiest job. Although you do need to get a job,” said Scott. “Your degree is a tool to amplify your words and works to more effectively bring your radical love into the world for the purpose of learning, healing, and uniting.”Aryana Kamelian, Ed.M.’24, delivered the student address and echoed Scott’s reflections on the love necessary to teach.

“At HGSE, I learned how to practice love,” she said. “As a former high school science teacher, I know with every bone in my body that education is a labor of love.”

Kamelian – whose parents are Iranian and Malaysian immigrants – reflected on her path to education, noting that growing up in Nebraska she often didn’t see herself reflected in books and magazines, let alone in places like Harvard.

“So much love is seeing each other for who we really are and creating spaces to grow into ourselves. Seeing past the biases and past the stereotypes, seeing past the headlines and honoring the realities that exist beyond our own experiences,” said Kamelian. “You all have shown me that love is often the most powerful when it is least expected. And that each day, we have the power and the responsibility to choose each other, to choose the truth and to choose love. It has been an absolute privilege to learn and to love with you all.”

Renowned psychologist Howard Gardner, retired from teaching at HGSE, delivered the Convocation’s keynote address on Wednesday, touching on lessons from his legendary research and educational career. Gardner, who pre-recorded the majority of his speech and presented it on video due to the excessive heat, conveyed a lesson about the balance between continuity and change in education regarding the arts, intelligence, and ethics and morality.

“The heart of education is thoughtful teacher educators interacting with one another and their students,” says Gardner. “As old as Plato’s Republic, as contemporary as computer-based flipped classrooms.”

Updating the words of historian Henry Adams to be more inclusive, he reminded graduates that – despite ever-evolving challenges to the educational landscape and crises around the world – the impact and reach of HGSE’s newest graduates remains limitless.

“Educators affect eternity. They never know when their influence ends,” Gardner said. “May your influence endure.”

Visit Commencement 2024 for more information.


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