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Redding, HGSE Online Master’s Students to Headline Harvard Commencement Broadcast 

Harvard-wide Commencement ceremony will feature Lecturer Alexis Redding, HGSE alumni, and graduates of the Online Master's in Education during the May 23 broadcast
Lecturer Alexis Redding (right) is joined by HGSE alums Anabella Morabito, Ed.M.’22, and Alysha Johnson Williams, Ed.M.’20, to broadcast the Harvard Commencement pre-show
Lecturer Alexis Redding (right) is joined by HGSE alums Anabella Morabito, Ed.M.’22, and Alysha Johnson Williams, Ed.M.’20, to broadcast the Harvard Commencement pre-show

Harvard’s annual commencement activities are a highly orchestrated tradition that honors both the university’s centuries-long history as well as the accomplishments of those receiving diplomas.

Morning Exercises in Tercentenary Theater are an exclusive affair, with limited ticketing, so the university’s commencement broadcast is often the only glimpse into the proceedings for many, especially those not in Cambridge.  

That’s a significant responsibility that HGSE Lecturer Alexis Redding will take on Thursday morning. The faculty co-chair of the Ed School’s Higher Education Concentration will serve as the lead commentator for Harvard’s Commencement broadcast this year, which will feature considerable contributions from the HGSE community.  

“It is a privilege to be part of a program that provides access to loved ones from around the globe who cannot be with us on campus,” says Redding. “During the broadcast, I hope to give them a sense of the excitement and energy in the Yard and to share stories about our institution.”

The livestreamed broadcast of Harvard’s annual commencement celebration will feature speeches, orations, and the conferring of degrees upon the Class of 2024, along with significant insight into the history of Harvard and the unique stories of some of its newest alumni.  

The biggest change in this year’s broadcast is the switch from two to one faculty broadcaster, as Redding will serve as the lone commentator. The break from precedent, Redding said, will allow for more time on air for guests from around the Harvard community.

“I am especially excited about this opportunity to uplift voices from across the university as a whole — graduating students, alumni, and administrators,” says Redding. “This will broaden representation and help our viewers at home get a more robust sense of what it means to be a Harvard student.”

Some of those voices will come from elsewhere in the HGSE community, including a pair of graduates — Adam Milano and Kamal James — making history as part of the first graduating cohort from the school’s Online Master's in Education Program. Redding noted that neither student would have been able to relocate for a campus-based degree program — Milano was a behavioral health officer in the U.S. Army on active duty, while James juggled work, school, and raising his children in North Carolina.

“Adam would Zoom into class from his army base while Kamal sometimes attended advising meetings from his car waiting for his daughter to finish dance class,” says Redding. “Their perspectives help to highlight different ways of being a Harvard student in the 21st century.”

The broadcast will also feature two Ed School alumni now working elsewhere at Harvard — Alysha Johnson Williams, Ed.M.’20 (resident dean of first-year students and assistant dean of Harvard College), and Anabella Morabito, Ed.M.’22 (associate director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Community Engagement at Harvard University).

Redding is no stranger to Harvard event broadcasts — she offered commentary on Claudine Gay’s inauguration broadcast in the fall of 2023. That was much more of a whirlwind experience, however, as she was a last-minute substitution due to another commentator's illness.

“I had less than 36 hours to prepare,” recalled Redding. “They handed me an enormous binder to study and brought me to the Archives to hold the keys to the university and see the charter, which was really special. But then, I feel like I blinked and I was live on air!”

Given much more time to prepare for commencement, Redding was able to use her own research and experience to help plan the broadcast’s vision. Redding’s work in recent years has included researching the student experience at Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges since 1940, a perspective she plans to include in her commentary on Thursday.  

She was also able to hand-pick archival objects to share during the broadcast, which meant a trip to Pusey Library to look at some historic items that have shaped the history of the school. Redding recalled holding W.E.B. DuBois’ doctoral dissertation and exploring a box of daguerreotypes that represented the first yearbook of sorts for Harvard College. Some of those items were too fragile to leave the vault, but the experience offered her perspective on the vast history of the university and the magnitude of commencement festivities.  

“I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what it means to celebrate our students and to give their loved ones at home a special experience,” says Redding, “While also acknowledging the complexity of hosting celebrations in our current moment and recognizing the challenging year we have all experienced here at the university and in higher education more broadly.”

Redding said the Ed School’s representation in the broadcast is a reflection of the important part it plays in the larger Harvard community.  

“As a school of education, we think deeply about the themes that are celebrated in commencement — the student experience, institutional priorities, history of higher education, leadership, and community-building more broadly,” says Redding. “We also have a good number of higher ed students who find roles at the university after graduation, so the Ed School plays a key role in the day-to-day life of the institution and its students as well.” 


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