“There are no enemies in foxholes, and we are all in this foxhole together. That does not mean we have to agree; it means we should always be mindful of how much energy we spend fighting each other versus the energy we spend collectively fighting inequality and injustice,” said HGSE convocation speaker Senator Michael Johnston, Ed.M.’00. “Improving our system will require debate and disagreement, it will require a commitment to evidence and not ideology, but that debate must begin with a willingness to listen.”
Dean James Ryan poked fun at the cold temperatures while lightheartedly acknowledging that because it was his first Convocation at HGSE he could flub up.
The pre-commencement exercises included honors such as the Morningstar Family Teaching Award, Alumni Council Award, Class Gift, Phyllis Strimling Award, class marshals, and Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Awards. Despite the raw weather, graduating students, faculty, and staff packed the tent in Radcliffe Yard listening to the various speakers, who stressed the significance of each person’s personal story, hopes, and dreams.
“The single story represents lack of truth,” said student speaker Krista Anne Sergi, Ed.M. candidate in Prevention Science and Practice. “Here at HGSE, whether through classrooms, forums, or influential guest speakers such as Temple Grandin or Beverly Tatum or over a quick drink at Uno’s, our students, faculty, and staff are challenging the single story every day.”
Through Sergi’s time at the Ed School, she says she has recognized how not only the stories of one’s own identity, but also those of others, can inform education and transfer knowledge. “This degree, this identity, is a key to opening up voices that have been locked away and doors of opportunity that have been unjustly closed,” she said. Through their work as educators now, she told her fellow graduates they can seek truth to tell the whole story and leave no story untold.
Faculty speaker Karen Mapp, Ed.M.’93, Ed.D.’99, senior lecturer at the Ed School, shared the story of her family moving to a new community when she was little. Though she did well academically, on her first day at a new school, Mapp was confused by her placement in a special needs classroom.
“With tears welling in my eyes, I told my parents what happened,” Mapp said. “I saw them look at each other in a way I’d never seen before. Calmly they both assured me there must have been a mistake…. Not once did they mention or let me think that it might, just might, have something to do with the color of my skin.”
Mapp recounted her mother’s visit to the school the following day and how within 15 minutes, she was reassigned into a college-track classroom with one of the best teachers in the district.
“I learned that day how much the hopes and dreams my parents had for me meant to them and [they] did not intend to let anything or anyone get in the way of those dreams being fulfilled,” Mapp said. “Their love and support guided my work and, in the words of my friend Andres Alonso, shaped my bones of belief.”
Now, as part of the Harvard family, she told graduates that she had big hopes and dreams for them as well. She encouraged them to stand up for injustice, to initiate tough conversations, and to lean into the discomfort necessary for big change.
“I dream you will shatter the current education narrative, one that seems to be stuck in a blame game, pointing fingers. Before you innovate, lead, design, interrogate, disrupt, or scale up that you will deeply listen, listen, listen to various stakeholders,” Mapp said, encouraging graduates to show love to the children, families, and communities they work in, always asking if they would want the same for their own child.
Johnston also encouraged graduates to listen after they left HGSE, calling education a “human” business, where work is done “shoulder to shoulder.” Sharing multiple stories from his own experience in education, Johnston stressed the importance of the power to decide, the right to know, and the will to love. He shared the story of a young boy named Jerome who was born to a drug addict mother. Johnston and his wife grew close to Jerome and took on the role of parents to him. In recounting the experience, Johnston moved many in the audience to tears, sharing how, despite their best efforts, Jerome did not fare well and ended up in jail.
“Each of you is signing up to be the moms and dads of hundreds, maybe thousands of kids over your career, and you will love those kids like your own, and they will all carry big pieces of your heart with them wherever they go, and some of them will break your heart,” Johnston said. “You will go to funerals as well as graduations, you will go to court dates as well as parent-teacher conferences, you will go to rehab centers as well as weddings. And at that moment when your heart is the most broken, at that moment, they will need you to love them the most.”
With all the will graduates have to love, he called upon them as educators to stand up and make a change because there is too much work needed to be done. Johnston reminded the crowd that laws, technology, and judges could not ultimately make a difference in a child’s life but that teachers can.
“The generation of Americans who will deliver on that boldest promise of all will not do it at the point of a gun, they will not do it with the crack of a gavel, not with a speech from the well of the Senate, they will do it with a book on a beanbag chair with our babies,” he said. “It is only there that America will finally find its greatest dream of itself, delivered by her proudest and most passionate patriots — the American teacher. The right to know, the power to act, the will to love: lead us there.”
The complete list of honorees:
HGSE Convocation Speaker: Sen. Michael Johnston
Student Speaker: Krista Anne Sergi, Ed.M., candidate in Prevention Science and Practice
Morningstar Family Teacher Award: Associate Professor Jal Mehta
Alumni Council Award: Mary Magdalene Lampert, Ed.D.’81
Faculty Speaker: Senior Lecturer Karen Mapp
Phyllis Strimling Award: Vanessa Beary
2014 HGSE Commencement Marshals
Ed.D. Marshals Candice Bocala
Ed.L.D. Marshals Lucia Moritz
C.A.S. Marshal Monica Chang
Ed.M. Marshals Taylor Morris, Arts in Education
Long Phan, Education Policy and Management
Andria Mirabal, Higher Education
Joelynn Ng, Human Development and Psychology
Allison Celosia, International Education Policy
Andrea LeMahieu, Language and Literacy
Delaina Martin, Learning and Teaching
Margaret Coyne, Mind, Brain, and Education
Kayla Dias, Prevention Science and Practice
Annalise Kontras, School Leadership
Andrew Williams, Special Studies
Tri Huynh, Teacher Education
Richard Liuzzi, Technology, Innovation, and Education
Class Gift: $15,181.00