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A School, an Experience, an Endeavor

Faith Yeung, selected as the 2019 Convocation Student Speaker, reflected on what she'd learned about HGSE over the past year.

The prepared remarks of Student Speaker Faith Yeung:

Nine months ago, I was sitting under this very canopy for Orientation Day. Having spent 10 minutes trying to find an entrance into Longfellow Hall that was unlocked, I was feeling uncertain about a lot of things, and certain about very little: I was certain I felt overwhelmed — Dean Long had just announced that at 21 years of age, I was one of the youngest people sitting under that canopy. Faced with teachers, principals, superintendents, and education leaders who have spent years, if not decades, in the field — what did I have to contribute as a fresh-faced college graduate?

Today, as I bid farewell to my time in HGSE (pronounced “hug-see”), I am still feeling uncertain about a lot of things, but I am certain there are three lessons that HGSE (pronounced “hug-see”) — as a school, as an experience, and as an endeavor — has managed to teach us. And I am certain that these are lessons we will carry for the rest of our lives because for each and every one of us who is graduating today, education is life itself.  

Before I move on, I want to answer a question that I have received for countless times throughout this year: why is our Graduate School of Education called “HGSE” (pronounced “hug-see”)? If I was in a rush that day, I would give the honest answer, “It’s a thing.” If I had more time on my hands, I would give the unexpected answer, “It’s because we like hugs.” But if I wanted all of us to walk out of this canopy today with an indelible impression of three lessons that HGSE (pronounced “hug-see”) has taught us, I would give this answer: We are called “HGSE” (pronounce each letter) because this is a school that humbles. This is a school that galvanizes. This is a school that stands for equity.

It is not difficult to imagine the humility I felt when faced with faculty who have dedicated their lives to paradigm-shifting research or schoolmates who have left the comfort of their own homes to educate children suffering in conflict. But the lesson that will stay with us is that we are a school that humbles. Humility should not just come into play when we stand before the more powerful, the more knowledgeable or the more decorated. I stepped into this school, having been a student all my life, and was greeted with the respect and interest from my professors and my classmates that I have always yearned for, but never expected. Humility, I have learned, is even more valuable when it comes from the powerful, the knowledgeable and the decorated who are always striving to improve themselves, and who understand that every person has a worthy story — young or old, man or woman, you or me.

Last semester, an alumnus on the entrepreneurship panel of Professor Higgins' class said, “Your mind will never race as fast as it does in this school.” Indeed, this is a school that galvanizes. Maybe it was a sentence in one of your readings that answered a cry in your heart you thought no one heard; Or maybe it was the dichotomy that you debated with a friend in Gutman Café until you both realized there was a third solution. The point is while the injustices that perpetuate within our education systems may continue to daunt us, we are no longer paralyzed. Instead, this school has galvanized our minds to enter the race of a lifetime — the race to keep this spark of inspiration alive and to keep this desire to serve our students burning.

Now, for the third and the most important lesson: This is a school that stands for equity. One thing that I learned in law school as an undergraduate in the UK is that, when in doubt, define. Today, I venture myself as the definition of the equity this school stands for. Before you, is an Asian, young woman. Instead of telling me that on the path to improve education for all, I have to forget that I am Asian, young, and female, my mentors and my peers have stood by me as I came to recognize that my passion for education was ignited by the mounting student suicides in the Asian city I love and call home. They have stood by me as I came to recognize that my gender, my age, and my personality shape a vision for the education of future generations in Hong Kong and beyond. As we embark on our mission to change the world through education, I pray that we can do the same for our students. Let us see each student as he or she is. Let us be the torch-bearers who share the dream of lighting each child’s unique path to quality education.

Class of 2019: may we stay humble, stay galvanized, stand for equity and stay “HGSE” (pronounced “hug-see”). Thank you.