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Summer Convocations at Northwestern

Northwestern hosts ceremonies for programs in education, communication

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In joyful summer convocations, scores of Northwestern University students donned their purple robes and mortarboard caps in recent weeks and graduated from master’s programs in education and communication.

“It is often said that education is not a sprint, but a marathon,” observed Mike Stevenson, one of the students in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), addressing his cohort at graduation last month.

“I believe it is neither one,” he said. “It is a road without end that we commit ourselves to traveling because we believe in the journey.”

Stevenson spoke in early August as the summer celebrations led off with SESP’s convocation for the Master of Science in Education program, conferring degrees on 56 MSEd graduates -- elementary and secondary school teachers -- who walked in a Saturday (Aug. 2) morning ceremony in the Ryan Family Auditorium at the Technological Institute.

“We aren’t just teachers -- we’re mentors, parents, friends and counselors,” Stevenson declared. “We wear so many hats in the classroom, because we exist to give each student what he or she needs in order to learn. We must try to get better through a relentless commitment to our students.”

SESP Dean Penelope Peterson was on hand to greet the students and hand them their diplomas, while MSEd program Director Timothy Dohrer spoke of the exceedingly “high standards” of the MSEd program.

“You have achieved a very high level of excellence by reaching this moment,” he told the graduating cohort. “Your passion, intelligence, creativity, humor and enthusiasm are boundless, and we are so excited to see what you are going to do next.”

A week later, some 89 students and their families congregated Aug. 9 for the 2014 Master of Science in Communication convocation ceremony in Alice Millar Chapel, marking their graduation amid cheers, shouts and clapping from the audience. 

Barbara O’Keefe, dean of the School of Communication, greeted the graduates and delivered a congratulatory message to the MSC Class of ’14.

Staci Zake, director of the MSC program, told the class that “nearly 25 percent of the cohort graduates with a perfect 4.0, and the other 75 percent within a tenth of a decimal point or two. The reality is that this is one smart, hardworking cohort, where every member of this graduating class does so with incredible distinction.”

Then came a very enthusiastic address by Seth Maxwell, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of The Thirst Project, a movement by high school and college students to bring awareness of the water crisis around the world and the need to create clean, safe, drinking water for people without it.

Calling on the graduates to consider utilizing “love as an action … that acts to heal the world,” Maxwell underscored that “we as communicators have one of the most powerful and influential positions in our society. We shape perspective and perception. We influence decisions. 

“And I promise you that the world as a whole will not only gain more by your allowing love to be the defining characteristic that you are marked by and known for,” he added, “but I promise you that you personally have everything to gain by doing so as well.”

He exhorted the Class of ’14 to use their skills as communicators to “communicate in a way that rallies your team, your employees and your constituents to look at the environment you work in, the communities and the world you live in, to challenge the status quo and to act -- to take action in your world in meaningful ways.

“Love is -- and requires -- action. It’s not an empty platitude,” he concluded. “And if you use the power and influence you have as a communicator, as a storyteller, to do that, I promise you, you are going to change your life, your career, and yes, you are going to change the world.”

To see an excerpt of Maxwell’s keynote, go to the MSC blog.

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