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Stanford education graduates reminded to find joy and wonder in the here and now

Picture of graduates 2019
Campus Life

Stanford education graduates reminded to find joy and wonder in the here and now

At diploma ceremony, Emeritus Professor Eamonn Callan uses poetry to encourage graduates to move into the future with humility and an open heart.

Emeritus Professor Eamonn Callan encouraged Stanford Graduate School of Education graduates to move into the future with humility and an open heart, pausing in difficult times to look for hope in simple pleasures.

“Finding hope is opening ourselves to things that remind us of the glorious world just beyond the edge of our own suffering,” Callan said in his commencement address honoring the 204 recipients of Stanford graduate degrees in education.

“Just look at the sky for a couple of minutes,” he continued. “Read a poem. Try being really present to somebody in a conversation, instead of filtering all they reveal to you through your own self-centered interests.”

Callan, an educational philosopher and the Pigott Family School of Education Professor, Emeritus, recited poems by Emily Dickinson and Bay Area poet Ellen Bass to help answer how we can find hope in the world “once we have given up the childish confidence that fortune must smile on us tomorrow if not today.”

He said Dickinson’s “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” advises that there is always joy and wonder available to us, but they escape our attention because “they are drowned out by the pettiness of our daily concerns and the noise of our egos.”

Bass’ poem, “Relax,” also urges looking for good in a world upended. The poem relates, among many calamities, the Buddhist tale of a woman trapped by tigers who sees a wild strawberry growing in the cliff to which she tenaciously clings.

She looks up, down ....
Then she eats the strawberry.

So, when life gets tough, Callan told the graduates: “Just eat the strawberry.”

"These graduates have chosen to serve the most significant social arena – ensuring that all people have the chance to experience the personal and societal benefits of being educated well. Education is the profession that makes all other professions possible. It is a pathway to more opportunity, self-realization, and societal improvement."

Dean Dan Schwartz

While Callan encouraged graduates to find hope, Dean Dan Schwartz challenged them to set aside egos to work collaboratively.

“As you go into the world to make it better, make sure you take the time to work with people to build their future together,” he said. “Develop relationships. Encourage people to work as a team. Provide kind and useful feedback. Provide time for iteration. Welcome a range of perspectives with an open heart.”

Schwartz, the Nomellini and Olivier Professor of Educational Technology, alluded to futures in which graduates’ idealism might be tested.

“Education may be the only profession where our thesis of change is that we try to embrace all people for whom they are and where they come from, yet we also try to change them,” he said.

“My modest proposal is that you need to do change with people, not to people,” he added.

The messages of hope and inclusion resonated with Jessica Mary Brownell, MA ’19, Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), who begins teaching this fall at Coliseum College Preparatory School in Oakland.

Brownell crossed the stage with her children, Jaimie, 10, and Trevor, 11.

“They’re the reason I continue to strive,” Brownell said. “They give me reason to continue to strive for education for myself and for better education for everyone. Everyone should have a right to that ladder.”

The degrees for 2019 consist of 22 PhD and 182 master’s degrees. The GSE also held a ceremony on June 14 to recognize 20 graduating seniors who completed the undergraduate minor or honors in education.

The graduates are pursuing careers as policy makers, teachers, school administrators, entrepreneurs, professors, nonprofit leaders and for-profit executives. Some will be taking charge of classrooms in the Bay Area, many will be working with children overseas. Others will be joining ed-tech initiatives in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Nadine Ann Skinner, who received her PhD in International Comparative Education (ICE), had the double celebration of her own commencement and that of her students, as she has been a teaching assistant for three years in ICE’s master’s program.

“My cause for optimism is this,” Skinner said, indicating the festive commencement scene, including graduates posing for pictures with their families. “There are attacks on education all over the world. Yet you can’t help but feel optimistic, knowing that these people [the graduates] are going back to wherever they’re going back to and making a difference.”

View a slideshow of the diploma ceremony and festivities

Degree recipients from Stanford Graduate School of Education (Photo by Holly Hernandez)

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