In the face of ongoing efforts against COVID-19, last month the University of Redlands School of Education awarded degrees to Class of 2020 graduates virtually. Some graduates attended the online ceremonies wearing their caps and gowns. Many were in attendance in rooms with their partners, parents, grandparents, and children. Guests took part in the festivities from various countries across multiple continents and time zones.
The event began with a schoolwide gathering, in which Robert A. & Mildred Peronia Naslund Endowed Dean Mario Martinez acknowledged the importance of a commencement celebration to acknowledge students’ achievements. He noted that despite the stress brought about by the events of 2020, the graduating class has also encountered victory and growth.
“You are wired to think about the service to others,” he said. “We’re confident that your education at the University of Redlands has taught you the ideas of learning, equity, justice; it has also equipped you to equipped you to find opportunity and challenge.”
The keynote speaker, Professor Andrew Wall, former Naslund Endowed Dean of the School of Education, gave his remarks following Martinez: “Resiliency and persistence are about small acts of daily living. They are about trying to make a difference by doing good things daily. While it may not change the system, it will matter for that one person. … If enough people take enough important steps, the world becomes the place we want to live in.”
After showing a video of the student speaker Denise Lopez ’20’s remarks, Hideko Sera, associate dean of the School of Education, congratulated the graduates for accomplishing their educational dreams: “To do so in these unprecedented times speaks to who you are and what you are made of.” A presentation of the names of all the graduates closed the main celebration.
Following the main event, separate receptions were held by the Department of Teaching and Learning, the Department of Counseling and Human Services, and the Department of Leadership and Higher Education. Martinez, the department chairs, and faculty members all gave congratulatory remarks at the receptions.
“The School of Education’s success in working with diverse students to achieve their educational goals was obvious and clear, for each department and program, from master’s degrees to our Ed.D.,” said Martinez.
The School of Education is the most diverse school at the University of Redlands, with more than half of the 427 graduates from traditionally underrepresented groups.
As in a traditional commencement, the virtual celebration was marked by happy tears, congratulatory remarks, and cheers. Students and families also had the opportunity to share their thoughts at the department receptions.
Reyna Marie Rodarte ’20 earned her master’s in Education-Higher Education, Student Affairs. She spoke from a room adorned with balloons and flowers, surrounded by her family. She became emotional as she thanked her cohort and the faculty members who made her journey possible.
Katherine Brookes Akridge ’20, who earned her master’s in Educational Administration, remarked, “It has been a weird summer, but it has been an amazing experience, and I appreciate the effort people made to make [this celebration] special, too.”
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