Susan T. Fiske encourages TC’s doctoral graduates to embrace life’s obstacles | Teachers College Columbia University

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"Metabolize Failure": Susan T. Fiske encourages TC’s doctoral graduates to embrace life’s obstacles

2016 Doctoral Hooding
Susan T. Fiske (center), Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University, received TC's Medal for Distinguished Service. She is shown here with TC Provost and Dean Thomas James (left) and George Gushue, Associate Professor of Psychology & Education.

Nearly 200 students received doctoral degrees at TC’s Wednesday afternoon doctoral hooding ceremony, the final event in the college’s annual Convocation festivities.

At the ceremony, which was attended by former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins, TC President Susan Fuhrman praised the graduates for promoting social justice through both teaching and research efforts.

“All great institutions of higher learning do research,” Furhman said. “What sets Teachers College apart is what also sets you apart: You have been co-investigators and co-authors and authors on groundbreaking research aimed directly at addressing the world’s most challenging problems – particularly those that fall hardest on marginalized, vulnerable, and disadvantaged populations.”

"We are confident that individually and collectively, you will make the greatest possible difference in the world. This is your time. Keep bright the chain of social justice that started for all of us at TC's founding." —Susan Fuhrman

Fuhrman singled out the work of two graduates, Lauren Kelly, who earned a English Education, and Hsing-Ching (Cherie) Kuo, who earned a Ph.D. in Kinesiology.

Kelly, an expert in using hip hop pedagogy to teach high school English, will begin a two-year research fellowship at Boston University School of Education, where she will examine the impact of school curricula on the development of critical consciousness among adolescents. As the leader of an annual Hip Hop Summit at TC for high school students in the tri-state area and author of an influential journal article, Kelly has provided guidance to teachers and students as far away as New Zealand on using hip hop to reach students.

“We are all so fortunate to have a scholar-educator of your caliber determined to shape education’s future,” Fuhrman told Kelly. “We know you will accomplish great things.”

Kuo, who worked with TC Professor Andrew Gordon and Columbia University neurobiologist Kathleen Friel, is helping make sophisticated new assessments more widely available and affordable for children with neurologically based movement disorders. Kuo will begin a research position at the University of Calgary, where she will study the combined impact of behavioral interventions and brain stimulation.


Susan T. Fiske, Eugene Higgins Professor of Pscyhology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, was awarded TC’s Medal for Distinguished Service. Despite her reputation as one of the world’s leading social psychologists, Fiske reminded students that the failures she encountered early in her career became transformative moments that changed the course of her life. She encouraged graduates to learn to embrace and “metabolize failure” and the inevitable obstacles one encounters in life.

“Most people can deal with success,” Fiske said. “It’s how you handle failure that shows your real grit.”

The ceremony included several musical performances, including a medley consisting of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen,” with vocals performed by Music and Music & Education Ed.D. candidate Judy Lewis and Andrea Maas, who was receiving her Ed.D. from the same program. Both songs deal with the sometimes unintended messages children absorb from their encounters with adults.

After the graduates in attendance each participated in the traditional ritual in which the hoods for their specific degrees were placed over their academic robes by a faculty member, TC Trustee Edith Shih (M.A. ’77, M.E. ’78) performed the classic song, “Over the Rainbow.”

Related Links:

"Go for Broke" in Healing Hearts and Minds: At TC’s first master’s ceremony, Sandra Jackson-Dumont echoes a famous charge to educators

"Take Advantage of Opportunity": At TCs second master’s ceremony, Thomas Frieden cites the need for luck, readiness and hard work in making a better world

"Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary": At TC’s third master’s ceremony, a call to action by Kris D. Gutiérrez

Graduate Gallery 2016

TC 2016 Convocation to Honor Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Thomas Frieden, Kris D. Gutiérrez and Susan Fiske

Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Susan T. Fiske
“Most people can deal with success,” Fiske told TC's graduates. “It’s how you handle failure that shows your real grit.”