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Students Soar at TC

Diverse in many ways, our 2014 graduates are united by their passion to create a better world for all.

Diverse in many ways, our 2014 graduates are united by their passion to create a better world for all.

This year’s convocation ceremonies at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine were watched over by a large-scale art installation of two phoenixes crafted by internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Xu Bing. The huge, illuminated birds made for an impressive backdrop to our ceremonies in the majestic cathedral. They also resonated with the joyous spirit of this time of the year, when our graduates rise and take their place in the world.         

During convocation week we celebrated our graduates and their extraordinary stories of academic and personal achievement and their hopes and dreams for the future. The students featured in this year’s Graduates Gallery reflect the impressive depth and breadth of our fields at TC and their determination to make a difference.

It’s so exciting to see how our graduates are renewing TC’s historic legacy – but with a distinctly 21st century twist. Rebecca Chad, for example, will use her degree in Clinical Psychology to continue her research at the nexus of psychology and technology. In exploring the relationship between social media, identity and attachment, she has focused her research and practice on adolescents who are at risk for dropping out of school? or developing mental health problems.


As a student in the Communication and Education Program, Brennan DuBose tapped the power of technology to create a talk show web series featuring TC students and faculty discussing critical issues related to diversity, culture and social justice. This spring, Brennan brought together in Milbank Chapel five African-American male professors from Columbia University’s schools, including TC, to discuss “The State of African-American Males In Urban Education.” This was the first cross-campus panel of its kind in Columbia’s history. What a wonderful way to expand the conversation about diversity at TC.    

TC’s student population is truly global in scope, with 81 countries currently represented. Noor Sandhu, who received her master’s in Music Education, represents several nations herself. She was born in India to parents who met while college students in the U.S. Then she was schooled in a British education system in India, at an American school in Shanghai, and in International Baccalaureate programs in Nepal and Beijing. Now she’s on her way to Abu Dhabi to teach music in an American school. Like so many TC students, Noor is multi-talented, as she showed her fellow graduates at convocation when she sang “Somewhere” from West Side Story while delivering her remarks as Student Speaker.     

Our dedicated and determined doctoral degree recipients already have conducted research that is having real-world influence and impact – the hallmark of scholarship at the College throughout our 126-year history. Their dissertation topics this year ranged from a leadership profile of entrepreneurs across generations, to an innovative intervention to reduce childhood obesity; and from the experiences of mental health professionals working with undocumented immigrants, to the impact of school design on learning experiences. There are so many more fascinating areas of research undertaken by our doctoral graduates. I look forward to the great work they will continue to do at colleges and universities around the world as well as in the field.      

Particularly impressive is the story of Joanne Marciano and Vaughn Wilson, doctoral degree recipients from Curriculum & Teaching, who defended their dissertations on the same day. This does not seem like such a remarkable fact, until you learn that Joanne and Vaughn are married, have two young children, ages 7 and 3, and both teach full time at the Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts, in Brooklyn. They also have research and teaching interests in common: both examine the popular and college-going practices and literacies of Black and Latina and Latino youth. Joanne and Vaughn attribute their success at balancing these many demands to constant communication; an encouraging network of faculty mentors, family, friends, and writing-group peers; and equal support of one another's work. Perhaps one day they will write a book about achieving that most elusive goal: work-life balance!      

These are just some of the stories represented in our year-end profiles of graduates. I invite you to read them all, watch the videotaped interviews, and learn more about how our students are diverse in every respect but share an unshakeable commitment to create a better world for all through their research, practice and leadership. They exemplify the TC difference that makes our College like no other graduate school in the world.

Congratulations to all our graduates. I wish the entire TC community a wonderful and restful summer! 

Published Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2014