“All the young people and all the communities that are going to benefit from your great work – for them, the sky will be no limit.”
That was no mere turn of phrase for the speaker addressing TC’s doctoral graduates on Thursday afternoon at the College’s fourth and final Convocation ceremony for 2019.
In 2007, Barbara Morgan – originally chosen as the back-up for Christa McAuliffe, who died in the 1986 Challenger disaster – became the first U.S. teacher in space. The training was hard, the specter of the Challenger loomed in the background, and the eventual mission – which included assembly work on the International Space Station and culminated with Morgan bench-pressing two male colleagues as she spoke to school children while orbiting the earth – was demanding as well.
“But it is not harder than what all of you are going out into the world to do,” the former Idaho teacher told the graduates. “Your work is every bit as important. A teacher needs a situational awareness of every student in his or her class, in order to design and provide the best learning environment where all can reach their full potentials. And each of you, will use your own awareness in whatever field of the education writ large field you practice.”
Being an astronaut “is not harder than what all of you are going out into the world to do.”
There will be setbacks along the way, Morgan said, but the Challenger tragedy offers a lesson. After determining the worth of a continuing commitment to space and space exploration, NASA set out to “find out what went wrong and, even more importantly, what we did wrong.”
“Then, we fixed it,” said Morgan. “We made it better and we kept the future open.”
“Doctoral candidates, that’s what you are all going to be doing — keeping the future open.”
TC President Thomas Bailey echoed that assessment, telling the doctoral graduates, “You are embarking on careers and lives as researchers at a moment when scholarship and science are under attack…when the value of higher education is being called into question. You have the greatest opportunity and, by virtue of your TC doctoral education, the tools to change the climate of our times.”
You are embarking on careers and lives as researchers at a moment when scholarship and science are under attack…You have the greatest opportunity and, by virtue of your TC doctoral education, the tools to change the climate of our times.
Bailey called on his new “doctoral colleagues” to “carry within you the power of research to change our thinking at the most basic level.”
The choirs were accompanied by the Drew Coles Ensemble, which provided the processional and recessional music for each of the TC Convocation ceremonies.
Vocalist Natalie Fabian, an instructor with the Music & Music Education program, also performed at all four ceremonies.