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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Speakers tell CCAS doctoral graduates that their colorful hoods signal bright futures

Matt Dynes | Hatchet Photographer
Ben Vinson, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, urged doctoral graduates to pass on their knowledge to future students and be “change makers” out in the world at a commencement ceremony Thursday.

About 90 doctoral graduates in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences were adorned with colorful hoods signifying their newly achieved academic status and field of study at a commencement ceremony Thursday evening.

Graduates’ friends, family and children attended the ceremony staged in Lisner Auditorium. Speakers congratulated the graduates for achieving the highest academic degree possible and reminded them to use their knowledge to make a positive change in the world.

Graduates, some with children in tow, were presented with their multicolored hoods by faculty advocates and CCAS Dean Ben Vinson.

Here’s what the speakers had to say:

1. Connecting to the past and looking to the future

Jeffrey Brand, associate dean of graduate studies and associate professor of philosophy, said the doctorate of psychology and the doctorate of philosophy are some of the highest degrees available in the world of learning and urged graduates to pass on their knowledge to other students.

“Presentation of the doctoral hood in today’s ceremony represents the single moment when the candidate’s mentor and school acknowledge symbolically the passage of knowledge from one generation to the next,” Brand said.

Vinson said historically the hood was designed “something like a peacock’s feathers” to make knowledge visible to others. The process of receiving a doctorate is steeped in tradition, symbolism and the promise that students will teach others in turn, Vinson said.

“The hooding ceremony encapsulates a moment in time when you have accomplished all you can as a student,” he told the graduates. “It is your turn to confer knowledge, to advance the field, to move beyond intellectual frontiers.”

2. An endpoint and a new beginning

Vinson told graduates that a doctorate degree is not the end of their educational road and said the graduates’ futures would be as “awe-inspiring as the colors they now wear.”

He said the future will bring obstacles, difficult decisions and the fear of the unknown but reminded graduates of their ability to learn and adapt.

“Our hooding was the end of a seemingly endless journey from the trenches of the dissertation, to the dungeons of field exams, to the oasis of research and the carousel of classes,” Vinson said. “The hooding was an endpoint and a new beginning.”

3. Be a ‘change maker’

Vinson highlighted the diversity and impact of the doctoral candidates’ dissertations and encouraged graduates to value their skills and their potential.

“Your dissertations range from the impact of fiscal institutions on budgets and growth, to looking into new ways to target and treat tuberculosis,” he said. “You are doing relevant, important work and you should feel proud of what you have accomplished.”

Graduates at the ceremony received doctorates in various fields like biological sciences, English, economics, mathematics, political science, physics, psychology and statistics.

Vinson asked graduates to be the “change makers” who push society forward and urged graduates to remain connected to the GW community beyond graduation.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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