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CCAS master’s graduates encouraged to take risks and stay curious

Matt Dynes | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Huda Ibrahim, student speaker and recipient of the Distinguished Master’s Degree Scholar Award, addresses her fellow graduates at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Master’s Program Celebration.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences honored both graduate students and esteemed faculty at the school’s commencement ceremony in the Smith Center Friday morning.

Faculty and student speakers reminded the graduates that in order to succeed in life, they need passion, curiosity and determination.

Here are a few highlights from the ceremony:

1. Gratitude for faculty mentorship

The ceremony honored Imani Cheers, assistant professor of media and public affairs, with the Award for Excellence in Graduate Faculty Mentoring.

Jeffrey Brand, the associate dean for graduate studies, presented Cheers with the award, which she was nominated for by the graduate students. Cheers, an award-winning multimedia producer and editor, received praise from students for her guidance and influential role in their lives.

“Students praised Dr. Cheers for ‘constantly providing us with professional development, opportunities, visiting news agencies, inviting esteemed guest speakers, sending out job opportunities, and challenging and assisting us and strengthening our portfolios,’” Brand said.

One student even shouted “thank you” from the audience, as Brand continued to quote student anecdotes of Cheer’s involvement and encouragement in their academic careers.

2. ‘Build on your passion’

Martha Morris-Shannon, the interim director and associate professor of museum studies, told the graduates a story about her time as a student at GW in the 1960s. She spoke of the vibrant spirit for justice at the time, which she said has not left GW since.

“Life is far more complicated than those laid back days in the sixties,” Morris-Shannon said. “I know we have a connection though. You value mindfulness, empathy and social justice. You are masters of civic engagement.”

Morris-Shannon said that three words, “passion, opportunity and courage,” guided her career. She encouraged graduates to focus on the passions that have brought them to where they are today.

“Going forward, please build on your passion, your eagerness to learn and your commitment to innovation and creativity,” she said.

Huda Ibrahim, student speaker and recipient of the Distinguished Master’s Degree Scholar Award, echoed similar calls to action and asked her fellow graduates to take risks and never stop following their sense of curiosity.

“Our inquisitive nature means that we often must go against the grain and take risks despite upending uncertainties,” Ibrahim said. “Venture out, take action, continue to ask questions and let your passions guide you, because the future will only be different if you choose to make it so.”

3. Take time to reflect

Dean Ben Vinson asked the graduates in his closing remarks to take time during the busy commencement weekend to reflect on what their accomplishments mean to them.

“If you do anything over the next 24 hours, take a few moments to reflect on what you’ve learned at GW. Process what it means in your life and remind yourself why you chose to pursue an advanced degree in a college of liberal arts and sciences,” Vinson said.

He then issued graduates a second challenge, but this one was long-term.

“Repeat this process at least once a month for the rest of your life,” Vinson said. “It is my hope that you will continue to rekindle your creative juices, reignite your intellectual passion, regardless of what happens to you in life and whatever job you take.”

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

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