On May 11, the School of Education conferred degrees on 192 students during its annual Diploma Ceremony. Graduates processed to the ceremony along the wooded walkway from main campus, led by the Williamsburg Field Music Fifes & Drums. They joined friends and family under the tent in the school courtyard, where retiring Professor of Special Education Lori Korinek officially opened the ceremony with the ringing of the school bell.
69 students received an M.A.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction, and will enter the teaching field working in elementary, secondary, ESL/bilingual and special education classrooms. Additionally, 11 students received undergraduate diplomas with education as a second major.
Master’s degrees were conferred on 73 students in the areas of counseling, higher education administration, K-12 administration, and school psychology. Seven students completed an Ed.S. in school psychology.
32 students received doctoral degrees in educational policy, planning and leadership and counselor education. Their dissertation titles were announced, and they were congratulated by the faculty who served on their dissertation committees.
During the ceremony, Dean Spencer Niles recognized the accomplishments of extraordinary graduating students with a series of awards.
Janet Brown Strafer Award
Established in 2018, the Janet Brown Strafer Award highlights one student and one faculty or staff member each year who exemplify a spirit of inclusiveness and demonstrate a deep commitment to engaging with diverse populations.
The student award winner this year was Luc Nguyen for his work with students from a variety of backgrounds, including students with special needs and English language learners. Nguyen served as a leader with the mentoring organization Griffin School Partnerships, and tutored and taught through the Community Partnership for Adult Learners.
The faculty winner of the Janet Brown Strafer Award was Katherine Barko-Alva. The core of Barko-Alva’s research focuses on the construct of academic language. She received a statewide Latinx Leadership Award this year from the Virginia Latino Advisory Board and was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Virginia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (VATESOL) annual conference. She spearheaded an ESL certificate for education majors, and successfully advocated that all future students in our graduate elementary program take at least one class in ESL methods.
In 2000, Margaret Frances Harmon and Margaret C. and Larry A. Hauben of the School of Education Development Board established the Margaret, The Lady Thatcher, Award for Scholarship, Character, and Service to recognize a graduate student who embodies those traits within the school community.
This year’s recipient of the Thatcher Award was Yi Hao. A doctoral graduate of the Higher Education Program, Hao was deeply involved in the life of the school and university, making substantial contributions in scholarship and service. During her tenure at the School of Education, Hao co-authored a book in press, published five peer-reviewed articles, and presented her work at numerous conferences across the country. She served as gifted program coordinator, a co-instructor in multiple courses, the editor-in-chief of the William and Mary Educational Review, a committee member on myriad advisory groups, a graduate peer leader, and a dedicated volunteer to serving the School of Education in any capacity.
School of Education Awards for Excellence
Each year, the school bestows Awards for Excellence to three graduate students; one an undergraduate, one a master’s degree candidate and the other a post-master’s degree candidate. The awards recognize academic and professional excellence as well as outstanding citizenship.
The undergraduate winner this year was Katelyn Birchfield. A double major in psychology and elementary education, Birchfield maintained the highest standards for her academic work. She engaged in research examining the impact of peer support interventions on social participation of students with autism in general education classrooms. In addition, Birchfield served as the vice president of the American Sign Language Club, member of Alpha Phi Omega, and vice president of Campus Buddies, a student organization aiming to increase campus awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity and special needs.
The master’s student winner was John Griffin, who served the School of Education community for two years as a representative on both the Graduate Council and Graduate Education Association. He was also the vice president of the Higher Education Student Association where he dedicated his time and energy to create opportunities for his peers in the Higher Education Program. He worked as a graduate assistant for two years in the Student Affairs division where he trained and mentored undergraduate student employees. His work with undergraduate students informed his subsequent research examining the impact on-campus student employment has on the student experience and whether on-campus employment can be considered a high-impact practice for undergraduate learning.
The school recognized two outstanding doctoral students this year.
The first was Leah Shy, a doctoral graduate in the Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership department. During her time at the School of Education, Leah worked closely with many faculty members on research and teaching projects, including serving as an adjunct instructor and teaching a total of six different courses in the Curriculum and Instruction program. As a graduate assistant for Chris Gareis, Leah provided valuable research, insight, feedback, and support in academic works here and abroad. While aiding others in their scholarly endeavors, Leah also pursued her own line of inquiry with her dissertation focusing on the intersection of developmentally appropriate practices of early childhood students and teachers’ conceptualizations and practices of classroom assessments.
The second doctoral student recognized was Sean Newhart, a graduate of the counselor education program. An active researcher, Newhart earned multiple research grants, published numerous times, and presented at 14 professional conferences. He was also selected as a student reviewer for the Journal of College Counseling and peer reviewer for the William & Mary Educational Review. As a family counseling intern in the New Horizons Family Counseling Center, Newhart provided services to families and was selected as a group leader for the Youth and Family Counseling program. He continued to develop his counselor competencies by implementing a classroom curriculum for the Camp Launch program. He served as a teaching intern for eight different courses while concurrently supervising seven master’s level counseling students throughout their practicum experience. Newhart was recognized with the 2019 Emerging Leader Grant from the American College Counseling Association.