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School of Education celebrates 2021 Commencement

  • Commencement 2021
     Dean Rob Knoeppel and Associate Dean Jim Barber hand out diplomas at the graduate ceremony during Commencement 2021.  
  •  The socially-distanced ceremony in Zable Stadium allowed families and friends to watch as each graduate's name was called.  
  •  Graduates were able to pick up diplomas in front of the School of Education building throughout the weekend.  
  • Commencement 2021
     Okenna Egwu Ph.D. '21 with dissertation committee members Rip McAdams and Natoya Haskins.  
  •  Heather Gentry Ed.D. '21 poses with Dean Rob Knoeppel after ringing the school bell.  
  •  Jamon Flowers Ph.D. '21 (right) poses with Yvonne Smith-Jones M.A.Ed. '87, Ed.S. '93, Ed.D. '97 and Dean Rob Knoeppel.  
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The School of Education celebrated its 2021 graduates during a Commencement weekend like no other May 21-23, 2021. Faculty, staff, students and families gathered on campus for a socially-distanced but decidedly joyful celebration.

The school recognized 169 students over the course of the university’s six ceremonies in Zable Stadium. Graduate students in the School of Education were celebrated on Saturday morning, while undergraduate students were recognized by major during various ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday. All events were livestreamed and are still available to watch.

“After a challenging year, it was such a joy to gather on campus to celebrate the achievements of this graduating class,” said Dean Rob Knoeppel. “Their perseverance and resilience are truly extraordinary, and they will take those skills and experiences into the world of education and do remarkable things.”

{{youtube:large|j7pup5UmXXc, School of Education students submitted messages of thanks and memories of their time at the school.}}

The school recognized 21 doctoral students in counselor education and educational policy, planning and leadership. 11 students in school psychology were recognized with educational specialist degrees. 62 students were recognized for earning master of education degrees in counseling, school psychology and higher education, while 65 students were recognized for master of arts in education degrees within the teaching disciplines of elementary, secondary, ESL/bilingual and special education. The school also celebrated 10 undergraduate students pursuing degrees in elementary and secondary education.

This Commencement marked the graduation of the school’s inaugural cohort of B.A.Ed. students. This standalone major allows undergraduate students to pursue elementary education leading to licensure, as well as optional specializations in ESL/bilingual education or special education.

The ceremony also included students from the school’s first cohort of the online M.Ed. in counseling. Although these students will formally complete their programs in August 2021, they were also invited to take part in this weekend’s celebrations.

Students were able to pick up diplomas outside the school building on Friday and Saturday; all diplomas not collected at that time will be mailed to recipients. Doctoral students were also invited to ring the school bell on the courtyard balcony as part of the weekend’s celebrations. In a typical year, students ring the bell after defending their dissertations — a tradition not possible as defenses were held virtually this year. Faculty, family and friends cheered from the courtyard as students rang the bell in celebration of this hard-earned achievement.

Commencement Awards

Over the course of the Commencement celebrations, a number of student and faculty awards were bestowed in recognition of extraordinary effort and accomplishment.

Leila Warraich Ph.D. '21 delivered the student address at the graduate Commencement ceremony. Margaret, The Lady Thatcher, Award for Scholarship, Character and Service

Each year, this medallion award recognizes a graduate student who embodies the traits of scholarship, character and service within the School of Education and university community. Leila Khalid Warraich Ph.D. ’21 is the winner of this year’s award. Warraich is a doctoral student in counselor education and served as doctoral director of the New Horizons Family Counseling Center. She is also an editorial board member and lead reviewer for the William & Mary Educational Review, the school’s student-run peer-reviewed journal. In her nomination letter, faculty cited the depth of her scholarship and service to the field, to her fellow students and to the school. Daniel Gutierrez, associate professor of counselor education, wrote “Leila is passionately dedicated to her work and carries herself with a heart focused on compassionate justice.”

Warraich was also selected as the student speaker for the graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, during which Arts & Sciences, Education, Law and Marine Sciences conferred their graduate degrees. In her speech, Warraich shared, “Due to the sacrifices by those who came before us, and by our own personal sacrifices, we are changing the trajectory of the future, and of future generations to come at William & Mary.”

School of Education Awards for Excellence

Each year, three awards — one to an undergraduate, one to a master’s student and one to a doctoral student — are given in recognition of academic and professional excellence, as well as outstanding citizenship.

Associate Dean Jim Barber presents the undergraduate Award for Excellence to Victoria Alcantaro Villar B.A.Ed. '21.The undergraduate winner is Victoria Alcantaro Villar B.A.Ed. ’21. As a multilingual student-teacher, Villar has worked with students at various elementary grade levels to support growth through reflective learning practices. She completed her student teaching at Laurel Lane Elementary School, where her cooperating teacher called her an innovative and engaging teacher.

Katherine Barko-Alva, assistant professor of ESL and bilingual education, wrote in her nomination letter, “Her dedication to students is only matched by her keen desire to teach through a lens of equity and inclusion.”

T.J. Horan M.Ed. '21 is the winner of the master's Award for Excellence.The master’s winner is T.J. Horan M.Ed. ’21. A student in the Higher Education Program, Horan also served as president of the Higher Education Student Association (HESA), as an editorial assistant of Oracle: The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Life, and as a graduate assistant in W&M’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

In a nomination letter, Pamela Eddy, professor of higher education, and Stephanie Blackmon, Class of 1963 Associate Professor of Higher Education, wrote, “T.J. has a bright future ahead of him and his service to the program and the School of Education is laudable.”

Stephanie Dorais Ph.D. '21 (right), winner of the doctoral Award for Excellence, poses with Leila Warraich Ph.D. '21, winner of the Thatcher Award.  The doctoral winner is Stephanie Dorais Ph.D. ’21. As a doctoral student in counselor education and supervision, Dorais has been involved in advancing the field of counseling at the national level, serving as graduate student representative of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling (AESERVIC) and on the editorial board for the organizations peer-reviewed journal Counseling and Values.

She mentored master’s students and served as the research director at New Leaf Clinic. Patrick Mullen, associate professor of counselor education, wrote in his nomination letter, “Stephanie has extensive clinical experience, is an experienced leader and advocate, has demonstrated stellar knowledge and competency for research, and has a heart and passion for serving others."

Thomas A. Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching

This university-wide annual award recognizes a faculty member for excellence in teaching. Judith B. Harris, Professor and Pavey Family Chair in Educational Technology, was one of two recipients in 2021. Harris has spent a fruitful career studying educational technologies and how they can be integrated in curriculum-based, student-focused ways. She famously provides deep and insightful feedback to students. One student shared, “It is not an overstatement to write that Dr. Harris puts her heart and soul into teaching and working with her students.”