Message from the Dean

Dean Dominic Brewer's 2017 Doctoral Convocation Address

Provost Katy Fleming, Faculty, Family, Friends and Graduating Students, as Dean of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, I welcome you all to our 2017 Doctoral Convocation.

Congratulations Graduates! We are here to celebrate your achievements.

Let’s start by offering a special thanks to those long-suffering parents, partners, family members and friends who have supported you. Thank you for doing more than your share of household chores. Thank you for listening to ideas you were only vaguely interested in. Thank you for being steadfast cheerleaders.

Let’s give them a round of applause.

Graduates, today we welcome you into the community of scholars. You are graduating from one the world’s premier universities in an extraordinary breadth of fields. 

Although Steinhardt was founded as the first School of Education at an American university, we have broadened our focus over the last 127 years to include art, music, physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology, applied psychology, food and nutrition, and media and communication.

Your dissertations reflect this extraordinary breadth with titles like: The performance history of Beethoven’s piano sonatas / a cultural history of dieting in the age of feminism / How academic Twitter pushes the boundaries of traditional scholarship / How the philosophy of success informs teacher practices in charter schools / How students from Turkey negotiate their identities / How transgender youth develop resilience / How machines make music.

That’s a pretty amazing list.

Today, you join a very rare group of people – less than one in 500 people in the world who has a Doctoral degree.  It takes a great deal of courage, persistence, and creativity to get this to this day.

But as you look back on how you got here, I suspect that for many of you, the path was filled with fear, self-doubt, and frustration. I have to confess that my own time as a doctoral student at Cornell was undoubtedly the most miserable time of my life. There were many, many dark hours in the library stacks. Days of utter despair. The growing sense of panic that all the great ideas had been taken.

One of my own graduate students from Hawaii once compared writing his dissertation to travelling the Pailolo (PIE-LOW-LOW) channel between Moloka’i and Maui, one of the windiest and roughest channels in the Hawaiian Islands. He said, “Throughout history, men have travelled the Channel for adventure and sometimes war...and that sums up the effort that was put into my dissertation. In the beginning, it was an adventure in learning, but toward the end, it was like war.”  

That’s how the process felt to me as well. But looking back on that time, it also saw the beginning of one of the most meaningful relationships of my life – the one with my committee chair.  I was exceptionally lucky to have an amazing mentor, Professor Ron Ehrenberg, someone who pushed when I needed challenging, who supported me when I needed encouragement, and who taught me to keep academic work in perspective.  He was a great teacher who has continued to provide lifelong guidance.

I hope that you too formed that special bond in your time at NYU.  Let’s give a round of applause to thank the amazing Steinhardt faculty for helping get you across the finish line.

And Graduates now it is your turn.  When you leave this room today, you will become the teacher, the mentor for the next generation.  I know you will make us proud.

So, now it is your responsibility to take the best of what you have learned here and use it well. Change your life; change the world.  In the words of Civil Rights icon, John Lewis, now go out and “Make trouble…good trouble.”