SIT commencement 2018

 May 12, 2018

Fifty-three graduates receive MA degrees at SIT commencement

Look out, world! Here come 53 new changemakers.

They are 2018 School for International Training graduating class, who received their master’s degrees during a commencement ceremony on Saturday at the Latchis Theater in downtown Brattleboro.

The ceremony was moved from the hilltop campus of SIT Graduate Institute to the theater due to rain, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of graduates and their families, who joyfully crowded into the theater lobby to snap photos with friends and family before marching into the theater to the spirited drumming and dancing of Steve Leicach, Tony Vacca and Abdou Sarr of Senegal.

The graduates come from around the world, including Afghanistan, China, Ecuador, Italy, Nigeria, and the Philippines. They received their MA degrees in International Education; Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management; Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation; Social Justice in Intercultural Relations; Sustainable Development; and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Student commencement speaker Aurora Lucas is a first-generation American of Filipino descent who earned her MA in TESOL. English was not her first language, she told the crowd, and her immigrant parents worked hard to help her achieve her dreams. Like many of her peers, she said, “we moved mountains to get here. But we gained so much more than we left behind. We are now more equipped to make a difference in building the better world that we have always dreamed of.”

Growing up in the Philippines, Lucas said, she has an image of what life in the United States would look like: A big house with white picket fence. “We were not shown the other painting, where families are making ends meet, living in basements and … wearing hand-me-down coats.” Lucas said she chose to earn her MA TESOL to be able to teach students in underserved communities, and SIT “taught me to teach English in a conscious manner as a vessel for peace.”

Commencement keynote speaker Abby Maxman received an MA in International Administration from SIT in 1995 and today heads the NGO Oxfam America. She said her time at SIT “launched me on a journey that has been remarkable and deeply rewarding in every way.”

Maxman has spent 25 years in the field of international development, working to combat poverty, hunger, and social injustice. “The incredible professors and collaborative community of SIT offered an invaluable foundation, one that continues to serve me each day in my work to fight the injustices of poverty across the world,” she said.

“You are prepared to work across cultures and boundaries; take on new challenges; problem solve; innovate; and navigate complexity and ambiguity,” she told the graduates. “Not small stuff.”

She advised the graduates to “challenge assumptions; question what you see and how things are done. Take risks, work together, follow and lead with your heart, and I know that you will do great things.”

SIT President Sophia Howlett reminded the graduates of the goals – tolerance, respect and understanding – of Donald B. Watt, who in 1932 founded the Experiment for International Living, the youth exchange program that became the foundation for World Learning and the School for International Training.

“SITers, Experimenters, World Learners have been going out now for almost 90 years to help others fulfill their dreams,” Howlett said. “Wherever you go in the world, and usually in the most unexpected places, you are going to find members of the SIT community. I welcome you to that group. You are now ready to go out and help people to achieve their dreams.”

SIT Alumni Director Carla Lineback also welcomed the graduates into the SIT family – a global community now 120,000 strong, she said.