May 23rd marked the 140th Commencement in the history of Boston College and the seventy-sixth School of Social Work Diploma Ceremony. This year, under bright, flawless skies, 266 soon-to-be social workers were awarded MSWs, while five individuals celebrated completion of their doctoral studies.
The School of Social Work Diploma Ceremony was held on Burns Lawn following the University Commencement, and its spirit mirrored the perfect weather – joyful, optimistic, aspirational.
“I assume you most likely did not choose the profession to make a lot of money,” said Dean Alberto Godenzi, in the final graduation remarks of his esteemed 15-year tenure as head of the School. “No, you chose this profession because you wanted to be a voice for the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the forgotten. You have every reason to be proud of what you do, because your work is essential; not just for those at the margins, but also, for the overall well-being of our families and our communities.”
In addition to Dean Godenzi’s welcome, captivating remarks were provided by graduating MSW student Dana Loatman and Rev. Dr. Gregory Groover, Sr., Pastor of Boston’s Historic Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. Both Loatman and Groover called for the gathered, budding social workers to not be afraid to create change in the world, even in places that may not seem to be traditionally a part of the profession.
“Cheers to the class of 2016 for not accepting the norm,” said Loatman, a graduate of BCSSW’s global practice concentration. “We challenged leadership, we challenged the institution, we challenged each other, and now we have to challenge the world. I urge you to remain your authentic selves. Continue to push the limits and occupy spaces that may be uncomfortable for you. I urge you to redefine what it means to be successful, to equate work with meaning. In the words of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘make a career of humanity’.”
Of course, there is much work to be done for this imminent, next generation of social workers; their “careers in humanity” will likely never want for objects of need and inspiration. Groover reminded those gathered that disparities in our nation’s education and healthcare structures largely exist based in deeply-rooted systemic racism; and he explained how, too often, those charged with writing policy, enacting laws, and carrying out programs don’t have the tools, nor the vision, to create lasting change. He challenged “the social worker” to join together with their colleagues in other fields in order to think differently about society’s ills, to provide their unique insight, skills, and compassion towards developing policy and providing practice to build a more just world.
“When the other professions succumb to silence,” Groover orated mightily,”… it must always be the social worker [to] speak truth to the powers that be, demand justice, and unashamedly yet proudly walk always with the marginalized and those who are without.”
To hear more from all three commencement speakers, check out the below clips.
Dean Alberto Godenzi
A welcome to the graduates to the worldwide community of social workers, and a promise of support from the BCSSW community, as these budding social workers go out into the world in their fight for social justice.
Dana Loatman, MSW ’16
Words of thanks to the graduates’ cheerleading family and friends and to their “rockstar” professors, all of whom instilled a sense of belief in the class of 2016 to be able to see the world differently; and an entreaty to take this unique vision with them as they endeavor to change the world for good.
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Groover
A spirited call to the nascent social worker to always walk with the marginalized, and a reminder that it is the social worker’s responsibility to instill a sense of urgency in those called to solve the seemingly intractable problems of our day.