On a beautiful summer day in mid-August, the graduates of the Master’s in Public Education Management at The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management reached an important milestone: their commencement ceremony. These students, who earned a Master’s of Management Studies, are the first graduates of a new program to equip emerging, mid-career public education leaders with the skills, tools, and mindsets to accelerate their impact on the students, schools, and communities they serve. Over their 14 month program, Master’s students have traveled to the Yale SOM campus for five residence weeks, while continuing to work full-time in large urban public education systems across the U.S., including school districts, charter organizations, and state education agencies.
As Commencement began, a brass quartet serenaded the family, friends, and loved ones gathered in Evans Hall, awaiting the entry of the graduates. The commencement processional was led by Master’s students Brian Darrow and Victoria Bredt as banner bearers, along with Faculty Marshals and Teaching Excellence Awardees Heidi Brooks and Jim Baron. Family and friends rose to their feet to welcome the processional of students – many grinning and waving – as they made their way to their seats in the front of the auditorium.
In welcoming remarks to the 2022-23 Master’s cohort, Dean of Yale SOM Kerwin Charles congratulated the remarkable cohort of education leaders drawn from around the country and a variety of roles. He noted that the Class of 2023 is both diverse and devoted to addressing education challenges that impact young people.
“I’m hoping that our program here has prepared you to have even more impactful and durable effects despite political conflicts, the ethnic and racial gaps we see in school systems, and the continued aftershocks of the pandemic,” he said.
Keynote speaker Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez (TBA 2018-19), a Broad alumna and superintendent of Hartford Public Schools, spoke about the importance of bravery on the leadership journeys to come for the Class of 2023: “Take bravery with you on your leadership journey – it will be challenging, complicated, and frustrating, but also the most rewarding and critical journey you can take,” she said. “Your commitment to continuously improve yourselves will translate into the improvements you seek in the systems, schools, and most importantly, the lives of young people you serve.”
The ceremony also featured two student speakers, selected by their fellow cohort members to share remarks. Sharicca Boldon, director of strategy and compliance for Baltimore City Public Schools, spoke about the power of difficult questions and of curiosity, continuing the theme of bravery.
“Are you willing to be courageously curious? When it comes to educating children, will you question assumptions and constraints? Are you willing to be a courageous connector?” she asked the group. She encouraged the graduates not to lose sight of the true meaning of fearlessness: to take a next step even when you don’t know the outcome, and sometimes in the face of personal and professional risk.
Tonya S. McIntyre, director of community outreach at the Charleston County School District in South Carolina, reflected on one of the norms of the cohort: “what is said here stays here, what is learned here leaves here.” Speaking to the close-knit group, she called out what they’ve learned together, both big and small.
“We have learned to embrace the truth that we truly belonged here at Yale and in the leadership spaces we each occupy,” she said. “Through this program we have let our lights shine brighter and farther, not only for ourselves, but for the students in our systems, who are searching for light to illuminate the seats where they sit.”
Following the student speeches, the Master’s students engaged in two long-standing SOM traditions. First, students turned around to applaud the family, loved ones, and supporters gathered for Commencement in person and watching online.
The students then completed self-graduation: each graduate’s name is called by the graduate before them as they cross the stage to shake the dean’s hand and receive their diploma. Students joyously named one another to cheers and applause from the audience.
Following the commencement ceremony, students and supporters moved to the courtyard of Evans Hall for a ceremonial lunch, along with games, merriment, and an opportunity for a photo with Handsome Dan, the Yale University mascot.
In his remarks, Dean Charles noted that while the Master’s in Public Education Management program may be recognizing its inaugural class this year, the program fits squarely within SOM’s mission to educate transformative leaders for business and society. He harkened back to the very first commencement ceremony, noting that school systems were specifically mentioned as a critical area of leadership and management with the power to change the world.
Congratulations to the Master’s in Public Education Management Class of 2023!
Tonya S. McIntyre
Aron Walker III