Dean Weil 2018 Commencement Remarks

May 13, 2018


Good Morning and welcome, everyone, to the 59th Commencement of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

My name is David Weil, and I am the Dean of the Heller School. Like many of you here today, this is also my first Heller commencement, and I’m just as thrilled as all of you to be here.

It’s been a busy and wonderful year at Heller, and I want to begin by thanking today’s graduating students for an unforgettable first year as your Dean.  I am very grateful. 

I would also like to acknowledge two members of our faculty community who are retiring and were awarded emeritus professor status at the final Brandeis faculty meeting: Our colleagues Professor Marion Howard and Professor Deborah Stone.  Thank you for your service and dedication to the Heller community.

Today we come together to acknowledge the hard work and scholarship of 132 newly-minted Heller alumni, including 127 master’s and 5 doctoral degrees.

Represented among the graduates today are students from nearly 40 countries with over 30 languages spoke. Students are enrolled in six different degree programs and 10 dual and joint degree programs.

The breadth and depth of your curiosity, your intellect and your dedication to social justice causes brought you to our doorstep—some of you from halfway across the world.  

In continuation of a wonderful tradition at Heller, you will be shortly hearing from graduate reflections representing each of our programs. 

Today you will depart with a Heller degree, a toolbox of critical skills and frameworks, new perspectives, and a family of fellow alumni into a world that desperately needs your help. Whether you choose to combat inequality in healthcare or the workplace; create a new venture that empowers an impoverished community; join the ranks of dedicated civil servants locally, nationally, and globally; transform corporate culture at a Fortune 500 company or a set off on a different path all together, know that the Heller community is behind you in your fight for social justice, every step of the way.

Graduation is also a celebration of the many people who have helped you get here. It seems fitting, then, that today we also celebrate Mother’s Day. Please join me in a round of applause for all of the mothers here today, including several graduating students who are mothers themselves.

Along with all of the mothers, in this room are fathers, grandparents, and loved ones who have traveled from far and wide to share this moment. As a parent myself, with one daughter having recently finished graduate school and the other about to enroll, I can assure you it is one of life’s great joys to see one’s child dressed in a cap and gown.

In the spirit of commencement and Mother’s Day, I invite you all to consider the strength and significance of our most basic human relationships. Perhaps you will celebrate today’s accomplishments with your parents and siblings, your own children or partner, or with a chosen family. These are the people who entertain your big ideas, who keep you going when you are discouraged, make you laugh when you feel like crying, support your practical needs, inspire you, and most importantly provide you with love.

In short: these are the people who believe in you. They’re simultaneously the reason you are here, and the reason you are graduating. It’s a tremendous gift.

The belief we place in one another is incredibly powerful. For all you have learned about statistics, policy analysis, negotiation, economics, monitoring and evaluation, and leadership, never forget that our efforts are made stronger by the people who surround us, and those who came before us.

So: Stick together. Encourage one another. Build bridges. Challenge preconceptions (including your own).  Ask questions. Take the support you have received from others, and pay it forward to someone else.  Now more than ever, the world needs your compassion, your critical eye, and your commitment. There is a great deal of work to be done.

Congratulations, class of 2018!