Class of 2014 celebrates achievements at College convocation ceremony

by The College of Education   /   May 11, 2014

The College of Education held its convocation ceremony on Sunday, May 18, 2014, to celebrate and mark the magnificent academic milestones of its newest alumni. Graduates of on-campus, online, and off-campus degree and certificate programs were recognized for their accomplishments before standing to shift their mortar board tassels from right to left, signifying the completion of their education.

“The heartbeat of our College arises from you, our superb students,” Dean Mary Kalantzis told new alumni, who will join more than 34,000 fellow graduates from the College to become the next generation of influential leaders in education. “You have engaged creatively with administrators, faculty, and each other to solve problems, clarify your values, act as change agents, and find excitement and joy in new habits of mind.”

View this year's award winners from the College after the photos...

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Outstanding Student Medal recipients address their classmates

The Education Alumni Association annually awards a doctoral candidate, a master’s student, and a bachelor's student from the College as Outstanding Student Medalists for their stellar scholarship, leadership, and service to the College, the University, and the community. This year’s recipients, Michelle Bonati, Ariana Dymerski, and Colleen Leahy, addressed the Class of 2014 during the commencement ceremony.

Michelle Bonati and Professor Stacy DymondMichelle Bonati, Ph.D, Department of Special Education
Michelle earned her doctorate in Special Education to advance the field through research that will enable individuals with disabilities to live self-determined lives. She was recognized by her nominator as exceptionally hard working and dedicated to making her local community more inclusive and kind. Dr. Bonati is the founder of a nonprofit group called Be Kind Illinois, which will continue to further the mission of her service-learning project named Ben’s Bells. Her legacy will live on after she takes up a new faculty position at the University of Sydney.

“We have chosen to make a difference in the lives of children and adults through education. Although we come from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and have varying interests in education, we share this common purpose.”

- Michelle Bonati

Professor Greg Taylor and Ariana DymerskiAriana Dymerski, Ed.M, Department of Special Education
Ariana earned her master’s of education degree, as well as an initial special education teacher certification. Her nominator in the Department of Special Education noted her consistently excellent work, her perfect 4.0 GPA, her contagious enthusiasm for learning, and her perceptiveness and professionalism. Ariana’s main goal in pursuing an advanced degree and career in special education was to become a passionate and experienced advocate for students with disabilities.

In our future classrooms, we will have to fight for the big picture: equal education. All students, no matter where they are from, are important and to be valued. Equal access to all resources is an absolute must.”

- Ariana Dymerski

Colleen LeahyColleen Leahy, BS, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Colleen earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She was described by her nominator as thoughtful, reflective, and creative, with a wonderful sense of humor and genuine interest in the perspectives of others. Colleen prides herself on the many campus activities she has participated in, her high grade point average throughout her educational career, and the special relationships she has formed on campus. She is a dedicated volunteer and mentor in the organization Big Brothers, Big Sisters and a leader in her sorority.

We are prepared. We are more than prepared. We are going to be courageous. We are going to be passionate. And we are going to be patient. We will be that new set of strong-willed educators who will inspire others to achieve greatness, just as previous educators inspired us in the past.”

- Colleen Leahy

Bronze Tablet recipients from the College
The University of Illinois recognizes high academic achievement by inscribing on Bronze Tablets the names of students who have at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point average through the academic term prior to graduation and rank in the top 3 percent of students in their graduating class. The tablets hang in the Main Library. Congratulations to the following high achievers from the College:

Melissa dePau
Kirsten Nold
Anne Porto
Amanda Rowland
Elizabeth Valakas

In addition, the College recognized its 49 James Scholar graduates, acknowledging their talents as outstanding students. The program provides students with unique learning opportunities to enrich their educational experience.