Above photos by David Ertischek
Before Graduate Hooding ceremonies began on Saturday, May 13, students gathered for rehearsal.
Graduates who only knew each other from remote classes met for the first time in person. They shared their happiness and goals of teaching theatre, writing novels, and more.
“I have so many options,” said Kelli O’Brian, MA and MFA ’23. “I’m going back West to do theatre with survivors of trauma. I’ll hopefully teach on the college level. There are so many applications for a degree in Applied Theatre. I’m excited.”
“It’s surreal. I’m really excited,” said Jerica O’Neal, MFA ’23, now a graduate of the online Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing program, with Ayo Demps, MFA ’23.
Demps said they were sad that grad school was over, and like O’Neal, said they are hoping to teach at a college.
Just a few feet down, graduate student speaker Rebecca Fornwalt, MFA ’23 met fellow Arizonan Irene Kaster ’21, MA ’23. The two realized they lived near each other and exchanged numbers to go to their local rock-climbing gym.
“My goal is to end up as an editor at a publishing company,” said Kaster.
Below: Photos from the School of the Arts Graduate Hooding Ceremony
“I feel like a grownup. I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” said Tabitha Wallace, who received a MA and MFA in Theatre Education and Applied Theatre.
Wallace and Victoria Isotti, MA and MFA ’23, are co-teachers at the St. John’s School in Boston’s North End.
“I want to be a theatre teacher,” said Isotti. “I love teaching theatre.”
Jessica Sisaveth, MFA ’23 said she’s writing her own Laotian-American memoir.
“It’s about my American dream versus my parents’ American dream,” said Sisaveth. “It’s about my upbringing in Rhode Island and how I achieved my dream.”
On stage as the graduate speaker, Fornwalt spoke about how COVID deeply affected her writing. She said she lost steam, and faced delays in her novel being published.
“Then I found Emerson’s Pop Fic[tion] program, and it hooked me immediately, mostly because there’s nothing else like it right now,” said Fornwalt. She said an independent study with Kim McLarin, Interim Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies, helped her fine-tune a plan to get published, and reaffirmed her dream of teaching writing as a professor someday.
“We have graduates of film and media arts, theatre education, publishing and creative writing and everything in between. Not everyone is a writer here—but you’re all passionate about your craft. And that passion, plus a little creativity, is what will bring us success,” said Fornwalt.
McLarin spoke at both hooding ceremonies, and while she said graduation speeches are usually rosy, she struck a different tone.
She quoted author James Baldwin from his 1963 speech to a group of educators.
“We are living through very dangerous times,” said McLarin using Baldwin’s quote. She said our children are threatened when walking in malls, sitting in schools — all because of a false excuse of freedom due to the 2nd Amendment.
She continued and said book bans have always occurred, but today’s book bans are more threatening to our democracy.
“Real state censorship is on the march in this country,” said McLarin.
She quoted Baldwin again, “Nothing can be changed until it’s faced.”
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Above: Photos from the School of Communication Graduation Hooding Ceremony
Before the School of Communication ceremony, Kai Hecker, MA ’23, said she enrolled at Emerson because she didn’t feel like she was doing what she wanted to do, professionally. “I wanted to work in marketing and felt this degree would get me there,” Hecker said. “I want to work in-house for luxury fashion and start my own business in the beauty industry.”
Lamyaa Hussein, MA ’23 said she was anxious after graduating, but felt her Master of Science in Communication Disorders, has prepared her for the next step.
“Hopefully, I will be a speech pathologist,” said Hussein.
Thanh-Ai Nguyen, MA ’23 said she felt relief and graduating was bittersweet.
“You work so hard to get to the end of the tunnel. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Nguyen.
“I’m just so proud of our cohort,” said Skylar Hamblen, MA ’23. “This is such an amazing culmination of our time and effort.”
School of Communication graduate student speaker Kate Dubovikova, MA ’23 spoke about how she felt she had lost her spark at her old job in Russia, so she looked for a new challenge with graduate school and found Emerson’s Master of Arts in Strategic Marketing Communication program.
“I finally saw that spark that I was missing. And even though my path wasn’t straightforward… there was something unique about Emerson, and luckily, I ended up here,” said Dubovikova. “As I always say, we choose a bachelor’s degree with our mind, but we pick a masters with our heart. So here I am, standing in front of you now, ready to receive my master’s degree from the school where I finally feel like I belong.
“This feeling will go with me not only as a memory, but also as an important benchmark of how I should feel at any place from now on. And Emerson, you’ve really set this bar up high, so I will be picky.”