From the Latin for 'calling together', a convocation is a formal academic gathering for a special purpose.
Each year, just before commencement, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies joins all the other colleges on campus at an honors ceremony that celebrates the achievements of UMass Boston’s graduating graduate students. The graduate convocation includes the Book Awards in which every graduate program gives a special book in the discipline to one of its most outstanding students. In addition, doctoral students are hooded at graduate convocation and students that receive other departmental prizes are recognized.
Dressed in their academic regalia and marching in procession with their faculty mentors and advisors, dozens of McCormack’s newest alumni took part in the May 30 evening event in the Campus Center ballroom.
Three graduating students took home book awards: international relations student Kyle Emge, conflict resolution student Tal Lieber, and public affairs student Stacy Randell.
In his time in the master’s degree program in international relations, Kyle Emge clearly made the transition that professors hope for in their graduate students, from student to scholar. His record has the hallmarks of an award-winning student, including an almost perfect GPA. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
According to Graduate Program Director J. Samuel Barkin, “Kyle not only did well in class, but consistently showed a genuine intellectual curiosity and thoughtfulness in all of his work. Furthermore, he did all of this while working full-time off campus. His thesis, 'National Passenger Rail Policies and the Effect on Investment, Ridership, and Congestion,' is exactly what a master’s thesis should be. It contains original research–Kyle compared national rail policies in a way that had not been done before. It is well-designed and creative, and the results are not what one might necessarily expect. He draws useful policy prescriptions from the research that can inform more effective passenger rail policy. And it came from a thesis-writing process in which Kyle’s professors learned as much from him as he did from them.”
Also receiving a book award was Tal Lieber who earned a master of arts degree in conflict resolution.
Lieber is recognized by her professors as a superior student, a major contributor to any discussion, in class or out. Professor David Matz recalls, “It is not the quantity of her contributions that stands out but the quality. Each question or comment can be counted upon to move the discussion forward, to add a new idea or perspective, to challenge everyone involved.”
Leiber also participated as a teaching assistant (TA) in the creation and development of a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There were many intense discussions of pedagogy, the role of politics in class, and the selection of materials. The other two TAs were of Arab descent, and all three were remarkable for their ability to manage their political commitments, their focus on preparing a useful and stimulating course, and their respect for the views of each other.”
Matz added, “Tal was able to be forceful and tactful, certain and doubting, engaged and detached. The topic of the course easily elicited passion, but Tal never let that intrude on her purpose: to create an excellent course.”
Finally, named after one of the founding faculty members and former graduate program director, the 2013 Richard A. Hogarty Award for Academic Excellence in the Master of Science in Public Affairs program went to Stacy Randell.
Randell came to the program with more than 20 years of public service experience working with youth and families. Over the course of her career, she has designed and implemented trainings and educational programs for various public and nonprofit organizations on topics such as conflict resolution, effective communication skills, parenting, and social justice. Currently, Randell is combining her experience with the skills and knowledge garnered in the MSPA program in her new position as service coordinator in an affordable housing complex in the Boston area.
Her capstone project, “Engaging Hearts, Changing Minds: Gang prevention and relational-cultural connection,” examines the impact of a school-run violence prevention program on families in a socioeconomically disadvantaged community. Her research identifies both the program’s successes and limitations and provides useful guidance for practitioners on the front lines of program design and implementation.
According to her advisor Amy Smith, “Stacy’s final report was not only academically excellent, but also engaging. Her passion and commitment to social policies is clearly evident.”
Randell also received the program’s Public Service Award given each year to a student who epitomizes community service and outreach efforts that go above and beyond working full-time and going to school full-time. Randell was also chosen to carry the McCormack Graduate School banner at commencement.
In addition, Stacy Randell earned honors as the top public administration student in the state by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. Randell was the third student in four years from UMass Boston to earn this award.