Welcome to Kean's virtual Honors Convocation to celebrate honors graduates and their extraordinary achievements. Join the conversation with #KeanHonors.
Congratulations, Honors graduates of the Class of 2020! Each year, I have the privilege of celebrating our graduating seniors distinguished by their academic achievement at the highest levels, from cum laude to magna cum laude. Such traditions date back many centuries, connecting us to scholars of the past through pomp and circumstance. Traditions bring a comfort of predictability and a sense of belonging.
Honors Convocation 2020 follows the same tradition, yet not the same. We will honor and recognize your extraordinary achievements while a student here at Kean. Your friends, family and community will join you to share the ceremony, filled with pride of how far you have come. You will hear inspiring words from our Keynote Speaker, Prof. Michel DeGraff, a linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), originally from Haiti. President Farahi, and Kean’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ada Morell, will join the celebration.
How we celebrate this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is not the same as we will connect remotely from far and wide. This does not in any way diminish your accomplishments. It makes them even more significant. Despite immense challenges and the deep shock to our society delivered by this terrible virus, you kept on moving forward. It did not stop you from pursuing your dreams beyond graduation. Any crisis can bring out the best of us, if we embrace the change to see things differently. You have not only succeeded during these extraordinary times, you have achieved high distinction. Now you are ready for the next stage in your life.
Hermann Hesse wrote in his poem “Stages”:
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.
What you do with that magic is up to you. I am proud of each one of you, and look forward to seeing you soon as a Kean alumnus.
Professor Michel DeGraff was born in Haiti. In 1992, he obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1996, he joined MIT’s Department of Linguistics & Philosophy. His research in linguistics is on the development and structures of Creole languages. Major results include a series of ongoing paradigm shifts both in linguistics (specifically Creole studies) and in the use of Creole languages in education and research (with focus on his native Haiti).
Haiti is a spectacular case study of postcolonial communities in the Global South where local languages (in this case, Haitian Creole) are excluded in formal education and generally disenfranchised and stigmatized. DeGraff’s research is ushering, in both linguistics and education, a more scientifically grounded and inclusive approach to Creole languages and their speakers. On the strictly linguistics front, DeGraff's research has revealed some of the fundamental ways in which Creole languages are structurally and developmentally on a par with non-Creole languages (such as French, English and Spanish). DeGraff's work has also engaged intellectual history and critical race theory as he documents the links between linguists' claims about Creole languages and the making and transmission of hierarchies of power with racialized correlates. This work has social implications as well, as part of an ongoing struggle that involves the use of language and education for human rights and social justice.
DeGraff is co-founder and co-director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative http://haiti.mit.edu for improving access to and quality of education in Haiti through the strategic use of digital and non-digital resources in Kreyòl. The MIT-Haiti Initiative, through a constructive intersection between linguistics and education, is setting up a global model for opening up access to quality education via the use of local languages in the design of high-quality active learning methods and materials. The most recent advance in this Initiative is the launch, in September 2019, of a digital platform http://MIT-Ayiti.NET for the co-creation and curated crowdsourcing and sharing of educational resources in Kreyòl in all disciplines and at all grade levels.
More details about Michel DeGraff’s work are available at his MIT website: http://mit.edu/degraff