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Introduction by Lucia Navarro '24

Lucia Navarro '24

Good afternoon,

Distinguished faculty, proud parents, esteemed guests, and of course, our incredible graduates,

Today, we gather to celebrate a milestone that marks both an end and a beginning. The Baccalaureate service is a cherished tradition that allows us to pause and reflect on the journey we have taken and to look forward with hope and excitement to the paths that lie ahead. Yet, we must acknowledge our privilege in doing so as people around the world have been deprived of this fundamental right, particularly those living in Gaza.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce our speaker for today's ceremony, Lisa Smulyan. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Lisa as a teacher, as a researcher, an exemplary mentor, and who I now consider a friend. I met Lisa in the fall of 2021 when she became my advisor as I declared my major in Educational Studies. I had only heard about her, little did I know how important she would become to me. Without her, I don’t think I would have made it through my final years at Swarthmore.

Before I continue expressing my deep appreciation for Lisa, let me give you a little background about her. Lisa Smulyan is a distinguished educator and scholar with a career spanning over three decades in the field of educational studies. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1976 with high honors in English and history, then continued to Brown University, where she earned her M.A. in teaching. In 1977, she entered Boston’s public school system, teaching English and social science to middle and high school students before pursuing her Ed.D. from Harvard University in 1984. For those of us who work with young people as educators, we know it mustn’t have been easy for her to step away from the classroom, leaving her students behind for her own growth.

Eventually, Lisa returned to Swarthmore and has been a vital part of the College ever since. She has been a faculty member since 1985. Over the years, Lisa has served in various leadership roles at Swarthmore, including Chair of the Department of Educational Studies, Associate Provost, and Social Science Division Chair.

Throughout her career, Lisa has received numerous honors, grants, and awards, including the Henry C. and Charlotte Turner Chair at the College in 2014, the Maurice Eldridge Fellowship, and multiple grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Lisa’s contributions to educational research and scholarship are extensive. Her current research interests focus on teacher leadership, the feminization of teaching, and the role of education in promoting social justice and equity. In addition to her academic pursuits, Lisa is an active participant in professional development and community engagement. She has presented her work at numerous national and international conferences. Lisa’s work continues to inspire educators and students alike, making a lasting impact on the field of education and beyond.

Lisa’s dedication to teaching and mentoring is evident in her long-term commitment to the professional growth of her students and colleagues. She has been involved in various mentoring programs and has worked tirelessly to support beginning teachers, particularly through the Philadelphia New Teacher Network, which she helped to establish with funding from several major grants.

In her 39 years at the college, Lisa has inspired and supported generations of Swarthmore students through her dedication to empowering others in the service to her students and community. She has exemplified the values I hold dear: integrity, willingness to learn, and a commitment to advocating for those who may not yet have found their voice.

I was one of those students. For a long time, I was lost and disillusioned with the world. That’s when Lisa met me. Fall 2021 was my lowest point at Swarthmore, and it’s the semester that pushed me to take time off as I had been struggling with my mental health for a while. Lisa was the first professor at Swarthmore who made me feel seen. It was a complete surprise how cared for she made me feel. I was a little nervous about her, as we didn’t necessarily share the same identities. I assumed we were too different for her to understand the struggles I faced, but it soon became clear that did not matter in our relationship. Looking back now, I realize we are much more alike than I ever imagined. Lisa took the time to get to know me, to understand me and the struggles I was going through even if they weren’t familiar to her. She made me feel like I wasn’t alone or crazy for feeling the way I did.

Lisa’s genuine honesty and care are her greatest assets. It was extremely refreshing as I had not gotten much of that here. Lisa showed me that it was okay to take time off, to take a break, to struggle, and to reset in order to be the best version of myself. She didn’t really know me well in that first meeting, but I could tell she had genuine concern for me and truly wished to help in any way she could. I don’t think Lisa saw it as extra work she had to get done. Her compassion has never been transactional. One thing about her is if she can help you or do something about it, she will, even if she just met you, even if she doesn’t know how, she will figure it out to the best of her capacity. She will give you the care the world and its systems have lacked in providing.

I’m constantly telling friends about how much I love Lisa, I really won’t shut up about it. It saddens me that there are so many people who won’t get to meet her during their time at Swarthmore. It saddens me even more for those who never ventured into the Education Department; you have truly missed out on some of the most amazing people.

I’m very thankful that I have had the opportunity to not only get to know Lisa as a professor but as a friend as well. In our weekly meetings, we not only talk about academics and my slow progress on my work but also about life in general, with topics ranging from love to insecurities and disillusionment with the world. This is what I love most about our relationship. You cannot understand the number of times I’ve cried in her office during my rambles. Lisa already knows when to start passing over the tissues. She has not only served me as a teacher, but she has single-handedly cultivated my confidence as a student, as a scholar, and as a person worth being listened to. Lisa has shown me that I matter, that people like me matter, that we deserve to be heard, that our questions are worth asking, and that our answers are worth implementing. I know I’m not the only one who has been impacted by Lisa in this way. Lisa has many fans out there, or Lisa Stans, as they say. From our time together in the classroom, in her office, even in her house and car rides, Lisa has helped me become the person I am today.

I truly believe it was destiny for Lisa and I to meet as we are both ending our time at Swarthmore together. These have been not only Lisa’s last moments at Swarthmore but mine as well. We now embark on our next chapter in our life stories, and I couldn’t be happier that I get to do it with her.

Class of 2024, parents, families, and friends, I give you Dr. Lisa Smulyan.