The next generation of early childhood leaders celebrates graduation from Erikson Institute

With cheers, tears, and even some flag-waving, loved ones of graduates celebrated the Class of 2016 during Erikson Institute’s 49th commencement ceremony May 12 at Chicago’s Field Museum.

Sixty-four graduates took the stage as faculty read their biographies, offered hugs, and handed them their diplomas. In addition to students receiving master’s degrees in child development and early childhood education, this year’s class also included the first nine students graduating from Erikson’s new, one-of-a-kind Master of Social Work program, the only program in the United States that features a social work curriculum that is deeply informed by child development knowledge and practice. Three students received Ph.Ds in child development, as well.

“When I look at you, I see the promise of tomorrow – a group of remarkable people with curiosity, passion, and knowledge to do remarkable things,” said Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Erikson. “Not everyone can do the work that you’ve prepared to do. And the need for those who can innovate, think bigger, and really make a difference in the lives of young children and families has never been as great.”

Erikson awarded honorary degrees to two leaders whose work has focused on improving the lives of some of the country’s most at-risk children and families: James P. Comer, M.D., M.P.H., Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center and founder of the Comer School Development Program, and Janice L. Feinberg, president of the Joseph & Bessie Feinberg foundation, a philanthropic foundation focused on Chicago’s economically underserved populations.

In an address to graduates, Dr. Comer talked about the gap in America between knowledge about child development and the ability to deliver services, education, and care that foster well-being among all children. He noted that the graduates in the room are now prepared to reduce that gap through leadership. “You are in a position to help children directly and help others understand what they need to do to have a meaningful impact on children.”

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