A Bittersweet Farewell: The Inaugural Class of 2020 and Outgoing Dean Celebrate their Time at SOE with a Virtual Ceremony

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Graduating in the midst of a global pandemic, the School of Education’s inaugural Class of 2020 will be denied many traditional milestones. The School’s graduating MPhil Education Leadership and Management class of 45 students are heading into an uncertain world with a resilience that they may not yet realise. Because of COVID-19, the School of Education (SOE) administration had to scrap the usual farewell event and replaced it with a virtual ceremony on June 3. The online farewell also bid goodbye to the School’s inaugural Dean, Dr. Tahir Andrabi, who conceived the School and its MPhil Education Leadership and Management programme.

“Graduation during the COVID crises was definitely not something I was looking forward to but the virtual farewell changed all that! It was amazing to see everyone’s faces and hear everyone’s voices. It honestly felt like a warm, cozy get-together. To top it off, Ali Sethi’s melodious voice, just made everything better! I honestly was surprised at how much I enjoyed the event and touched by the thought and effort that went in to arranging it all,” shared Jannat Karim, a graduating student.

The farewell had Syed Babar Ali, Founding Pro Chancellor, LUMS; Dr. Arshad Ahmad, Vice Chancellor, LUMS; Dr. Tahir Andrabi, Dean, SOE; Dr. Mariam Chughtai, Associate Dean, SOE; Shaila Andrabi; SOE faculty; staff and students in attendance.

The enthusiasm and energy level of the students was high; emotional goodbyes, nostalgic memories, a musical performance and laughter fits, the Zoom farewell had it all. Moderated by Dr. Mariam Chughtai, the event started with the announcement of awards. Dr. Tahir Andrabi announced the students placed on the Dean’s Honour List. Dr. Arshad Ahmad announced the Leadership and Service Award and Syed Babar Ali, along with his parting note to the class of 2020, announced the NMF Award. The capstone distinctions were announced by Shaila Andrabi, acknowledging select practicum groups for their outstanding projects.
   
The award announcements were followed by a farewell video for the class of 2020, interactive activities and exciting performances by the junior cohort, heartwarming speeches and emotional poems by the graduating class, a farewell video for Dr. Andrabi, and a musical performance by Ali Sethi.

A moving compilation of goodbye messages compiled by the staff, faculty and students was played for Dr. Andrabi, who has completed his tenure at SOE. Addressing the students, Dr. Andrabi shared a heartfelt message. “This is a very special time for me, because I started my journey at LUMS with all of you and now symbolically ending our association with LUMS at the same time. I can say with pride that the way you have come all this way, you have earned the right to be called the ‘Inaugural graduating class of the School of Education.’ The way you have handled yourself with courage, grace, determination and compassion makes me really proud.”

Dr. Arshad Ahmad expressed his admiration for Dr. Andrabi for the ethos he brought to the School of Education. He went on to praise the graduating cohort and wished them luck for the future. “Your class is a pioneer as you are the first defining cohort and trailblazers. When you think about your experience here at LUMS, you are going to remember the teachers, connectivity, and collegiality you have been part of. From graduates you have become alumni, and I wish the class of 2020 best of luck for the future.”

Speaking to the graduates, Syed Babar Ali stressed on their responsibility towards the society. Talking about learning being a life-long commitment, he said, “Your degree is the first step in your ability to learn, but your learning does not stop here. There is so much to be gained and learned in this world and there is no limit to how much one can grow. The most important and crucial thing is to share that knowledge with others.”

Waqas Manzoor, a graduating student shared his thoughts on the occasion, “Goodbyes are always difficult especially when you have been treated with so much affection and care by your school. I feel a lot of appreciation for SOE for acknowledging my voluntary activities; for looking beyond academics, and observing my passion outside of the classroom, which is really admirable.”

Speaking about her SOE journey, Sundus Khalid shared, "What was most significant about my SOE experience was that it challenged; it challenged all conventional wisdom about who ought and who ought not to be in graduate school. We had parents, non-parents and single parents. We had the employed and the unemployed. We had students manage daytime jobs alongside classes. We had students run start-ups against all admonitions of this being a full-time degree. We also had people get married and engaged during the MPhil. We had students witness the first day of school of their children or fuss over their children's SAT scores, and O and A level results; while also managing their own deadlines. We had students contemplate divorce or heal from one that has recently occurred, or break off that engagement that had been forced upon them. We also had the happily married returning to classes after many years and several children. We had it all. We all managed. We all thrived. And in this space we were able to negotiate newer meanings for our lives"

Sarah Mahmood, Manager Marketing and Student Assistance shared her experience of organising the farewell, “It was SOE’s first farewell, and one of its kind as it was being held on Zoom. It was a challenging task because we wanted to make it special for our graduating class. But with the support of the team and our junior cohort of 2021, it proved to be a memorable event. The excitement, energy and high running emotions from beginning to end were a testament to the fact that the event had been successful.”

The MPhil ELM graduates have been prepared to take up the challenge and lead a change in the education sector of Pakistan, as envisioned by the School. To groom the students, the SOE Placement Office organised a comprehensive career placement training which spanned across several weeks. This was accompanied by a networking event, where the students got the opportunity to interact with organisations from the education sector. More than half of the graduates secured employment in renowned organisations even before graduation; the rest are either in the process or plan to go into academia.

SOE’s student assistance department has built a strong network with its graduating batch and the School is excited at the prospect of witnessing the progress and achievements of the MPhil ELM graduates as they venture out to transform the educational landscape of the country.