More than 700 new educators, researchers and leaders were honored during the University of Washington College of Education’s graduation ceremonies on June 9, with speakers highlighting the Class of 2020’s power to tip the scales to ensure a high quality and affirming education for all youth, especially those farthest removed from educational justice.

Dean Mia Tuan noted that this year’s graduation took place against the backdrop of nationwide uprisings over systemic racial inequality.

"Schools have been and can be a central site for creating a more equal and plural society,” Tuan said. “Moving forward, it will take all of us to both support and hold school systems accountable in making the shift from can to must.”

Tuan praised the College’s Class of 2020 for embodying her hopes and dreams for a just and inclusive future.

“You possess fiery conviction, keen intellect, critical consciousness, courage, self-awareness and, perhaps most importantly, a deep and abiding love for humanity,” Tuan said. “I have faith that you are the generation that will help change our world — and your faculty and I couldn’t be prouder of who you are and the amazing things you are going to do.”

Undergraduate student speaker Fatima Huda Sheikh, an Education, Communities and Organizations major, spoke to her fellow graduates about their power to take action.

“As educators, we can sometimes feel that challenges we face are faced by us alone,” Sheikh said. “However, our experiences in learning have led us to build a community of inspiring families, friends, students and teachers who are there to support, share and show up on our path to success.”

Graduate student speaker Diana Velazquez, who earned her Masters in Teaching through the Seattle Teacher Residency and will teach at Seattle’s Licton Springs K-8, exhorted the Class of 2020 to be mindful of seeing and nurturing the gifts every child possesses.

“Every day, our decisions and actions are what bend and mold the future education system,” Velazquez said. “Our journey in our respective careers will be long and challenging — but worthy. And our daily decisions are what will change and transform it.”

Watch Graduation 2020

View a playlist of graduation ceremonies including opening remarks by Dean Tuan, the College's student speakers and an original poem composed by artist-in-residence Siamak Vossoughi, followed by videos featuring the reading of names of the College's undergraduate, masters and specialist, and doctoral degree recipients. The 2020 cohort of the Elementary Teacher Education Program also presented a statement in support of the Movement for Black Lives that can be viewed.

Graduation Photo Gallery

Graduation 2020

College of Education Gonfaloniere and Guardian of the Gonfalon

Each year the College of Education selects a student to lead its degree candidates during the UW’s commencement procession. These students, called gonfaloniere because they carry the College’s gonfalon (a banner bearing the College’s name and symbol borrowed from the Italian Renaissance), represent some of the UW’s most accomplished students.

Alumni volunteers watch over the banners during the ceremony, so that the gonfalonieres can enjoy their graduation experience. These volunteers are called Guardians of the Gonfalon, and they have been part of UW graduation exercises for more than 20 years. 

Even though this year’s commencement will be held online, the College has selected a gonfaloniere and Guardian of the Gonfalon to continue this tradition. Below, learn more about our 2020 gonfaloniere and Guardian of the Gonfalon, including special memories and advice for future Huskies.


Dalya Perez, ’15, ’20, Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Policy Studies: Higher Education

As a long time educator, I know that institutions of education have the power to transform people's lives and communities. UW’s College of Education helped me launch into a meaningful doctoral journey of equitable leadership, research, and action.

Who would you like to thank/recognize and why: I would like to thank my amazing partner and co-parent Brian for bringing so much love, delicious food and laughter, and Carlos & Amiel, for being the best kids ever I love you! Also my parents, for your endless generosity, and Yasmeen and Hester for being our beloved family.

My advice for incoming students is to connect with student support staff and programs, especially OSDI if you’re a student of color or LGBTQ! Get involved early with research opportunities. Find faculty whose work you admire and build relationships with them. Stay in good communication with your advisor!

Guardian of the Gonfalon

Mary E. Fertakis, ’83, ’13, CEO of M Fertakis Consulting, LLC – Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Issues in P-12 . Equity Consultant, National School Boards Association. Former School Board Director, Tukwila School District (1995-2017). Current elected member of the Washington State Board of Education. Peace Corps Volunteer (Senegal). Founder, Tukwila Children’s Foundation. International Chapter Advisor of the Year, Alpha Gamma Delta. WEA, Human and Civil Rights Award. Community Leadership Team, Road Map Project. Rotary International – Paul Harris Fellow Award.

Favorite UW Memory: Husky football. I attended the Rose Bowl following their 1981 season (they lost to Michigan), BUT that was also the season we created “The Wave” during the Homecoming Game! I will never forget the roar of the crowd when we made the first complete circle!

To the class of 2020: Embrace life-long learning. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity due to this pandemic to dismantle systems that have not served each child well in the education sector – so focus on the “what if’s….”, rather than the “yeah, but’s….” Dream big!


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications