Higher education advocate to keynote commencement

April 19, 2018

Ted Mitchell will speak at this year’s ceremony, alongside master’s student (and future PhD) Sarah Toutant

By Ross Brenneman

Ted Mitchell, President of the American Council on Education

USC Rossier has selected its keynote and student speakers for this year’s master’s degree commencement ceremony.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, will deliver the keynote address, and Sarah Toutant, graduating this year with a degree in postsecondary administration and student affairs, will give the student address.The ceremony takes place on Friday, May 11. USC Rossier will hold its doctoral hooding on Thursday, May 10.

A policymaker and businessman

The American Council on Education is the major coordinating and advocacy body for America’s colleges and universities. Under Mitchell’s leadership, ACE pressed Congress to create a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as to use reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to protect student loan borrowers.

Prior to coming to ACE, Mitchell served as the undersecretary of the United States Department of Education, responsible for all postsecondary and adult education policy and programs as well as the $1.3 trillion Federal Student Aid Portfolio.

In 2016, Mitchell joined then-Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. for an event at USC Rossier announcing stronger teacher-preparation rules.

Mitchell is former CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a national investor in education innovation. He has also served as president of the California State Board of Education, president of Occidental College and in a variety of leadership roles at UCLA, including as vice chancellor. Mitchell began his career as a professor at Dartmouth College, where he also served as chair of the Department of Education.

Improving opportunity

Sarah Toutant

Toutant, the student speaker, is a 2016 graduate of University of San Francisco who has now firmly established herself within USC Rossier. A Dean’s Scholar, Toutant is president of the Black Graduate Student Network, a research assistant for the Center for Empowered Learning and Development with Technology and a graduate intern for the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice.

In her role with CEISJ, Toutant became host of the center’s regular open mic nights, “Spoken Justice,” which routinely draws a large crowd.

Toutant is also a graduate assistant for USC’s Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs.

“The first day of my master’s program, I was extremely overwhelmed,” Toutant said. “I questioned if I would be good enough for academia, and I even doubted whether or not I deserved to be at USC.”

The support she has experienced from USC Rossier faculty and her fellow students has sustained her in and outside the classroom and has motivated her to continue her studies.  She will begin a doctoral program in Urban Education Policy at USC Rossier this coming fall and will serve as a research associate in the USC Race and Equity Center.

“Addressing my graduating class is not only an honor and a privilege, but it is a testament to our growth, and I am inspired by the impact all of us will have on society.”

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