On June 10, the Jackson School celebrated the Class of 2021 in an hour-long Spring Convocation ceremony that featured the Jackson School director, alumni, faculty and student speakers, among other highlights of student achievements during the year. It was held in a pre-recorded, virtual premiere format for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The class of 2021 is especially unique because of all that you have achieved in the midst of a pandemic that brought significant challenges from the smallest aspects of your daily lives to major world affairs,” said Leela Fernandes, the director of the Jackson School, who hosted the event, in congratulating the 212 students graduating in the Class of 2021. “I can think of no better sign of the kinds of leadership and contributions you will make to the world than the fact that you have succeeded in your studies in the context of this unprecedented global pandemic.”
Watch the recording of the ceremony here.
In her pre-recorded speech as the Distinguished Alum 2021 speaker, Annah Mwendar-Chaba, a first generation American born and raised in Seattle, shared her journey to becoming a Foreign Service Officer and what she wished she had known at the time of her own graduation from the Jackson School in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies.
“..even when you found your purpose and your mind is finally able to experience a sense of peace in your career, there’s still challenges to be experienced, and there’s still compromises that are going to have to be made,” Mwendar-Chaba emphasized. “I’ve ultimately had to ask myself multiple times since graduation until now what’s the potential for good and for peace, for love and fulfillment in the decision that I’m about to make, and does it outweigh the negative. What is my net effect?”
Mwendar-Chaba, who was named the Jackson Leadership Award recipient in 2014, earned a Master’s degree at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellow. Her career in the U.S. Foreign Service focuses on public diplomacy, and she has already served in U.S. Embassies in Mauritius and India. She is currently learning Arabic for her next posting in Jerusalem, adding to her extensive knowledge of Kiswahili, French, and Hindi.
Propelling our world forward
During the hour-long ceremony, Director Fernandes announced the annual Jackson School Leadership Award, which comes with a $5,000 stipend and goes to a graduating undergraduate for academic excellence and involvement in the community. This year, two students were selected for the honor determined by a faculty committee: Clara Coyote, a double-major in international studies and Germanics with a focus on human rights, and Arwa Mokdad, an international studies major with a focus on human rights.
The award also comes with the honor of speaking to the Class of 2021 during the ceremony. Coyote urged fellow students to turn their education into action for the world. “Our international studies education ensures that we know the stakes of this history we’ve lived and we know the stakes of the history we’ve inherited,” she said. “Now is the time we turn our knowledge into action. We will let these pandemic era years define us.”
“COVID has taught us that our world is interconnected. We are not isolated states no matter our wealth or power,” said Mokdad during her speech on her hope for the future. “To address global challenges, we need global solutions. And the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies has prepared us to pursue solutions that transcend borders.”
Director Fernandes highlighted the recipient of the 2020-2021 Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholar Award, graduating senior Arwa Mokdad. The stipend award, highlighted during Convocation, is annually given to support an undergraduate student with demonstrated excellence in international studies interested in pursuing a career in the foreign policy arena for the public good.
The ceremony also featured the annual awards given at graduation and other recognitions of graduating students:
- Graduate Book Award: Jessica Ferauge (M.A. Japan Studies) with a cumulative GPA of 4.0
- Undergraduate Book Award: Arwa Mokdad (B.A. International Studies) with a cumulative GPA of 3.98
- Best Honors Thesis: Maya Green (B.A. International Studies) for a thesis: “Covering Just Cause: U.S. Media and the 1989 Invasion of Panama”
- Best Honors Thesis Honorable Mention in the Class of 2021: Camille Munro (B.A. International Studies)
- Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program 2021-2022: Sophia Moser (B.A. International Studies)
- Husky 100 List: Clara Coyote (B.A. International Studies; B.A. Germanics)
During the ceremony Jiani Wang, student president of the Jackson School Student Association, announced Tony Lucero, Jackson School Associate Professor and Chair, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Jackson, as the 2021 Student Service Award recipient. The annual recognition given by the Jackson School Student Association goes to a staff or faculty member at the School who shows outstanding dedication to student learning and community.
In announcing the award, Wang said students selected Professor Lucero for his “outstanding job adapting to online environment and maintaining engagement with students … ” highlighting his passion “not only about international studies but his students’ success as well.” In accepting the honor via a pre-recorded video, Lucero thanked the Jackson School Student Association and students for their work, as well as the support from his family and Jackson School colleagues.
In closing the ceremony, Director Fernandes thanked the audience from wherever they were watching it in the world, reminded the Class of 2021 of their free one year University of Washington Alumni Association membership, and urged the Jackson School’s newest alumni to stay in touch.