“You are the latest generation of scholars to emerge from your time here with the skills necessary to become diplomats, activists, business, political, and military leaders, academics, artists, legal and health professionals…” said Jackson School Interim Director Danny Hoffman in his opening remarks to a crowd of over 900 comprised of graduating students with their families and friends and Jackson School faculty and staff on June 10 in the HUB Ballroom at the University of Washington. “You are prepared to work anywhere in the world and eager to apply your expertise to pressing global issues of the day.”
Hoffman highlighted examples of research, language learning and study abroad that the 212 students in the Class of 2023 had undertaken in their time at the Jackson School. He spoke of undergraduates developing policy responses to address such issues as assisting NATO in responding to disinformation campaigns to evaluating the future of Japan’s nuclear program, or gaining experience in writing opinion pieces and policy memos.
He emphasized the multiple social science research tools learned by master’s degree and doctoral students, noting their original, innovative research, on topics ranging from public health and democracy in Brazil to recent history of Turkey’s foreign policy.
“Whatever path you may have taken from the moment you started at the Jackson School until today, you contributed to an unbelievably rich intellectual environment on this campus,” said Hoffman.
During the Convocation, Jackson School Associate Director Noam Pianko in his role as director of the School’s graduate programs introduced faculty presenting their doctoral and master’s program students. The other associate director of the school, David Bachman, as the director of undergraduate programs, presented the undergraduate students.
Boundless opportunities to impact the world
In his keynote address to the students as the Jackson School Distinguished Alum Award 2023 recipient, Steve B. Davis, who graduated in 1984 with a master’s degree in East Asian Studies and who holds a law degree from Columbia University, emphasized the opportunities to make an impact in the world.
“I agree that my generation is handing you a rather messy world,” he said in reviewing current global challenges ranging from the war in Ukraine to U.S. political polarization to human rights and more. “On the other hand, what a better time to be you, a newly minted graduate of a great global university international studies program in this complex world full of all these challenges and all these opportunities.”
Based in Seattle, Davis is currently a senior adviser for McKinsey & Company, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His nearly 40-year career spans leadership roles for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH and at the intersection of business, innovation and social impact.
“Some of you might take a bowling ball approach to your career, that is, focus on a set of goals and put all your energy to achieve that strike. Others will adopt more styles like mine, zig zagging among interesting ideas, opportunities and jobs, sort of a pinball approach of life. Most of you will shape your journey somewhere in between. There is no one right answer. Regardless, I hope you are boundless in your aspirations, and excited about your potential for impact for this degree in international studies prepared you.
“Please take this day to celebrate, and then tomorrow, put aside any cynicism or fatigue, and use your knowledge you’ve used at the Jackson School to contribute and go change the world for the better,” he urged.
Awarding social impact leadership
During the ceremony, Interim Director Hoffman announced two graduating seniors who distinguished themselves not only by maintaining an excellent academic record, but also by setting an example for fellow students through involvement in projects that help community and inspire peers.
Adaora Ugwueze, a global and regional studies major, and Alina Guyon, an international studies major with a minor in French, each received the flagship Jackson School Leadership Award, which comes with a $5,000 prize. With this annual honor, which began in 1986, the recipients also give a speech during Convocation.
Ugwueze, who has received annual and quarterly Dean’s List recognition and whose support lower-income families and those who are marginalized has included as a legislative intern for the non-profit The Washington Bus and as a marketer for TeamChild and the East African Community Center, among others, told her fellow students:
“In your work and everyday lives, take a moment to see those who are unseen, and engage in purposeful seeing, even if it’s something as mundane as speaking up for the quiet person at your job. We all have the tools to see others who are unseen, so turn your gaze and see the unseen.”
She plans to attend the University of Washington’s School of Law this fall with the intention of practicing international environmental law.
Guyon, who has received a University of Washington Presidential Scholarship for her service to marginalized communities, among other awards, founded Libraries for All, an organization that send books to a place where children lacked access to education. To date, Libraries for All has sent over 20,000 books and opened libraries in India, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Seattle, Washington.
“I believe that we can create impactful changes by uplifting people and the world around us,” said Guyon encouraged the crowd. “And while sometimes those changes start small, they still lead to influential and effective solutions.”
Other recognitions announced during the ceremony, which were announced by Jackson School Associate Director David Bachman, included:
- Graduate Book Award: Ben Rost (M.A. Southeast Asian Studies) with a cumulative GPA of 4.0.
- Undergraduate Book Award: Samantha Cutts (B.A. International Studies; History) with a cumulative GPA of 3.96
- Best Honors Thesis:
- Nat Chiu (B.A. Global and Regional Studies; Economics) whose thesis title is “Made in Taiwan: The emergence of TSMC in Taiwan’s Pursuit of Nation Building”
- Anita Zeng (B.A. International Studies; Minor: Human Rights) whose thesis title is “‘Either/Or’: Portrayals of Asian American Women in News Coverage of the 2021 Atlanta Massage Spa Shootings”
- Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholar Award 2022-2023: Julie Wagoner (B.A. International Studies; French Studies Minor: Anthropology), for demonstrated excellence in international studies with an interest in pursuing a career in the foreign policy arena
A student award for dedicated Jackson School faculty member
Every year during Convocation the Jackson School Student Association presents a Student Service Award for a staff or faculty member who demonstrates the highest level of dedication to students’ education and college experience. This year, they named Jessica Beyer, a faculty who specializes in cybersecurity and dis/misinformation, as the 2023 recipient of the award. They emphasized Beyer as “well known on campus for her kindness and dedication.”
“Not only is she an incredible professor, but she also checks in with her students even if they aren’t in her class anymore,” said Safaa Turner-Rahman, who serves as a public relations director for the student association, in reading student nominations of Beyer for the award.