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Applauding the Class of 2024!

June 10, 2024

Danny Hoffman at podium

Jackson School Director Danny Hoffman

“It feels like there is a special magic in coming together to celebrate and honor your remarkable achievement this year,” said Jackson School Director Danny Hoffman to the crowd of over 600 graduating students with their families and friends gathered for the School’s 115th annual spring convocation ceremony in the HUB Ballroom at the University of Washington and to the more than 300 watching online.

In his remarks of congratulations, Hoffman noted the extraordinary times of the current global landscape and that the undergraduate class of 2024 stands out as the first to graduate having started their academic careers in the pandemic. He highlighted examples of research, language learning and study abroad that the 185 graduating undergraduate and graduate students achieved, whether earning their B.A. in International Studies, M.A. in International Studies, Executive Master in International Studies/Applied International Studies or Ph.D. in International Studies.

“We are delighted to have you all here, and I want to thank you for having navigated to this unique moment with such grace and resilience,” said Hoffman.

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.

A video of the ceremony is available on YouTube.

Tony Lucero at podium

Tony Lucero, Distinguished Speaker 2024

Tony Lucero, who holds a joint appointment in the Henry M. Jackson School and the Comparative History of Ideas Department, which he chairs, gave a keynote address as the Jackson School Distinguished Speaker 2024.

“Learning can and should be messy,” Lucero said. “Education is not confined to textbooks and classrooms. It’s a lifelong journey that continue through every experience and every encounter. It’s about engaging with the world around us, learning from every situation, understanding boundaries between formal education and real life are fluid.”

Highlighting leadership, academic achievement and more
During the ceremony, Director Hoffman announced the annual Jackson School Leadership Award, which comes with a $5,000 prize and goes to a graduating undergraduate who distinguishes 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.

Kunle Akinlosotu at podium

Kunle Akinlosotu, Jackson School Leadership Award recipient

This year, the honor went to Kunle Akinlosotu, a global and regional studies major with a minor in Japanese, who is an award-winning Division 1 athlete and mentor to young people. In addressing the audience at the podium for the annual leadership award speech, Kunle said, “We [Jackson School students] made a conscious decision to learn more about the world and to embrace the culture, language and religion of others.”

He shared his journey to the UW as a transfer student that required risk-taking and determination to follow his passion for expanding his learning and opportunities, from the study of Japan and the Japanese language to reactivating the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity on campus, a Greek House that grew out of a mission to combat racism, and where he served as president to launching a popular YouTube channel (@kunle vibes) to communicate life skills and advise aspiring student-athletes to showcase unconventional paths for individuals who share his background.

Following graduation, Akinlosotu will head to Japan for an internship at a youth camp and language and cultural immersion.

Other recognitions announced during the ceremony, which were announced by Jackson School Associate Director David Bachman, included:

  • Graduate Book Award: Elizabeth Ferauge (M.A. Comparative Religion) with a cumulative GPA of 4.0
  • Undergraduate Book Award: Jeremy Browning (B.A. Asian Studies and Japanese) with a cumulative GPA of 3.99
  • Best Honors Thesis:
    • Zeynep Biykili (B.A. Global and Regional Studies and Economics) whose thesis title is “The Reality of Turkish Microcredit Program.”
    • Laura Schladetzky (B.A. Global and Regional Studies and Economics with a minor in Spanish) :The Quipu Project: Digital network in the Andes as a strategy for recalibration and repair”
  • Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholar Award 2023-2024:
    • Taisha Naomi Bayliss (B.A. Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Philosophy)
    • 2) Brennan Chang (B.A. International Studies and Japanese with minors in Asian Languages and Cultures and Linguistics)
    • 3) Milan Hortensia Suárez (B.A. Global and Regional Studies)

Recognizing service to the Jackson School community
Jackson School Student Service Award: Every year during Convocation the Jackson School Student Association presents for a staff or faculty member who shows outstanding dedication to student learning and community. This year, they named Scott Montgomery, a faculty who specializes in energy, as the 2024 recipient of the award for his “unwavering dedication for the well-being and success of his students,” and whose commitment “goes beyond the classroom, nurturing our intellectual growth and professional development,” said Safaa Turner-Rahman, President and Public Relations Director of the Association. Two other Association officers, Kalisha Dent, Director of Careers, and Rhea Parida, Director of Public Relations Director of Academics, also made brief remarks.

Following the traditional award announcements, Director Hoffman gave a special recognition to Joni Marts, Senior Academic Adviser, who is retiring from the Jackson School and the UW this summer. He noted her impact on the lives of many at the Jackson School, from being a guide for students on their academic journey to a respected colleague in advising and academic services.

“Joni sees you all as more than the students she is tasked with meeting – each of you is seen as a fascinating and unique individual who she deeply values and genuinely cares about,” said Director Hoffman.