Yesterday, the Jackson School graduated its Class of 2020 in the first virtual Convocation in the School’s 111-year history. In his opening remarks celebrating the 264 undergraduate and graduate students, Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba said: “…what direction humanity will take and what the world will look like after we leave this period behind us will depend on what we– and especially what you– will do today.”
Alumnus Todd Larson was recognized as the Jackson School’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Larson is a former White House Presidential Appointee who served as Senior LGBT Coordinator on human rights and development of LGBTQI persons around the world. He also served over 20 years as a United Nations diplomat, and is a Master’s in International Studies graduate.
During his virtually recorded speech, Larson advised the graduating class to “please don’t just passively get through life. You’ve earned the degree and acquire the intellectual skills to wield it. Wield your life to have a positive impact. Any less, and you’re being irresponsible, quite frankly. Any less and you are failing to fully capitalize on your world-class education…”
Larson, a former student of Kasaba, finished by noting this year’s Convocation represented the last as director of the School for Kasaba, who has been in the role for 10 years. “He’s been great to the Jackson School, helped put it on a more solid footing and gives it a brighter future than ever before.”
The ceremony honored students who demonstrated a range of outstanding skills in leadership, scholarship or service during their time at the School.
As the recipient of this year’s annual Jackson Leadership Award, which comes with a $5,000 stipend, graduating senior Victoria T. Tyron, a double major in international studies and communication, gave a recorded speech as part of the Convocation. In announcing the honor, which is given through nomination by professors at the Jackson School, Kasaba emphasized Tyron’s “deep commitment to her community, her ability to inspire her friends, and her tireless efforts to bring together her four passions– social justice, international studies, communication, and people of Ghana.”
As she stood on the steps in front of UW’s Suzzallo Library during the recording, Tyron told her fellow graduates: “As our next steps takes us into various career fields and institutions of this country, we must leverage the power of our education. You must leverage your privilege, white and otherwise, and other privileges granted to you by the system if justice is to be achieved. If my words and the words of many others across this country have meant anything to you, then you have to start asking yourself what needs to be done besides praying hand emojis and hashtags.”
Another graduating senior in international studies, Gabriel Collins, spoke virtually from Washington D.C. as the 2019-2020 Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholar Award recipient. The award is annually given to support a student pursuing a career in the foreign policy arena.
The ceremony named the following annual awards for academic achievement:
- Graduate Book Award: Ian Smith (M.A., Japan Studies), with a cumulative GPA of 4.0
- Undergraduate Book Award: Hsiao-Ching Lai (B.A. International Studies and Psychology), with a cumulative GPA of 3.94
- Best Honors Thesis: Kiana Wilson (B.A. International Studies)
- Best Honors Thesis Honorable Mentions: Devon Rae Fleming (B.A. International Studies) and Guy Oron (B.A. International Studies)
- Husky 100 List: Victoria T. Tyron (B.A. International Studies and Communication)
- Husky 100 List: Roshni Sinha (B.A. International Studies; B.S. Medical Anthropology)
- Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award: Conor Charles Cunningham (B.A. International Studies)
- Critical Language Scholarship: Yogasai Gazula (B.A. International Studies)
In a video that played during the ceremony, Jiani Wang, student president of the Jackson School Student Association, announced Jackson School Senior Academic Adviser Joni Marts as the 2020 recipient of JSSA’s Student Service Award. The annual recognition given by the student association goes to a staff or faculty member at the School who shows outstanding dedication to student learning and community.
In closing the ceremony, Kasaba noted 2019-2020 was also the last year of his tenure as director of the Jackson School. “Leading this institution for the past 10 years has been a privilege– certainly the high point of my professional life. As I say goodbye, I want to thank everybody who work so hard to make the Jackson School the special place that it is.”