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May 17, 2012
The world-class Beacon Theatre, the breakthrough stage for rock ‘n’ roll, cast its bright lights May 17 on the top-ranked NYU Wagner as 357 graduating students – the Class of 2012 – were heralded for earning their Master in Public Administration (MPA) or Master in
Urban Planning (MUP).
As the ceremony began, the capacity crowd of soon-to-be graduates and their families and friends received words of welcome in 27 different languages from Class of '12 emissaries Emma Taya Darch, Hanying Peng and Luis Guillermo Schloeter Garcia – symbolizing Wagner’s strong national and global reach as well as its home in one of the most exciting and diverse cities of the world.
Wagner’s Dean, Ellen Schall, urged the graduating class to deeply think and explore their feelings as they transition from graduate work to an exciting new chapter in their lives as dedicated public-service professionals. While this interim phase may include trepidations, it offers a moment when innovation is perhaps most possible, she said.
“I have three very important words,” Diane Yu, chief of staff for NYU, told the audience enthusiastically when she next spoke to the graduates: “You made it!”
And the magestic music hall erupted in cheers.
Maggie Raife (MPA ’12) introduced the eagerly anticipated keynote speaker, Melody C. Barnes, the former Assistant to the President of the United States and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Barnes invoked the inspirational example of Nanny Helen Boroughs, the founder of a school for African American women and girls in Washington, D.C. in the early 1900's. The school motto, she noted emphatically, was “We Specialize In The Wholly Impossible.”
“The question for you is not whether, but how, can I be of service – how can I lead,” Barnes said, noting that her mentors included the late Senator Ted Kennedy, with whom she worked, as well as a close friend who dedicated herself to schools in her community
of High Point, N.C., and was a "fiercely determined" catalyst for civic engagement and progress.
“If you have a head, and a heart, for public service, it is deeply, deeply rewarding,” said Barnes, who will soon be joining Wagner as a Senior Fellow.
In addition to the presentation of the Masters as well as PhD recipients, the Convocation featured several honors for outstanding student achievement:
* The Martin Dworkis Memorial Award (for academic achievement, participation in Wagner activities and public service) was given to: Sarah Lieber Church, Susan L. Hayes, and Carlyn Maksymuk.
* The Robert F. Wagner Award for Public Service (for leadership capacity and exceptional contribution to public service) was award to Christopher Faris and Olukemi Ilesanmi.
* The Hammad Fund International Leadership Award (for contribution to the global Wagner experience, academic success, and exceptional capacity for international leadership) was given to Rebecca Bavinger.
* The Sterling D. Spero Prize (for exceptional written work) was awarded to Barbara Kiviat and Jacob Leos-Urbel.
* The Robert Berne Award for Leadership (for significant contribution to the Wagner community) was given to Zakiya Devine, Aaron Meyerson and Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana.
* The Jo Ivey Boufford Award (for innovative solutions to public service challenges) was awarded to Sabelo Narasimhan.
* The Howard Newman Award (for exemplary work by a Capstone team) was given to Nora Anderson, Nadia Cureton, Ashley Jenson and Asher Pacht.
All of the graduates stood in ovation for Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Public Policy Rogan Kersh, who was chosen as “Professor of the Year” at Wagner.
At the same time, Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Administration Shankar Prasad was named “Distinguished Adjunct of the Year.”
Will Carlin, adjunct assistant professor of project management and communication, won special recognition as “Coach of the Year.”
Dean Schall, closing the ceremony, told the graduates, “You are now official Wagner alumni – signed on to the task of ‘achieving the wholly impossible.’ ”
Congratulations to all!
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