NYU Wagner honors 375 graduating students at 2018 Convocation

NYU Wagner Graduates

In a time when, as Dean Sherry Glied put it, “well-funded propaganda machines pump out click-bait headlines, and partisans of all stripes shout ‘fake news!,’” the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU proudly heralded the success of 375 graduating students—the next generation of leaders in public service—at the 2018 Convocation on May 15 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

 “One shared component of all the very different things you’ve learned at Wagner is about basing your choices on solid evidence,” Dean Glied was quick to remind the students and their family members and friends in her opening remarks. “Today, sadly, that is a controversial thing to say. The very idea of using facts to back up policy is being called into question. But at NYU Wagner we believe passionately that building on evidence is the way to do public service right.”

Dean Sherry Glied
Dean Sherry Glied

The high-spirited capacity crowd in the ornate Fort Greene, Brooklyn music hall cheered Glied’s welcome. It was followed by remarks from Jasiel Martin-Odoom (MPA 2018), who is soon to begin a new job as an analyst for the Public Sector and Infrastructure Banking division at Goldman Sachs—and then from Jacqueline Novogratz, acclaimed Founder and CEO of the global impact investment organization Acumen. Ms. Novogratz delivered the keynote speech.

Listed in 2017 by Forbes as one of the World’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds, Ms. Novogratz briefly described her move from Wall Street into international public service, starting with a collaboration with a small group of West African women to launch an early microfinance bank—and followed in 2001 by her founding of Acumen. The nonprofit has invested in hundreds of innovative startups and emergent sectors now serving vast numbers of the poor in developing countries.

Jasiel Martin-Odoom
Jasiel Martin-Odoom (MPA 2018)

Her speech to the graduating students and their loved ones was a call to make such so-called “crazy” moves in their own lives, and develop resilience, a deep sense of curiosity about the lives and communities of others, a keen listening ability, and the character and capacity to be moral leaders.

“More than any time in history we need leaders who are focused more on other people, and on making change, than they are on themselves,” she said.

 “Moral leadership requires holding two contradictory ideas and rejecting neither,” said Ms. Novogratz. “This is a massive challenge for our generation, especially in this age of rapid-fire responses on social media, where nuance is rarely rewarded. We move too quickly to outrage; it is as if I cannot be right unless I prove you wrong, or say you are wrong. But a winner-take-all society strips us of our shared humanity, it diminishes us.”

Jacqueline Novogratz
Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen

Speaking with evident passion, Ms. Novogratz exhorted the Class of 2018 to think boldly, act with courage, and try to make a striking difference for the public good around the globe as “world citizens.”

“The world needs you to be the leaders of a moral revolution,” she said. “Because if you dare to act, I believe with my entire soul that you can be the best generation the world has ever seen—you can imagine and build the frameworks and the institutions that make the world more inclusive, less wasteful, more sustainable, more loving.

“It’s up to you because you have the tools and the skills, everything that you need, and your promise—our promise—is creating nothing less than a world in which every human being is able to flourish,” she went on, and concluded: “So I wish you godspeed and good luck and, today, an amazing celebration of who you are, what you bring, and what you will do. Here’s to the Class of 2018!”

The graduates and their loved ones rose to their feet with appreciation.

NYU Wagner also used the occasion to give out awards and distinctions to students and faculty, including the honor of “Professor of the Year” to Jacob William Faber, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Service.

Congratulations to all!

Group of NYU Wagner Graduates