NYU Wagner Recognizes Hundreds of Graduating Students at 2017 Convocation


NYU Wagner ushered hundreds of graduating students across the finish line at the 2017 Convocation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), marking what Dean Sherry Glied heralded as a “momentous achievement” in their public service careers.

During their time at the school, Dean Glied told the capacity audience of students and their friends and family members, the graduating class acquired the analytical skills and frameworks to match their compassion and passion, developing a much-needed “wonkiness in the service of the public” in an era of widespread political polarization.

Attired in purple gowns, the buoyant arrived in the ornate Fort Greene, Brooklyn, hall for the May 16 morning event to the skirl of bagpipes. In addition to the eloquent introductory exhortation from Dean Glied, they heard a speech by Anna Wright (MPA 2017), who said that "although we live in a messy and messed-up world," evidence is abundant that "slowly but surely, change is possible."

"The world is broken, and deeply so," she said, adding: "We want to set things right again!"

Patrick Gaspard, Vice President of Open Society Foundations and former US Ambassador to South Africa, delivered the keynote Convocation address. Down to earth and at the same time uplifting and soaring, he recalled that, as a child, he once ducked into BAM to elude a truant officer. "There are so many ways to get an education," he noted with a laugh.



In the span of a remarkable career dedicated to public service in connection with the city, country, and world, Gaspard said he managed to overcome early cynicism and bitterness in reaction to poverty and discrimination. Starting in his teens, he enlisted in his generation's struggles to reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic, elect New York's first African-American mayor, respond to Federal cuts in social programs, end South Africa's apartheid, and elect America's first African-American president.

Offering advice to the graduates in a new century, he paraphrased another Brooklynite, Walt Whitman, saying "time avails not," and endorsed their instinct to work in public service. Many are embarking on, and others are deepening, their careers in policy, management, and implementation. They are working as leaders or leaders-in-the-making across the public, nonprofit and private sectors, and such fields as housing, healthcare, education, environmental sustainability, urban mobility and planning, and international development.

"Let your learning be a key to a life of thoughtful conversation and engagement," Gaspard declared. And, if one is truly seeking to reach for one's "highest self" and to make a lasting, memorable difference in a troubled world, then "service to others is the kind of leadership that has a legacy," he said.

The graduates, their loved ones, and faculty members all cheered.

NYU Wagner used the spirited occasion to give out several awards and distinctions to students and faculty, including the honor of "Professor of the Year," awarded to Scott Taitel, Clinical Professor of Public Service and head of the school's Social Impact, Innovation, and Investment specialization.

Additionally, Diana Beck was named Adjunct Professor of the Year. A graduate of the school, she teaches Microeconomics, SPSS Lab, Math Review, and Presentation Skills, and co-taught Hunger and Food Security in a Global Perspective.

In all, NYU Wagner awarded 330 Master of Public Administration (MPA), 36 Master of Urban Planning (MUP) and six Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees.

Congratulations, and good luck, to one and all!