GPS Commencement 2019Pioneering international excellence

Spanning borders and cultures, GPS graduated 169 students at its commencement ceremony on June 16, with a keynote address by Kathleen Stephens, the first female U.S. Ambassador to Korea

June 26, 2019 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

GPS Commencement 2019 studentsBe consequential. In the 21st Century, conventional wisdom no longer seems so obvious. With our fundamental assumptions under doubt and scrutiny, it is the next generation of changemakers at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) that will be forging the path forward. 

From Korea to Mexico to Turkey, our largest class of 169 graduates spans all areas of the globe, with 55 percent from outside the U.S. While each student has traveled different paths to graduation, the commitment to addressing society’s challenges and opportunities remain central, as evident in our June 16 ceremony celebrating their accomplishments.

“In our 30th anniversary year, we observe a world where events steadily defy many of the assumptions that informed the traditional education and research of the world’s leading schools of international affairs and public policy,” said Dean Peter Cowhey. “What does not change is the need for leaders committed to understanding our differences while inventing strategies to benefit the whole of global society.”

Celebrating 100 Years of Women's Suffrage

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women's constitutional right to vote, and it was fitting UC San Diego had two incredible women leading this year’s commencement ceremonies. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who cited GPS as one of the country’s finest international relations programs, spoke at the all campus celebration and Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, president and CEO of the Korea Economic Institute, delivered the keynote at the GPS ceremony.  

mbassador Kathleen StephensServing as models for other young women interested in diplomacy and human rights, a selection of GPS students had the unique opportunity to meet with both over breakfast.

Stephens recalled how her imagination was captured in San Diego, much like our changemakers, and cites the breadth and diversity of the GPS programs as key to its success.

“GPS had the prescience to recognize that Asia would be at the center of the Pacific Century,” addressed Stephens at Sunday’s commencement ceremony. “The 21st Century is indeed the Pacific Century. We must find the political will and wisdom to address those challenges of the Pacific Century. I am inspired by those in your generation that are stepping up.” 

Stephens stressed the importance of on-the-ground work, as there will never be a substitute for learning the language, engaging with the community and developing those relationships as a diplomat. Her advice? Stay flexible, stay curious and stay engaged.

“I think we will see a return of diplomacy in the coming years,” predicted Stephens to a group of 2019 candidates. “The fact is our major international challenges are global. They don’t respect borders. They demand international solutions.”

As a border city, these challenges are ever salient in San Diego. This year, much of the news focused on how thousands of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border face months of waiting for their claims to be processed. Hoping to find solutions, Savitri Arvey ‘19 conducted research on Mexico’s policies towards migrants deported from the U.S. and spent five weeks last summer in a migrant shelter in Guadalajara.

“I’m now looking forward to applying the tools I learned at GPS to continue to conduct policy-relevant research about the developing situation at the border and Mexico’s

migratory policy as a border and immigration fellow at the GPS Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies post-graduation,” said Arvey, whose authored paper “Asylum Processing and Waitlists at the U.S.-Mexico Border” was released this past academic year.

While we may live in interesting times, Stephens prompted everyone to think freshly and deeply, to find the political will and wisdom to address these challenges head on.

“I see my young self in you and my hopes for the future in you,” recalls Stephens. “You live in consequential times, be consequential. Seek and live lives of meaning and work of meaning.” 

Shaping future global graduates

Nic Zinter ‘19This year, the graduating class recognized Associate Dean Krislert Samphantharak in a short video, celebrating his success at providing channels to increase interaction and connection between faculty and students, from town hall meetings to breakfast with faculty. A professor, associate dean, economic adviser and researcher, he wears many hats, but is always dedicated to building future thought leaders.

Selected by his peers, Nic Zinter ‘19 is one of those leaders, and was this year’s student commencement speaker. Serving in leadership positions within GPS student groups GO GPS and QulRPS, he ensured that student concerns were heard…inside and outside the classroom.

“As the 31st graduating class of GPS, we represent a cohort of individuals who maintain the optimism of the past and the measured realism of the present,” said Zinter. “May you always seize the opportunity to be kind to one another, to help as many people as you can and to use everything you’ve learned so far to always find the truth in your work.”

Zinter also shared with this graduating class that we live in an age of disinformation, of constitutional crises, alternative facts and a global rise in authoritarianism.

“On its face, we have every reason to be completely and totally pessimistic about the future of the world we live in. And yet, in spite of these challenges, the faculty and staff at GPS have devoted their time and energy to help us make sense of the entropy of the world around us, and to emerge stronger, shrewder and smarter,” said Zinter.

View more photos from the 2019 GPS commencement. Please note the ceremony starts at 9:04 for the video listed below.

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