On May 9th, UConn’s School of Public Policy (SPP) celebrated 102 graduates at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Our graduates included 7 Survey Research (MASR), 19 Public Policy (MPP) and 76 Public Administration (MPA) candidates. The night’s festivities also included an awards ceremony that showcased additional members of our community.
The evening began with a processional of faculty and graduates with Associate Professor Kerri Raissian serving as the Mistress of Ceremonies. Professor Raissian welcomed the audience to a celebration of both the graduates and their support networks. The latter of which, was emphasized throughout the evening, as a reminder that our growing network is here to serve not only the community but also one another.
SPP Director Mohamad Alkadry provided welcoming remarks, and noted that this year’s graduates constitute the largest class ever, a claim that has been true for every one of the last four years. For a third year, Public Policy also claimed the most diverse class including first generation college students, military Veterans, first responders and front-line public servants. His remarks included three reminders of tradition, he said:
- First, send us good students and hire our interns and graduates. My colleagues and I have a special place in our hearts for people who take good care of our students.
- Second, mentor a graduate student, help a current student prepare for their interview, and join our students in professional activities designed for students and alumni.
- Finally, stay in touch with us – on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on LinkedIn and on our email listservs. Come to our events… our events will be a great place to get together with old friends and make new ones.
His message of continued, “Engagement is a hallmark of SPP, a network that continues to support each and every student throughout their career.” Following his remarks, Director Alkadry welcomed the Dean of UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS).
Dean Juli Wade, highlighted the CLAS values held by each graduate, which included our School’s dedication to discovery, the act of doing meaningful work in the world and a commitment to innovative scholarship in our classrooms and performed by our faculty. Through hands-on learning in the classroom and through internships and a broad education, our students were able to not only explore their passions, but also serve and make an impact in communities across the State.
Student speaker Paula Norato (MPA ’22) took to the podium next and her moving remarks addressed embracing your fears, connecting with your network, working to live and not just to work, and being transparent. Her message also talked about failures, including her own. During her undergraduate career Paula was on academic probation, an experience she shares with her students so that they know they are not alone. Her vulnerability and commitment to community and support is just one of the many reasons she was selected by her peers to represent them. Since her arrival in the Fall of 2020 Paula has served as GAPPS-ICMA President and a community builder, and her peers call her “…a leader, an advocate, [and] as someone who goes above and beyond.” Following Paula’s speech, Professor Raissian highlighted the importance of Paula’s vulnerability, and our ability to support her.
The next section of the evening included the presentation of awards. The following awardees were honored:
- David B. Walker Award: Cristian G. Corza Godinez (MPA & MASR ’23) and Brittany L. LaMarr (MPP ’23)
- Albert G. Ilg Fellowship in Local Government Award: Jon M. Trister, MPA (’23) and Kylee A. Dostie (MPP ’23)
- The Morton J. Tenzer Fellowship Fund: Kaleigh Pitcher
- MPA Academic Excellence Award: Logan Singerman and Yaw Owusu Darko
- MPA Fellows Academic Excellence Award: Kathleen Holgerson
- MPP Academic Excellence Award: Ryan Scala
- MASR Academic Excellence Award: Rebecca Conto
- Public Policy Alumni Impact Award – MPA: Yahaira Escribano
- Public Policy Alumni Impact Award – MPA Fellows: Tara Downes
- Public Policy Alumni Impact Award – MPP: Kelly McElwain
- Public Policy Alumni Impact Award – MASR: Christopher Barnes
- Public Policy Faculty Excellence Awards: Ruodan Zhang (Assistant Professor) and Anne McIntyre-Lahner (Adjunct Professor)
The night’s Keynote Speaker was also this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award Winner. We were honored to have Connecticut State Comptroller Natalie Braswell with us for the evening. A Triple Husky and Connecticut’s First Black Comptroller, Comptroller Braswell told the graduates to seize opportunities because of their training and utilize their networks of support. Her stories of service were rooted in skillsets she learned from UConn Public Policy, including asking questions, analyzing problems, trying new things and leading opportunities for change. Though she provided moments of laughter, Comptroller Braswell’s speech reminded us all why we serve, to address the injustice we see in our world and uplift voices who may not be heard. Similar to remarks made earlier in the evening, she highlighted our network and the importance of those in the room in making a change.
After Comptroller Braswell’s remarks Professor Raissian presented the graduates who were then welcomed to the alumni side of the SPP network by Alumni Council President Larisa Kottke. She noted the uniqueness of our network and its roots in community and giving back to one another through support.
The evening concluded with a recessional and a surprise from our Mistress of Ceremonies. Faculty arose from their seats and donned colorful sunglasses and boas as they exited the theater to the tune of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The graduates followed, and the celebrations continued into the Bushnell’s courtyard.
Congratulations to the Class of 2022! We look forward to the continuation of sharing your stories and moments of IMPACT!