2021 Ford School Commencement

May 6, 2021 1:03:51
Kaltura Video

Watch or re-watch the full 2021 Ford School Commencement. Note: Due to a technical issue with the recording sent from Zoom, a few parts of this video had to be reconstructed from several different videos of the event. May 2021.


Welcome, everyone. We're so glad to see Ford
School faculty, staff, students, and families

coming together to celebrate the Classes of
2021. I am Luke Shaefer, Hermann and Amalie

Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social
Policy and Associate Dean for Research and

Policy Engagement at the Ford School and I
am here to extend a warm welcome to everyone.

I love the Ford School, a place that seeks
to use data, evidence, and analysis to make

the world a better place. And the biggest
part of what makes the Ford School special

is the amazing things that our students do
while they're here and after they graduate.

And today we mark just such a transition for
a special group. And this is a special day,

one where we bring our community together.
While we won’t be able to say or shout out

congratulations at a live event, we also won't
get trapped looking for parking while we go,

and we can use the chat or Zoom reactions
to congratulate our students, our friends,

our colleagues, our sons and daughters as
we go. Remember, this event is for the whole

community, let’s make it special for everyone
and be considerate. If you or your family

are having any problems with Zoom, feel free
to watch the simulcast on YouTube, you can

see the link to that in the chat. For the
best experience, please keep your Zoom window

on “speaker view.” The recording of this
event will be available on the Ford School

website, later today or early tomorrow.
BA graduates, if you’re wearing a mortarboard,

you haven’t graduated quite yet. So please
be sure the tassel is on the right. We’ll

let you know when the time comes to move it.

The event today will consist of a set of prepared
remarks as videos and the event will be capped

off with a presentation of the class by my
friend and colleague Professor Shobita Parthasarathy;

so let’s move forward. We will start out
with remarks by former assistant secretary

of treasury, counselor to the president, the
man, the myth, the legend, Dean Michael Barr.

Good afternoon! I’m Michael Barr, the Joan
and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford

School of Public Policy. I am honored today
to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments

of the Ford School Classes of 2021: our outstanding
graduates who have earned their bachelor’s,

master’s in public policy, master’s in
public affairs, and doctoral degrees. Students

choose the Ford School because they care about
the greater good. They work hard while at

Michigan, and they learn to work together.
They graduate prepared with the knowledge

and analytic expertise, leadership prowess,
and the writing and communication skills needed

to design, advocate for, and implement good
public policy. In that respect, the Classes

of 2021 are like any other graduating Fordies.
But of course, this class’ experiences at

Michigan were not like any other. Most of
today’s graduates started their Ford School

studies in the Fall of 2019. Students, you
might remember that semester for the launch

of a major new center for diplomacy. We hosted
amazing speakers: Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza

Rice in the same week! Samantha Power, Steve
Biegun, Susan Rice, Dennis McDonough, and

Steve Hadley. All of those visits were in
person! With handshakes, packed auditoriums,

and of course—free food! That seems like
a really long time ago. In the midst of winter

term, the COVID pandemic upended our world,
bringing so much suffering and loss, with

devastating health and economic impacts disproportionately
felt by the most vulnerable. By May, and for

week after week over the summer, the death
of George Floyd and so many other Black and

brown people at the hands of police spurred
millions of Americans to take to the streets,

demanding racial justice. In the chaotic,
scary months leading up to and following the

November election, we experienced deepening
divisions in the US, rising racism and white

nationalism, and both rhetorical and violent
attacks on our democracy. Here on campus we

suffered through a divisive return to school
last fall and we weathered a widely-supported

strike by graduate students, who called on
the University to make real strides on public

health and racial justice.
When the pandemic hit last March and we moved

suddenly to an unfamiliar, new, remote world
of learning, teaching, and work, I started

what became a nightly email communication
to the whole school, for the remainder of

the semester. Through those emails, graduates,
you learned perhaps far more than you ever

wanted to about me: tastes in romantic comedies,
thoughts on the weather, our Passover menus,

love for the Harry Potter movies, my good
days and hard days. But along the way, I was

trying to model a way forward through the
crisis. With all of you so much on my mind

recently, I looked back at some of those emails.
On March 17th, just as we started remote classes,

I wrote: “Crises help us to remember who
we are and what we stand for. The Ford School

is a community dedicated to the public good.”
And in the days and months since, graduates,

you’ve shown that’s true. You’ve demonstrated
who you are. You are leaders, grounded in

service. You helped vulnerable communities,
armed policymakers with facts and tools, worked

with nonprofits and small businesses, marched
for racial justice, listened and learned and

stood up, you protected each other’s health,
offered an outstanding education and kept

our community connected, and turned out the
vote, standing up for our democracy. The crises

revealed you as resilient and strong. You
persevered to complete your Ford school degree,

and you helped each other and so many others
along the way. Graduates, we’ve weathered

this whole brutally hard year together. Together,
as a community dedicated to the public good.

Our shared experiences this past year have
bonded us together forever. I know that for

the rest of my life, I’ll remember with
great warmth and gratitude this class, and

the faculty and staff who taught and mentored
you, and kept our mission moving forward.

I speak for the entire faculty and staff of
the Ford School when I say we're proud of

you. We believe in you—in your capacity
and your conviction and your preparation and

your empathy—to take on the great challenges
before us. Congratulations on all you’ve

accomplished at Michigan. My heartfelt gratitude
and best wishes to the Classes of 2021. Go


Thank you, Michael. And we already have one
request to remain on your sunday night emails

after graduation. And I see everyone in the
audience seems to be quite comfortable with

the chat, so keep the messages and congratulations
coming. Next up, we're going to hear remarks

from our faculty, presented by my colleague,
whose classes have the reputation of being

some of the most challenging and also the
most powerful and best. Let's hear from Yazier


Dear students, honored graduates. When asked
to make remarks at commencement before, I

made serious efforts to integrate levity–not
an easy task for me, I am neither an entertainer

nor a comedian. I am in no mood to be humorous
and promise to make no such effort today.

It is a privilege to address you at this time
of somber celebration. I acknowledge your

family, friends, and loved ones for supporting
you. I want to appreciate the communities,

the pods and the health bubbles that supported
us—you, this institution and me—through

what has been one of the hardest academic
years I have witnessed. I acknowledge my colleagues

for adapting to this ever-changing professional
reality and seeing the year through. I thank

the Ford School Staff without whom the labor,
work and business of learning and teaching

cannot happen. My own online learning curve
has been steep. I had to learn a new way of

being, of teaching, and new ways of knowing
almost overnight. The spirit, mental and physical

toll exacted in order to achieve this convocation—this
moment of your graduation has been high. The

loss of the classroom, the loss of our personal,
professional, and intrinsic relationships

as learners and teachers has been painful
to say the least.The larger social, political,

environmental, and moral meta-context of our
lives both nationally and more globally has

not provided much relief–the constant live-streaming
of death, violence, bigotry, lies, and dishonesty

has felt relentless. The ongoing lived racist
violence, hatred and trauma has been terrifying

for far too many. To quote James Baldwin "I
am terrified at the moral apathy, the death

of the heart..." of these times. I am aware
the compound social and political experiences,

the stress and strain over the last years
have been particularly hard on you—the graduating

student body.
I want to pause now and take a breath. Since

you and I have the privilege of breath—still.
Take a minute to reflect on what you as graduates

have achieved. Give a thought to the human
beings, the impressive, striking, amazing,

resilient, and strong people who have walked
with and alongside you–those you have depended

on and who have depended on you. If you cannot
see them–imagine, remember them. Together

you are the wealth of this institution and
the future of this world. Graduates! Together

you have succeeded in the midst of an extreme
set of circumstances. Congratulations–well

done! This particular degree is no ordinary
piece of paper. It is no ordinary degree.

It signifies and symbolizes a very special
achievement in adversity. Celebrate this achievement–it

is extraordinary. Just as you are. See the
strength, the resilience that lives in you

and those graduating with you. You and I are
all part of a small knowledge and power elite,

be both honest and humble about this fact.
Remember–arrogance is a choice too often

accompanied in practice by the violent ignorance
and emotive immaturity of the powerful. Wherever

you go next, you are called to be both strength
and humility; resilience and tenacity; fortitude

and vision. Accept this challenge of leadership—as
public and civil leaders, intellectuals and

academics, researchers and analysts, policymakers
and change agents. You have done the extraordinary—you

can do it again, and you can do it again.
Take what you have learnt from the adversity,

difficulties and losses of this time while
acquiring your degrees. You are the witnesses

to this time of loss, grief, mourning, of
resolution, strength, of resilience, and a

refusal to be cowed. Importantly as survivors,
you are also the hope of tomorrow. Live that

hope, be that hope—accept this generational
challenge with a strength of purpose and willingness

of heart. Make this world better than it is.
Graduates! Congratulations! Be as beautiful

as you are! Go Blue!

Thank you Yazier for reminding us that we
had to all learn how to do things differently

this year, and this degree is more than a
degree of graduation, but one that of achievement

through adversity. And thank you for calling
us to take up the mantle of leadership. Next

we'll hear from the speaker on behalf of the
graduating BA class. Someone I had the pleasure

of meeting after her freshman year, who I
immediately knew was destined to do great

things. And I think after you watch her speech
you will agree. Cydney Gardner-Brown.

Hello to the Ford School faculty, family,
friends, and of course the Gerald R. Ford

School of Public Policy graduating Class of
2021. My name is Cydney Gardner-Brown and

today, I am graduating with all of you into
the unknown. All of our lives, we’ve been

taught and trained to be amazing academics,
and thinkers, and dancers, and future lawyers

and activists. Most importantly though, we’ve
been trained to be planners. Let me tell

you about my plans for my college career and
I’m sure plenty of you can relate. I’d

come to Michigan in 2017 to study biology.

make the cheer team, obtain a 4.0 GPA, have

an amazing, full 4 years on campus, and then,

it was time, on May 1st, 2021 (which at the

time seemed like eons away), I’d sit in
the big house with my friends and

my family cheering me on, as
I graduated proud and fulfilled. Well, many

of those things did not happen that way. It
wasn't in my plan 4 years ago to switch gears

and study public policy. I didn’t make the
cheer team...which makes sense because

I had no prior gymnastics
or cheerleading experience

before I tried out. I didn’t plan to complete

my entire senior year through zoom calls at
home in Detroit. And the worst part is that,

after 4 years of looking
forward to this day on campus,

in the big house, we’re graduating through

a screen. As good at planning as we thought
we were, none of us could have planned or

predicted how this year would unfold. The
reality is that we've all been trying to

predict a future full of infinite
possibilities that are impossible to plan

for. The implications of this fact can be
scary, sometimes I’m scared too. How can

we be sure that things will go well if we
can’t plan our every move? Well, we can’t


sure. As David Levithan said in The Lover’s
Dictionary, “The mistake is thinking that

we can find an antidote to the uncertainty.

Yeah, pretty grim. But there
is an upside to all this. If

the only thing we can predict is that life
will keep being unpredictable, maybe we should

focus less on some predetermined destination
and live more fully in the journey.

As Rilke wrote: “Try to love the
questions themselves. Do not now

seek the answers, which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them.

The point is, to live everything. Live
the questions now." So I ask all of you today:

Can we find solace in the not knowing? Can
we live the question? I think we can. I think

we already have. Last summer, we
saw what it looked like when we, individually

and as a collective, were confronted with
a new

awareness of an old reality. In the context

rising understanding around police brutality,
the cruelty of the prison industrial complex,

and the unveiling of the condition of
systemic oppression, we asked ourselves

hard questions about our complicity, about
our privilege, and about our responsibility.

And we didn't just ask ourselves those questions,
we lived them. In the midst of a global pandemic,

people across identities found
amazing and creative ways to organize,

fundraise, and come together however they
could. Nobody planned on any of that. But,

guided by important questions we improvised
to make important and necessary change.

That is but one of many examples
of what it looks like when

we leaned into a moment that felt unbearable

and unpredictable and hard. We’ve done it.
You’ve done it. I like the way that UM alum

and Detroit Native Gilda Radner put it: "I
wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned,

the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme,
and some stories don't have a clear beginning,

middle, and end. Life is about not knowing.
Taking the moment, having to change, and making

the best of it, without knowing what's going
to happen next."

So my charge for all of you today,

as we embark on this life, as you all
matriculate through law school, or Washington

DC, or a consulting firm, or home, or a masters
program across the Atlantic: Release the chokehold

you have on the destination. Let your values,

your curiosities, your passions, let
them guide you. Live the question.

It may not take you where you thought you
were headed. But

it's gonna take you exactly where you
need to go. Good luck and Go Blue.

Thank you Cydney for that powerful video and
that charge as we all go forward from today,

the graduates and our community. Now we're
going to hear remarks from the speaker on

behalf of the graduating MPP MPA class. The
one and only, one of the leaders of our school,

who is, among other things, served on the
masters program committee for two years. Let's

welcome Maggie Barnard.

Congratulations, class of 2021! Those of us
who crawled, sprinted, or glided across the

finish line—I'm not sure who glided but
I’m jealous—we did it! Many of us experienced

two different graduate school lives. One where
we sat wide-eyed, shoulder-to-shoulder in

Annenberg, participating in hypothetical policy
exercises. And another, where we sat with

terror in our eyes, in front of a screen,
miles apart, as our exercises turned into

reality, and we scrambled to analyze the life-or-death
policy decisions happening in real time. Before

we entered the “real” world, the real
world came to us, and brought with it painful

reckonings: We faced a once-in-a-century health
pandemic where weak US policy sacrificed lives.

We witnessed the weight of our leadership’s
discriminatory rhetoric as Asian Americans

are attacked. We watched Americans finally
realize that white supremacy continues to

suppress Black lives. We may not have been
prepared for this, but crisis mode forced

us to adapt and act. Uncertainty became our
constant companion both in our school and

personal lives, but because of the challenges
we encountered, we’ve already learned to

meet some of the world’s biggest problems
before ever leaving a classroom. When the

COVID-19 campus response was insufficient
and Black lives were—and continue to be—at

stake, we went on strike. When the nation
pleaded for poll workers, we showed up. When

elderly were at risk, we volunteered at vaccine
clinics. Many of you did these things while

combating your own personal struggles, whether
it be facing mental illness in isolation or

caring for sick loved ones. But when our peers
were burnt out, we called them and carried

them. We didn’t prepare to meet these trials
during graduate school. But how the class

of 2021 adapted and innovated over the past
year has equipped us to meet the challenges

of our day and more. And how we met those
challenges has prepared us to enter a workforce

that has always very much modeled the past
academic year: messy and uncertain. Soon we

will enter spaces where the efficacy of our
policy isn’t determined by a letter grade

but by its lived impact. We have the policy
tools, and if we endured and accomplished

all of this in crisis, imagine our impact
over the next years, decades, with our newfound

clarity and conviction. Any other year, we’d
ask ourselves: has school prepared us for

the real world? But this year we ask: How
will we prepare the world to heal? Go blue.

Thank you Maggie for that great summary of
the year and what lies ahead. I don't think

we have to go any further than the remarks
of our students and our faculty today to see

what a special place this is.

And now the moment you've all been waiting
for the presentation of the Class of 2021.

I'm pleased to introduce my colleague Professor
Shobita Parthasarathy, who when she's not

testifying before congress is writing and
teaching about ethics, equity, science and


And she's going to read the names of our 2021

Shobita, take it away.

Thanks, Luke.

Good afternoon everyone, to begin I'll call
graduates earning doctoral degrees: Chiara

Ferrero is receiving a doctor of philosophy
in public policy and economics.

She'd like to thank her dissertation chair
Jim Hines and her committee Yusuf Neggers,

Joel Slemrod, and Ashley Craig.

Her dissertation title is "essays in public
finance and political economy."

Michael Lerner is receiving a doctor of philosophy
in public policy and political science.

He would like to thank his dissertation chair
Chuck Shipan, and Barry Rabe.

The title of his dissertation is "does transnational
advocacy catalyze environmental policy leadership?"

And finally Stephanie Owen is receiving a
doctor of philosophy in public policy and


Her dissertation chair is Sue Dynarski and
the title of her dissertation is "essays in

the economics of education."

And now we'll celebrate our graduates receiving
a master's degree in public affairs:

Dominic Arellano
Ethan David Baker

Anna Balzer
Karli Boulware

Anne Coglianese
Tom Cruz

Lindsey Dowswell
Stephanie Iovan

Hailey Jures
Raymond A. Kahn

Jamie Lyons-Eddy
Christopher Bryan McClain

Rebekah Ostosh
Julia Rhodes

Anuj . M. Sahay
William Scott Selesky

Lamiya Sharafkhanova
JoMeca L. Thomas

and William Whelan.

Next we'll recognize our graduates receiving
a master's degree in public policy:

Rebecca Ackerman
Ruqayya Ahmad

Mallak Ali Anani
Monika Anderson

Jonathan Ashken
Leonymae Aumentado

Capri Backus
Maggie Barnard

Aditya Benyamin
Ali M. Berri

Sheron Brown
Chris Campbell

Linnea Carver
Cristian Casanova Velarde

Sidi Cheng
Alison Christiansen

Samuel Thomas Conchuratt
Rebecca Copeland

oSha Cowley-Shireman
Kellen Datta

Carolina Dominguez
Chadd Dowding

Jerome Durden II
Nishat Farzana

Kevin Finnegan
Yanjing Fu

Ameya Ganpule
Steven S. Garcia

Eli Gold
Sarah Gruen

Shiyu Guo
Sophia Hart

Wendy Hawkins
Baltazar Hernandez

Samuel Ainsworth Hird
Sungwook Huh

Kseniya Husak
Kyle Douglas Jarrett

Jaclyn Kahn
Maxwell Kaufman

Emma Kern
Jaeyeon Kim

Sunhong Kim
Heather Kiningham

Andrew Krantz
Jocelyn Kuo

Christopher LeFlore
Barton Linderman

Tory Lowy
Dedrick McCord

Safiya Merchant
Erik Muliawan

Landon Myers
Iqra Nasir

Kevin Naud
Meghan Schroeder O'Leary

Nathaniel Ojo
Akinloluwa Olumoroti

Tanya Omolo
Guy Packard

Sharanya Pai
Edwin Peart

Lauren Alexandra Peisach
Sacha-Rose Phillips

Avril Erika Prakash
Karolina Ana Ramos

Victor Ochieng Rateng
Christen Jade Richardson

Sarah Richardson
Mathew Rigdon

Jonathan J. Rodriguez
Danny Rosa

Hannah E Rosenfeld
Julie Rubin

Orlando Sanchez Zavala
Mariatu Funna Santiago

Mariam Sayeed
Matt Sehrsweeney

Alex Serwer
Rizki Oddie Putro Sitompul

Marianna Smith
Thomas Staines

Kai Su
Eleanor M Sullivan

YaYa Sun
Nida Syed

Jessica Taketa
Kalena Thomhave

Sarah Tresedder
Sarah Truax

Amy C. Turner
Mai Ze Vang

James VanSteel
Connor Wakayama

Alex Weaver
Michael Hans Weiss

Kelly Wilcox
Annalisa Wilder

Wanzhuo Yang
Triana Yentzen Toro

Mohammad Akbar Zadran
and Jingwen Zhang.

And finally we will celebrate the students
receiving a bachelor of arts in public policy:

Bahaa Abazeed
Leah Adelman

Camryn L. Banks
Hilal Bazzi

Mariana Boully Perez
Bennett Bramson

Mary Bryce Brannen
Anthony Bui

Sabrina Butcher
Connor Cain

David Carpenter
Damian Chessare

Miriam Chung
Julia Cohn

Sheridan Jayne Cole
Meredith Winston Days

Samantha Della Fera
Brady Diller

Lena Dreves
Jack Eichner

Jackie Erlon-Baurjan
Riston Escher

Cydney Gardner-Brown
Molly Garyantes

Abigail Elizabeth Gawthrop
Benjamin Gerstein

Leah Graham
Maximillian Grahl

Erin Crawford Grant
Arushi Gupta

Grace Hermann
Nora Kate Hilgart-Griff

Dylan Horwitz
Jonah Dylan Jacobs

Simone Jaroslaw
Molly Edersheim Kalb

Amanda Kaplan
Grace Kent

Daniel Kim
Daphne Kreiger

Alex Kremer
Marita Ky

Tal Lipkin
Caroline Logue

Lucía López Olaiz
Michael Elliot Lovegrove

Matthew MacPhail
Camille Liliana Mancuso

Kelli Martin
Julia Esther Mati

Kerrigan McCabe
Madeline Theresa McLaughlin

Aaron Mei
Magdalena Mihaylova

Katherine T. Miner
Jason Moonka

Karuna Nandkumar
Bennett Neuhoff

Summer O’Sullivan
Devan O'Toole

Michael Antonio Ocasio
Eric Payerle

Angelica Priest
Allison Marie Pujol

Connor William Uan Reese
Aleksandra Rzadkosz

Sarah Sarnak
Julia Scavnicky

Julia Siegle
Nicholas Silk

Maeve Anne Skelly
Lauren Michelle Solomiany

Trevor Phillip Stratz
Zayna Syed

Eliza Sykes
Martin Taxay

Mikaela Uddfolk
Claire Vapnek

Jacob Viviano
Matthew Weiner

Ryan Woock
and Brett Daniel Zaslavsky.

BA graduates, at this time please move the
tassel on your mortar board from the right

to the left.

And now I'm so, so proud to present to you
the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's

Classes of 2021.

Congratulations, Class of 2021! I want to
invite everyone to switch to gallery view

in Zoom in the upper right-hand corner and
we're just going to allow a few minutes for

folks to unmute if you'd like and give a round
of applause in chat all together.

I got through most of the seventeen pages
of our community and it's great to see everyone's

faces. I want to give a special thank you
to the Ford School staff who worked so hard

to make this event go so smoothly today. Really
tremendous work during, as we've all talked

about, challenging times that call for innovation.
And thank you to the families who support

all the graduates through their time together.
I'm going to charge every graduate to thank

the people in their lives that gave support
to get them to this moment. So we hope you

enjoyed the event today, congratulations Class
of 2021. And we're going to end the event

in the way that U of M events are always ended,
with a round of our fight song, so please

join me singing, wherever you are, and we're
all going to do it together. Have a wonderful

day and congratulations, Class of 2021! Go