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It's Official: Sanford School Celebrates 300 Graduates

May 11, 2015

By Jackie Ogburn

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  • 2graduates shake hands with professor

    Graduation was held Saturday, May 9, 2015

During two graduation ceremonies on May 9, the Sanford School of Public Policy honored 300 students. The class of 2015 include:

  • 199 undergraduates
  • 60 Master of Public Policy (MPP)
  • 37 Master of International Development (MIDP)
  • 4 PhD graduates

Student speakers at the Sanford undergraduate ceremony were Vignesh Kirshnaswamy and Emily Hadley, who urged her classmates to “go shake the world.”

The Best Honors Thesis Award went to Xinshu Sui for her thesis, “An old Problem in a New Market:  Public and Private Regulation of Counterfeit Consumer Goods in the Chinese C2C Market.”

Xinshu Sui poses with with Associate Professor of History Ed Ballesien

[Xinshu Sui poses with with Associate Professor of History Ed Ballesien]

Additional Honors

The undergraduate class of 2015 included two students who were awarded Fulbrights for teaching abroad, a Truman scholar and a Henry Luce award winner, supporting a year in Asia.

The student speaker at the Duke University ceremonies on Sunday was public policy major Andrew Kragie, who talked about “Blue Devil double vision: we can simultaneously see the world as it is, and as it might be.”

For academic excellence, the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award went to Reed McGinley-Stempel, who majored in public policy studies and German. He will teach English in Germany next year with the Fulbright program.

Laura Bennett won the Most Outstanding MPP Student award. The award recognizes scholastic excellence including an excellent master's project, significant contributions to the intellectual and professional vitality of the school, and exceptional potential for success in public service.

Two undergraduates received the Terry Sanford Leadership Award: David Robertson and Ishan Thakore.

David Robertson and Ishan Thakore shake hands with Ken Rogerson

David Robertson and Ishan Thakore holding Leadership framed award certificatesRobertson served in Duke student government as the vice president for Durham and regional affairs, director of the Common Ground Diversity retreat and designed the first “pre-orientation” program for more than 60 first-generation college students at Duke, the 1-G Network. 

Financial Aid Counselor Hayley Broadhead noted in her nomination that Robertson was in many photos of leadership, service and global events on campus, but he “was not posing for the camera; rather, he was in the crowd, working and involved.” His leadership springs from his passion for his community rather than seeking accolades, she said.

Thakore has found ways to blend new technologies to tackle social problems. At the Reporters’ Lab, he explored ways accountability journalism could use new digital platforms in fact-checking for smart TVs.  He combined an interest in women’s issues with technology in several projects.

He is designing an e-learning program for the Self-Employed Women’s Association in Gujarat, India, a global health technology project in Kenya, and for his honors thesis, helped design mobile technology for mental health consultations in rural Kenya. Hart Leadership Director Alma Blount said, “He embodies what we call a “big questions/worthy dreams” attitude.”

>>Browse crowdsourced images in our Storify blog

>> Browse all images taken by Sanford photographer

Keynote Remarks

Sean Knierim MIDP’08 giving keynote speechDuring the graduate ceremony, Sean Knierim MIDP’08, chief of staff of the Jeff Skoll Group, gave keynote remarks. He talked about a recurrent theme in his life of opportunities that leave him “humbled and shocked.” But because of his training at Sanford, he “seldom felt unprepared.”

“There are many ways to serve,” Knierim said. Graduates should approach their careers with the authenticity and humility modeled by the Sanford faculty and staff, he said. 

The MPP Outstanding Student Award was given to Laura Bennett, who has served on the Sanford Board of Visitors.

The MIDP student speaker, Nayef Alkhawaldeh, was the first student in the program from Jordan. He began with the Arabic “As-salaam alaykum,” the traditional greeting of peace. He discussed the implications of the word “develop” which has a root meaning of unwrapping, to expose or break away. He urged graduates to “break away from the disease of busyness,” and from regimes of oppression, to work toward the unwrapping of the potential of the cultures where they find themselves.

Max Irvine, the MPP student speaker, garnered laughter with his impression of Professor Robert Conrad, in order to make the point that Sanford professors press students to examine their assumptions. He also valued the chance to learn from the diverse interests of his fellow students.

“Not since Noah has there been an endeavor with a broader mix of fellow travelers,” he said.

Marina Gorsuch and Nicholas Ingwersen in PhD robesTwo PhD graduates received their hoods on Saturday. Marina Gorsuch, whose dissertation was “Three Essays on Gender, Population Studies and Labor Economics,” has accepted a position at the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. Nicholas Ingwersen, who wrote his dissertation on “A Study of the Impact of a Natural Disaster on Economic Behavior and Human Capital across the Life Course” will work at Mathematica Policy Research in Washington, D.C.  

PhD graduate Eva Csaky defended her dissertation “Smallholder Global Value Chain Participation: the Role of Aggregation” in December. She is a research professor at Southern Methodist University and director of the Hunt Institute of Engineering and Humanities. Poh Lin Jennifer Tan wrote “Determinants of Teenage Childbearing in the United States,” and is an assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Two Sanford professors were honored with awards for teaching. Natalia Mirovitskaya was recognized as 2015 Richard A. Stubbing Teacher/Mentor for work with graduate students. Jay Pearson received the Susan Tifft Teaching and Mentoring award for his work with undergraduates.

graduates in line waiting to receive diplomas

Kevin Seifert: images. [140+ images from graduation archived here.] Carol Jackson: social media/blog.