School of International Affairs honors record-number of graduates in Class of 2021

Collage of photos from SIA 2021 Graduation Recognition Ceremony

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) celebrated the Class of 2021—the largest graduating class in SIA’s history—during a Graduation Recognition Ceremony on May 7. The ceremony was held in the Lewis Katz Building and livestreamed for friends and family.

A total of 65 graduates are completing their studies in May and August of 2021, including 57 who are earning a Master of International Affairs degree and 8 who are obtaining an International Affairs Graduate Certificate.

“Congratulations to the Class of 2021 on your successful completion of a rigorous and multi-disciplinary professional master’s program or a graduate certificate program,” said Dr. Hari M. Osofsky, Dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Professor of International Affairs and Geography, in her remarks to the graduates during the ceremony. “This would be a major achievement at any time, and this class has shown resiliency, support for one another, and leadership throughout the layered crises of this past year. We are so proud of you.”

During their time at SIA, graduates in the Class of 2021 pursued diverse academic concentrations, including community and economic development, cybersecurity, data analytics, emergency management and public health preparedness, human rights, international energy policy, international human resources, Middle East studies, and U.S.-China relations, among many others.

“Our graduates have developed impressive skills, knowledge, and experience in a wide range of areas, which reflects the many ways in which they can make positive contributions to the field of international affairs,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, Interim Director of SIA and Associate Professor of International Affairs. “We are incredibly proud of all they have accomplished while at SIA and are excited to watch them grow and move forward in their career paths.”


The ceremony included a speech by Class of 2021 graduate Channalyn Tek, whose involvement at SIA epitomizes the dedication and commitment of this class. Over the past two years, Tek has served as a peer adviser, SIA student ambassador, a research assistant for SIA professors Dr. Sophia McClennen and Larry Catá Backer, teaching assistant for the Cross-Cultural Conflict Resolution course, vice president of the Human Rights Society, and project associate with the Center for Global Studies (CGS) at Penn State.

“I hope you take this moment to celebrate your momentous achievement, because you have earned it,” Tek said to her peers during the ceremony. “Cheers to you, your accomplishments, and your bright future.”

While the graduates were understandably looking toward the future, many of them also took the opportunity to reflect on their time at SIA.

“It’s graduation day and of course everyone is excited, and so am I, but at the same time I am definitely going to miss SIA and all the connections I made, all the good people and all the faculty,” said Emefa Abena Rashida Yengbe, who completed a master’s degree with a concentration in international business and development. “At SIA, every day is an opportunity to learn something new, and I’m going to miss learning every single day from SIA.”

The Class of 2021 has been impacted and shaped by events that have transpired over the past year, including the global pandemic. They experienced the initial move to remote learning in spring 2020 and also the shift back toward some in-person classes and experiences over the past two semesters. Through the challenges, they were able to find success.

“My fellow students and the faculty at SIA have been some of the best and brightest people I have ever known,” said Logan Forsyth, who will complete a master’s degree in international affairs with a concentration in international security in August 2021. “While the events of the last year meant that I didn't get to do everything I had hoped to, when people ask me if I've enjoyed SIA my answer will always be yes. I cannot imagine going anywhere else and finding a better experience than the one I have had at Penn State.”