SIA celebrates Class of 2020, its largest ever, with Graduation Recognition Ceremony

Collage of SIA spring 2020 graduates

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) welcomed 44 graduates as the newest members of the SIA alumni family while celebrating the Class of 2020 with a virtual Graduation Recognition Ceremony on Saturday, May 9, following Penn State’s University-wide livestreamed commencement.

With 49 total graduates, the SIA Class of 2020 is the largest in the history of SIA; the cohort includes 44 May graduates, four students who plan to complete their Master of International Affairs degree in August, and one student who plans to complete an International Affairs Graduate Certificate in August.

Highlights of the Class of 2020 include:

  • A global cohort comprising residents of China, Colombia, India, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States, as well as a U.S. permanent resident originally from Iran;
  • 54 percent of the class participated in an education abroad experience while at SIA, including semester abroad, internships abroad, and faculty-led programs;
  • 18 students completed an internship abroad;
  • Education abroad experiences took students across the globe to Colombia, Czech Republic, England, France, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, South Korea, and Switzerland; and
  • Graduates pursued a broad range of academic concentrations, including data analytics, diplomacy and conflict resolution, disaster recovery and human security, gender equity, international development, international energy policy, and nontraditional security, among many others.

SIA moved the recognition ceremony to a virtual format for the first time ever in response to the coronavirus pandemic, orders from the state government, and recommendations from global public health organizations.

The reimagined ceremony included welcome addresses from Dean Hari M. Osofsky and Director Scott S. Gartner; a speech from Class of 2020 graduate and outgoing Student Government Association (SGA) President Jonathan Madeira; a recognition slide for each graduate featuring their name, concentration, photo, and quote; presentation of special awards and recognitions; a photo slideshow compiled by Class of 2020 graduate and SIA peer adviser Ana Castellanos; closing remarks by Dr. Gartner; and concluding, as is tradition, with the Penn State Alma Mater. The virtual ceremony also included a live chat feature that allowed graduates, current students, alumni, faculty, staff, family, and friends to interact with each other throughout the event.

In their welcome remarks to the class, Dean Osofsky and Director Gartner acknowledged the unprecedented circumstances brought on by COVID-19 but also emphasized that this was a day to celebrate the graduates’ incredible achievements.

“I am so grateful for the ways our community has come together to support each other in this crisis,” Dean Osofsky said. “Through it all, this class has embodied the ‘We Are,’ the sense of inclusive and supportive community that we value at Penn State. Thank you for your efforts in helping us all navigate these challenges.”

“Your class has demonstrated that you can help move this nation and the world forward,” Director Gartner said. “You are ready to take your place in international affairs now and the international community, and to serve with intelligence, integrity, and honor.”

As the Class of 2020 gets set to begin the next chapter of their lives, they do so with the full support and commitment of the SIA community.

“The School of International Affairs will continue to support you, in any way we can,” Dr. Gartner said. “Although you are no longer students, you will always remain part of the School of International Affairs family. Together, we are SIA.”

Addressing his fellow graduates, Madeira argued that the unusual circumstances facing the Class of 2020 in some ways make their time at SIA even more special. Their ability to adapt to unique events helped them forge memories and experiences that will last forever, he said.

“However, what will not last forever is our time as SIA students. As that time comes to an end, the impact this class will make is just beginning to be felt,” Madeira said. “This class will work in almost every [international relations] field imaginable, from the private world of doing corporate social responsibility, to IGO’s doing human rights work, to think tanks doing research that influences policy at the highest levels of government.”

He concluded: “Having learned with pleasure for the past two years, I can confidently say that I will never forget my time at SIA. Thank you, and once again, congratulations to my fellow graduates.”

Watch the full Graduation Recognition Ceremony below.