School of International Affairs celebrates class of 2024

SIA class of 2024 graduates along with faculty and staff
SIA class of 2024 graduates along with faculty and staff. Credit: Emma Kappel/Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) celebrated its class of 2024 at a Graduate Recognition Ceremony on Sunday, May 5, in the Lewis Katz Building. Family and friends, along with SIA faculty, staff, and current students, gathered at the ceremony and ensuing reception to recognize and honor the graduates’ accomplishments.

A total of 47 graduates completed their master of international affairs degree this spring, including 13 who were part of an Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) program and four who completed a joint-degree program with Penn State Law, earning juris doctorates along with their master’s degrees. In addition, four SIA students anticipate completing their master’s degrees in August 2024.

“Congratulations to each member of the graduating SIA class of 2024 on the extraordinary achievement we are celebrating today—your successful completion of a rigorous and multi-disciplinary professional master’s program,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law in University Park and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and professor of law, in his address to the graduates. “You are an impressive group of students who have contributed enormously to the intellectual and civic life of our community.”

Following Romero’s opening remarks, Dr. Mitchell Smith, SIA director and professor of international affairs, delivered an address that included a rundown of the many ways in which the graduates contributed to the intellectual and civic life of the SIA and Penn State community—including their numerous academic and professional accomplishments over the past two years.

“It was a joy to celebrate our SIA graduates and their achievements at our Graduate Recognition Ceremony,” Smith said. “Thanks to the family members and friends of the graduates—many of whom traveled long distances to be on hand—who chose to celebrate with us. I'm excited for our graduates and I look forward to watching their careers progress.”

Graduation speaker

Each year, a member of the SIA graduating class is selected to be the graduation speaker at the recognition ceremony. This year’s speaker was Haneen Shaath, a Fulbright scholar who completed concentrations in International Public Policy, and Refugee Rights under International Law, as part of her course of study at SIA.

SIA graduate Haneen Shaath, holding flowers, takes a photo with her family.
SIA graduate Haneen Shaath, holding flowers, takes a photo with her family. Credit: Emma Kappel

Her speech began with an appreciation for the journey she and her peers embarked upon when arriving at Penn State.

“Two years ago, we arrived from all corners, united by a common dream—to build a better future by gaining a deeper understanding of the complex global issues shaping our world,” she said. “We chose to study at the School of International Affairs because we believe that dialogue, cooperation, and cultural exchange across borders represents humanity’s best hope for lasting change.”

After highlighting some of her most memorable classes and experiences at SIA, she finished her address by looking toward the future with her peers.

“The world is watching, eager to see how the principled leaders and creative problem-solvers built at Penn State will help create a just, peaceful, and sustainable future for all peoples and nations. We are ready to meet that challenge head on,” Shaath said.

Outstanding Student Award

SIA graduate Matthias Hausman receives the Outstanding Student Award from Director Mitchell Smith.
SIA graduate Matthias Hausman receives the Outstanding Student Award from Director Mitchell Smith. Credit: Emma Kappel/Penn State

Following Shaath’s address, Smith announced the recipient of the inaugural Outstanding Student Award, presented to a graduating student who “has provided especially outstanding service to the SIA community” through academic performance, classroom engagement, participation in extracurriculars, and general support for the school and its mission.

This year’s recipient was Matthias Hausman, whom Smith described as always “among the first in line” to support school-sponsored events and activities. Hausman completed concentrations in International Energy Policy and Security Studies and, for his Capstone Experience, authored a master’s paper, Imagining a Diplomatic End to the Russo-Ukrainian War: Historical Scenarios and their Lessons on Ukraine’s Potential for Future Integration into Europe’s Security Architecture.

The newest SIA alumni

The ceremony concluded with remarks from Kim Plummer, assistant director of alumni relations for SIA, who encouraged the graduates to stay connected and involved with the school by attending alumni receptions and gatherings, serving as mentors to future SIA students, and keeping in touch with faculty and staff.

“It is my honor to be the first to greet you as Penn State School of International Affairs alumni, and I applaud you for reaching this important milestone,” Plummer said in her remarks to the graduates. “During your time as SIA students, you have developed connections—with your classmates, with faculty and staff, and even with alumni. These connections can and should continue, and they will expand as you attend alumni receptions and reunions, or stay virtually connected through email, social media, and Zoom. Keep the connection to the SIA community for it will serve you well.”