Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, April 18, 2022

U.N. Ambassador and La Follette student featured at commencement

Left: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will speak at UW–Madison's Commencement ceremony. Right: graduating MPA student Indu Kilaru will be a flag bearer at the ceremony. Left: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will speak at UW–Madison's Commencement ceremony. Right: graduating MPA student Indu Kilaru will be a flag bearer at the ceremony.

The La Follette School will be well represented at spring commencement this May, starting with keynote speaker Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield earned a master’s degree from the La Follette School’s predecessor, the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration, in 1975.

Her remarkable career as a diplomat also includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-2012) and postings in Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica, as well as leadership roles in Washington D.C. at the U.S. State Department. 

Thomas-Greenfield credits her time studying public policy at the UW with preparing her for a career in diplomatic service. When receiving an honorary doctorate from UW–Madison in 2018, she said, “I know that what I’ve achieved in my life is the result of the extraordinary education I received at this university and the connections I made here. All the major milestones in my life would start here on this campus.”

Thomas-Greenfield’s appearance allows graduates to hear from one of the country’s great public servants, says La Follette School director and professor Susan Webb Yackee. “Her diplomatic work is a testament to the power of an education in public affairs. I am inspired by her dedication to using evidence-based policymaking to improve conditions around the world.”

The La Follette School’s Indu Kilaru also has a role in commencement, serving as a flag bearer for the Graduate School. An outstanding member of the MPA class of 2022, Kilaru has  served as the diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator of the La Follette School Student Association for the past two years. Even before she arrived on campus, she created a TED circle that was open to the La Follette School community with a focus on deconstructing racism.

After graduation, Kilaru plans to work in a managerial role in business. “I built a wide variety of skills during my time at La Follette and pursued a certificate in strategic innovation from the School of Business that complements my interests. I am excited about putting my new knowledge and skills to work.”

Commencement starts at noon on May 14 at Camp Randall Stadium. The ceremony is for all bachelor’s, master’s and law degree candidates. A separate ceremony for doctoral and professional degree candidates begins at 5:30 p.m. on May 13 at the Kohl Center.