Graduation ceremony speakers spread message of hope
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Read summary of speeches
Student speaker Liliana Keomanivong Teniente (MPA ’23) opened the ceremony by recounting the story of her grandmother, who grew up poor in Mexico before moving to the U.S., where she made a point of giving back to her community by helping others navigate resources in a new country. “She never took any of life’s blessings for granted,” said Teniente. Noting that curiosity helps to build community and inspires creative solutions to problems, Teniente advised graduates to “never stop being curious about the world around you and your ability to effect positive change.”
While the speakers acknowledged the unprecedented challenges society faces today, they were hopeful about the power of the “sacred space” where the ceremony took place in the Wisconsin State Capitol—a space where policies are made. To Professor Mark Copelovitch, who was selected by graduates as the faculty speaker, the fight for democracy is, at its heart, a fight about information. “Incomplete and asymmetrical information are the fundamental barriers to international cooperation” and misinformation has time and time again been used to undermine democracy, he noted. Copelovitch implored La Follette students, who have been trained to analyze, synthesize, and present information to develop good policy, to not take this task lightly. Quoting Bob La Follette, he emphasized, “The state has prepared you for this work and you are honor bound to strike the blow or say the word which will make the state stronger, promote a better public policy, and ensure better governance.”
The message from keynote speaker Francesca Hong, state representative of Wisconsin’s 76th district, was one of hope. Though the problems graduates will face might seem daunting, in Rep. Hong’s view, the fact that they chose to study policymaking makes them “inherently hopeful.” She advised graduates to use their training to build on the precedent of their field without being limited by it, and to look at issues with the lens of what should be and not what can be. Recognizing that good intentions are often not good enough when it comes to public policy, Rep. Hong encouraged graduates to continue to work to foster connections between the government and its people in order to build trust and accountability. “Be courageous in your pursuit of justice, compassionate in your interactions with others, and ethical in your decision making,” advised Rep. Hong. “Remember that true leadership is not about personal gain or power, it is about empowering the people around you.”
About the Class of 2023
37 MPA degrees
(Master of Public Affairs)
13 MIPA degrees
(Master of International Public Affairs)
and Washington, D.C.
Amelia Wagner (MPA) — Director’s Achievement Award for an outstanding academic record, initiative, and professionalism as a La Follette School student.
Lucas Knight (MIPA) — Penniman Prize for the best paper demonstrating the school’s writing and analytic tools. “Analyzing Employment-Focused Immigration Reform in the United States,” nominated by Professor Greg Nemet.
Ethan Dickler (MPA) — Piore Prize for the best paper in science and public policy. “Strategies to Reduce Black Infant Mortality in Wisconsin,” nominated by Professor David Weimer.
Dual and double degrees
Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Elizabeth Aurora Johnson
- Haley Madeline Padfield
- Sukhvir Singh
Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning (URPL)
- Amber Sarita Joshway
PhD in Neuroscience
- Kao Lee Yang
Certificate in Energy, Analysis, and Policy (EAP)
- August Henry Hundt
- Samantha Ann Jurvich
- Christina Marie Zordani
Health Advocacy Certificate
- Abigail Peterson
African Cultural Studies Certificate
- Austin Fraley
Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies (CREECA) Certificate
- Austin Fraley
Life Sciences Communication
- Fredrick Charles Flores