Dean Botchwey's State of the School Message: Let's Celebrate Our Achievements

March 1, 2024
Dean Nisha Botchwey stands onstage next to a slide printed with the Humphrey School mission statement
Humphrey School Dean Nisha Botchwey delivered her State of the School address on February 27, 2024.

In a first for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ annual State of the School address, Dean Nisha Botchwey made her way to the stage of Cowles Auditorium to “walk-on” music: a song called “Buga" by Nigerian singer/songwriter Kizz Daniel

“The word ‘buga’ has deep personal significance to me,” Botchwey explained. “In the Yoruba language, ‘buga’ means to 'flaunt' or 'celebrate' one’s achievements. As we gather here, I want us to embrace this spirit of celebration, not just for the achievements of our past but for the promise of our future.”

Botchwey emphasized the School’s achievements over the past year in her presentation to an in-person and online audience of faculty, staff, students, and supporters on February 27. 

The Humphrey School is strong 

“It’s my honor to stand here and say the state of our School is strong, and ready to take on so many of the pressing challenges present right here in the Twin Cities, throughout the state of Minnesota, across the country, and even around the world,” said Botchwey. 

She added that the School has been guided by the mission of its five-year strategic plan,  finalized a year ago, to “educate, engage, and equip leaders and communities to discover solutions that advance the common good in our diverse world.”  

Botchwey gave several examples of how the School has tackled the priorities set out in the strategic plan, including strengthening resources, funding, and services to support students; expanding its reach through employer relations, media outreach, alumni connections, and events; and pursuing more opportunities for innovative research by faculty and students. 

She highlighted the accomplishments of a number of students who have gained hands-on experience through internships, research opportunities in other countries, and community outreach projects. 

Botchwey also noted the activities of several faculty members who conducted influential research, published papers and books, and received significant grants to develop solutions to various public policy issues. 

Humphrey’s legacy as inspiration

Hubert Humphrey speaking to the 1948 Democratic National Convention
Hubert Humphrey's 1948 speech

Botchwey emphasized the Humphrey School’s role in fostering public dialogue on important issues, noting the School hosted more than 70 in-person and virtual events last year. 

By doing so, we are “embracing the foundation of our School’s history by our namesake, Vice President Hubert Humphrey,” she said.  Humphrey wanted the School to be a living memorial “that would not only prepare future leaders, but also would be a forum for active debate on the policy issues of the day, and an academy that would produce the best research and nonpartisan advocacy based on that research.”

She reminded the audience that last year the School commemorated the 75th anniversary of Humphrey’s powerful speech on human rights. In his address to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Humphrey—then the 37-year-old mayor of Minneapolis— implored the Democratic Party to “get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

Humphrey's speech paved the way for the party to adopt the civil rights plank to its platform, despite facing fierce opposition from some party members. This landmark decision marked a turning point in American history, laying the foundation for progressive policies and advancements in the fight for equality and justice.

“Today, as we confront contemporary civil rights challenges, let us draw strength from Humphrey's unwavering commitment to justice,” Botchwey said. “His legacy inspires us to continue the fight for equality through educating and equipping the next generation of leaders with the tools they need to ensure policies and practices advance the common good.” 

Commencement speaker

Portrait of Melvin Carter III
Melvin Carter

Botchwey also announced the selection of the keynote speaker for the School’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11: St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter

A lifelong resident of St. Paul, Carter was elected to his first term as mayor in 2017 and reelected in 2021. He is the city's first African American mayor. 

Carter is an alumnus of the Humphrey School, having earned his Master of Public Policy in 2011. He received the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award in 2015, when he was executive director of the Minnesota Children's Cabinet. 

Botchwey concluded her remarks by encouraging the School community to embrace the concept of ‘buga.’ 

“Let's celebrate all we have achieved together and will continue to accomplish. Let's celebrate the achievements and promise of our students as our future leaders, as well as our incredible faculty and staff whose work supports our mission.” 

“I’m reminded of this quote from Hubert Humphrey: ‘Never give in and never give up.’”