Humphrey School 2017 Commencement: Graduates Urged to Embrace Diversity
With a call to recognize and celebrate their differences, 182 graduates of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs received their degrees at commencement Saturday, and will soon take their places as leaders in public service in the United States and in countries around the world.
Faculty, staff, family, and friends attended the ceremony at the Ted Mann Concert Hall to recognize the academic and professional accomplishments of the school’s master’s degree recipients, including the first to receive the University of Minnesota’s new Master of Human Rights degree. The Humphrey School also awarded its first two doctoral degrees.
Members of the class of 2017 come from throughout the United States and 13 foreign countries.
Dean Eric Schwartz praised the graduates for their expertise and enthusiasm.
“Our students are united in their objective to spend their professional lives trying to make the world a better place—and also united in their commitment to develop the tools to best achieve that laudable objective,” said Schwartz. But he also warned them they will face difficult challenges because of our highly polarized political climate, “in which enlightened leadership is in shorter supply than it ought to be.”
“But if that’s the troubling news, the good news is that you, our graduating students, are all going to fix this,” Schwartz added. “You have no alternative—it’s what you have to do.”
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) echoed those sentiments in her keynote speech, encouraging graduates to resist the wave of intolerance that has become more evident in recent years.
“Our country has been through tough times before, when we’ve faced wars, discrimination, economic crises, and we have weathered those storms and always kept moving forward,” she said. “But there’s such a lack of respect of our institutions—government, religions, businesses, and so on. And we have to get some of that back.”
Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduate Amineh Safi, chosen by her peers to deliver the student commencement address, emphasized the same theme. Safi spoke eloquently about the need for more understanding among people who have different racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds.
Safi, a Syrian/French/Muslim woman, related her sometimes difficult experiences being a Muslim in the United States, and urged her fellow graduates to continue working for equity and understanding.
“When we—for a moment—think that we deserve to live more than someone else, we have immediately lost the battle for humanity,” Safi said. “Humanity requires that you focus on your interconnectedness before your differences; requires that you think of someone else’s pain as your very own and take on the risk of helping, as you would if your own life were on the line. That is the humanity we need to reach for true peace to come about.”
The ceremony also acted as a symbolic passing of the torch from Schwartz, who is stepping down from his post next month, to dean designate Laura Bloomberg, who currently serves as associate dean. She also challenged the graduates to think about what they will do, personally, to advance effective public policy.
“What can any one of us do to recognize the differences we have with people of other genders, races, and backgrounds? There are times when ignoring those differences is the greater risk,” Bloomberg said. “We all want to change the world, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens in community.”
Humphrey Alumni Society Board member Kerrie Blevins (MPA ’11), urged the graduates to stay connected to one another and to the Humphrey School, even as they embark on their new careers.
Schwartz concluded the ceremony with a special thank you to family and friends who supported the graduates during their studies at the Humphrey School. “Now it is our turn to watch them go out and change the world for the better.”
The Humphrey School Class of 2017 includes 182 graduates.
Graduate degrees awarded are: PhD in Public Affairs; Master of Development Practice (MDP); Master of Human Rights (MHR); Master of Public Affairs (Mid-Career) (MPA); Master of Public Policy (MPP); Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (MS–STEP); and Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP)
The breakdown by program for the Humphrey School Class of 2017:
- Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs (PhD), 2
- Master of Development Practice (MDP), 11
- Master of Human Rights (MHR), 1
- Master of Public Affairs (MPA), 37
- Master of Public Policy (MPP), 92
- Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (M–STEP), 8
- Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP), 31