Congratulations to the LBJ School's 53rd class of public policy leaders

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May 14, 2024
LBJ School graduate shares in the celebration of the class of 2024

The LBJ School of Public Affairs celebrated the academic achievements of its 53rd graduating class during a ceremony in Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium at The University of Texas at Austin. May 11th marked the culmination of rigorous study for 167 students, who have earned the following degrees: a PhD in Public Policy, an Executive Master of Public Leadership, a Master of Public Affairs and a Master in Global Policy Studies.  

The event centered on the themes of leading with compassion and building community amid a divisive period in our democracy. 

“Each LBJ class graduates at a unique moment in history with a unique set of challenges,” said dean of the LBJ School JR DeShazo. “A favorite saying of President Johnson’s was ‘Come now, and let us reason together.’ Indeed, democracy requires that we reason together to build majorities needed to transform our policies.”    

“We are counting on you, graduates, to help us mend the human fabric of our democracy so that we can reason together, model our values, build bridges and find a way forward," said DeShazo.

Dean JR DeShazo gives a diploma to EMPL graduate Vanessa Fuentes.
EMPL graduate and Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes receives her diploma from LBJ School Dean JR DeShazo.

The LBJ School also recognized students who achieved the highest grade point averages in their class. Those students are Ashley Nguyen, Isabella Lillian Peterson, Cameron Thomas Poursoltan and Abigail Judith Wake-Mayo. 

The graduates were, on average, 30 years of age, with 36 percent identifying as first-generation students and 29 percent from beyond Texas. In fact, 21 states and 11 countries were represented by the graduating class. 

Students provide a greeting in their native languages during a special welcome at the LBJ School 2024 graduation ceremony.
Six graduates shared a greeting in languages representative of them to begin the ceremony. From left to right: Rania Sohail (MGPS, Language: Urdu), Raquel Santos Fontes (MGPS, Language: Portuguese), Yulissa Chávez (MPAFF, Language: Spanish), Yara Abbas (MGPS, Language: Arabic), Liane Ngin Noble (EMPL, Language: Khmer), and Jasleen Kaur (PhD, Language: Hindi).

Among them was Morgan Brown, a dual degree Public Affairs/Public Health graduate elected by the class to make remarks on their behalf. 

“As we transition into our respective professions, I hope you leave here knowing that the relationships you have built do not end here,” said Brown during her graduation remarks. “I hope you leave here knowing that you have the tools necessary to succeed, and even if you don’t feel equipped, you have people willing and able to support you. I hope you leave here knowing that although people may not understand why you continue to do this work, it doesn’t make it any less meaningful. You are sowing seeds for future generations, so continue to do it with passion and heart. I hope you leave here knowing your sacrifices are worth the effort.” 

Morgan Brown smiles during her remarks at the 2024 LBJ School graduation ceremony
Morgan Brown (MPAFF) addresses the graduates as the elected student speaker by her LBJ School peers.

LBJ School alum Shamina Singh (MPAFF ‘97) delivered the commencement address emphasizing the importance of building your village and doing the next right thing. 

“As you have learned during your years here at LBJ, success in life is not measured in grades, diplomas or awards. It’s the impact we have on each other. And that starts in the village that grows and goes with us,” said Singh. “The first lesson is to build your village by surrounding yourself with the right people - those that ground, inspire and push you. And that sometimes means leaving your comfort zone.” 

Singh went on to share her second focus.

“My second piece of advice—which I picked up from one of my original villagers – my big sister Simi. She tends to take a pretty pragmatic approach to life. Rather than get overwhelmed by the enormity of what we need to fix, she reminds me to just do the next right thing.” 

UT Alumna and Mastercard Executive Shamina Singh as graduation speaker at UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs
Shamina Singh (MPAFF '97) congraluates the Class of 2024 during her commencement address.

The powerful address culminated in an adaptation of a familiar African proverb: 

If you want to go wide, go with government because they have the reach.
If you want to go deep, go with academia because they have the knowledge.
If you want to go fast, go with the private sector because they have the ability to scale quickly.
But if you want to go far, you must bring all of them together. 

“I want to encourage you, in your careers and in your lives, to choose hope. Choose optimism. That’s my final piece of advice,” concluded Singh. “Lead with the positive because that’s the best way to bring others along.  That’s how you bring people together.” 

Nearly 900 guests, including Rep. Gina Hinojosa, joined the event in person, while more than 1,000 viewers have tuned in to watch the ceremony via livestream. 

Graduation 2024 Recording

Graduation 2024 Photo Gallery | Photobooth Gallery

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Alumni Feature Student Success