LBJ's 49th commencement celebrates the Class of 2020

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May 22, 2020

On Saturday, May 23, 2020, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs proudly sent its 49th cohort out into the arena. Dean Angela Evans kicked off the ceremony with words of encouragement and inspiration; class speaker Mohamed Abufalgha (MGPS '20) reflected on his experiences and his hopes for the future; and commencement speaker Colin Crowell, the former vice president of global public policy and philanthropy at Twitter, congratulated the newly minted alumni and offered insights into life in policy and business.

During a live toast post-ceremony, Cynthia Osborne, associate dean for academic strategies, announced the winners of two awards. This year's Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Award for Academic Excellence — awarded to members of the class with the highest grade point average — went to Brandon Podojil (MPAff '20). The Emmette S. Redford Award for Outstanding Research went to Dashiell Daniels (MPAff '20).

Watch the full 2020 commencement ceremony or the individual speeches below, and take a closer look at some of the members of the Class of 2020.


Dean Angela Evans: "This is the day that you are moving from student to professional."

"How you embrace your place and how you take control of your future rests squarely on you. If you choose wisely, you will be the architects and builders of a new era in the United States and the world. You will reject complacency and forge new paths for economic and social justice, environmental security, national resiliency, and an enduring sense of all mankind.

"Out of this season of loss and fear, you have been given the gift of possibility. You will serve as the bridges that take us from the past to the future; history will track you. … You are fully equipped with deep purpose and the personal power to imagine a better place in which humankind can thrive."

Class speaker Mohamed Abufalgha (MGPS '20): "Today's challenges have exposed the weaknesses in our systems. ... As future policymakers, it is our job and duty to fix them."

"My experiences, from growing up in a sanctioned Libya, living under a dictatorship, participating in the Arab Spring, living through war, moving to another country where I did not speak the language, to living through a global pandemic with all of you today, have taught me two valuable lessons. First, we have so much to be grateful for. We are healthy when many others are sick. We are safe when many others are in danger. We are free when many others are oppressed. We are sheltered in our homes when many others are in refugee camps or experiencing homelessness. We are fed, when many others are hungry. All these blessings should never be taken for granted. So let us always remember to appreciate what we have.

"Second, we have so much to do to improve our lives and the lives of others. Being grateful is the first step, but we must always move beyond that first step. We must all work together to make our planet a better place. Not just for us, not just for our families, but for all humankind."

Commencement speaker Colin Crowell, Twitter's former vice president of global public policy and philanthropy: "We can choose to hit a 'reset button' and seek to renew America and our world through public policy action."

"The nation and the world need you and your policy savvy now more than ever. Because the opportunity before you is not to simply undo the 'pause button' and revert back to the status quo ante. Instead, we can choose to hit a 'reset button' and seek to renew America and our world through public policy action.

"That is, it is a chance to reawaken to core democratic principles and stay woke to the urgent need to create an ever more just society, a more perfect union. This is our opportunity to foster a stronger and healthier global community. And when we do, we are going to need you and the skills you have developed at the LBJ School as public policy-trained practitioners who can drive impact not only on longstanding, festering issues, but also address problems that the virus itself has helped to illuminate."


Graduate profiles

Class speaker: Mohamed Abufalgha (MGPS '20)

LBJ student Mohamed Abufalgha (MGPS '20)

"I had the privilege of learning from some of the most experienced, smartest professors around... yet, despite their experience, knowledge and fame they were all very humble, generous and kind to me," said Abufalgha, who will join Princeton University's Arab Barometer project as a senior research specialist in Washington, DC after graduation. "I learned a lot just from observing the way they act, let alone what they taught in class."



Graduate profile: Charlotte Gorman (MGPS '20)

LBJ student Charlotte Gorman (MGPS '20)

"Being able to chat with faculty about their professional experiences in public service has been so fascinating," said Gorman, who will join the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy as part of the inaugural cohort of McCain Fellows. "I've taken classes with the former chair of the National Intelligence Council (Ambassador Hutchings) and former director for cybersecurity on the National Security Council (Eric Greenwald). The two economics professors I had, Sheila Olmstead and James Galbraith, completely changed my view of that discipline for the better."


Graduate profile: Nathan Oey Bumagny (MGPS '20)

LBJ student Nathan Oey Bumagny (MGPS '20)

"Having the opportunity to take a class with Adm. McRaven was such a unique opportunity that I definitely did not foresee," said Bumagny about his most unexpected LBJ experience. "As an immigrant, I feel really privileged to earn a master's degree from a school like LBJ. Thank you mom and dad for everything you've done for me!" After graduation, he plans to move to Washington, DC to work on foreign policy.


Graduate profile: Brandon Podojil (MPAff '20)

LBJ student Brandon Podojil (MPAff '20)

"Dive in head first," said Podojil in advice to incoming students. "LBJ offers so many great opportunities for learning, networking, and growth. Push your limits, tackle challenges that make you uncomfortable, speak up in class, and say 'yes' to as many unique experiences you can! Grad school is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pursue your passions, expand your perspective and grow." An active-duty member of the military, his next assignment is as an economics instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.


Graduate profile: Tahar Hichri (MGPS '20)

LBJ student Tahar Hichri (MGPS '20)

"I learned several frameworks at LBJ, but most importantly I earned a valuable network of friends who are passionate and expert about several topics ranging from international energy policy to food aid in the developing world," said Hichri, who will return to his home city of Tunis, Tunisia, to work as a manager in the international donors consulting practice at Deloitte. "The LBJ experience goes beyond class. It's an international community of policy wonks that I feel proud to be part of!"




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