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."
Class speaker: 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)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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!"
#LBJGrad20 You’ve made it. Today we celebrate the graduation of another great #LBJSchool class of thinkers & doers destined to make the world a better place. I couldn’t be more proud of each & every one of you for making it here today. — AE 1/2— The LBJ School (@TheLBJSchool) May 23, 2020
Although we cannot be together in person, please know the whole LBJ Community is rooting for your success. It was an honor and a privilege to serve as your Dean. I toast to all that you have and will accomplish as you step out into the arena today. -AE 2/2— The LBJ School (@TheLBJSchool) May 23, 2020
Congratulations to the LBJ School Class of 2020! . . Please join us as we celebrate their achievements during our virtual commencement beginning at 3 pm CT. Copy the link or tap the link in our profile to watch. . . https://virtualgrad.marchingorder.com/utexas/xiv #LBJGrad20 #UTGrad20 #utgrad2020
I had a great time @TheLBJSchool— Ethel Ik (@ethelik) May 23, 2020
I learned, met, dined & worked for the best. @UTAustin @utcatholic was fantastic.
Thanks to all who made it great. I will continue to strive to make the world a better place. @gregfenves you'll be missed #UTGrad20 #UTGrad2020 #UTGradsAtHome pic.twitter.com/wifC1DfcD0
All the way from #Nigeria to @TheLBJSchool #AsoRock is not ready!— Ethel Ik (@ethelik) May 23, 2020
Is it too early to say I'll also get a museum and library after me?
I think not.
Thank you to the #LBJSchool for a wonderful graduate program experience. #UTGrad20 #UTBlackGrad20 #UTGrad2020 #UTGradAtHome pic.twitter.com/5Lott6sadf
Congrats @TheLBJSchool 2020 graduates. Make us proud and bring your expertise and passion to making this world better. A whole lot better!— Josh Busby (@busbyj2) May 23, 2020
@TheLBJSchool Congratulations, 2020 Grads! We are so incredibly proud of you.— Catherine Weaver (@kateweaverUT) May 23, 2020
Proud of my daughter who just finished grad school @UTaustin @TheLBJSchool Hard to believe it's real with no cap 'n' gown 'n' hood pic. Next: Find a job to put that newly-minted Master of Public Affairs to work! #LBJGrad20 #UTGrad20— Meryl Evans: meryl.net/calls caption video calls (@merylkevans) May 15, 2020
Congrats to all my friends at @TheLBJSchool who are graduating today! In these tough times, it's more important than ever to have brilliant and kind people like you out shaping policy.— Will Hayward (@WilliamHayward) May 23, 2020
Congrats to the graduating student researchers of @CFRPlbj & @pn3policy, now alumni of @UTAustin & @TheLBJSchool! Best of luck in your next adventure!: Julia Durnan (Deloitte), Maranda Joyce (E3 Alliance), Amie Tran (Deloitte). #UTGrad20 #LBJGrad20 pic.twitter.com/MxBLGAHkbo— CFRP Child & Family Research Partnership (@CFRPlbj) May 23, 2020
Congrats Todd!!!!!— Elizahand Sanitizer (@elizahands) May 23, 2020
Today is my graduation from @TheLBJSchool with @UTAustin. What a difficult journey this last year has been to reach this goal. Join today’s ceremony at 3pm CT to celebrate this accomplishment with me and my fellow grads. #LBJGrads20 #EMPL pic.twitter.com/SGjwQXXXZq— Todd Hill-Jones (@Yohi52) May 23, 2020
Incredibly proud of the @TheLBJSchool's Class of 2020 for graduating today, & especially so for making it through such a tough semester. Given your talents, expertise, & passion, I can't wait until y'all start calling the shots!— Jonah (@ThePolicyPilot) May 23, 2020
Special thanks to @MAbufalgha for a great speech!
Thank you! It wan an honor to be asked to join this celebration. And a heartfelt congrats to your daughter!— Colin Crowell (@ColinCrowell) May 23, 2020
This was to be a big year for us as we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the LBJ School. Never could we have foreseen that it would also be one of the most momentous times in history for our country & the world. — AE 1/2— The LBJ School (@TheLBJSchool) May 22, 2020
Public servants committed to the greater good are needed now more than ever. During your time at the LBJ School, you’ve learned to be flexible, creative, nimble, & committed. I feel confident in all of your abilities to rise to meet the challenges of our time. #LBJGrad20 — AE 2/2— The LBJ School (@TheLBJSchool) May 22, 2020
Despite our fieldwork being upended by COVID-19, I think @TheLBJSchool MA students did terrific work for @cfedmha on Oceania's climate security vulnerabilities. I'll be posting the final reports and video of the final presentation on our project site. https://t.co/LKotCM4PhR https://t.co/01aZ07QFX2— Josh Busby (@busbyj2) May 22, 2020
Our last graduate spotlight features Jordan Kizer, a Masters of Public Affairs graduate from @TheLBJSchool. Jordan volunteered with several orgs to fulfill his portfolio requirements, including @OutdoorMindset. Learn more here: https://t.co/257dn5vaI7 Congrats Jordan! pic.twitter.com/rY4BGRf8nb— RGK Center (@RGK_Center) May 22, 2020
Miranda Badgett is a dual degree student with @TheLBJSchool and @TexasSteveHicks She spent last semester completing her field placement with @NCSDDC in Washington D.C. Learn more about Miranda's experience as a dual degree student here: https://t.co/9uWcM7rVEz Congrats Miranda! pic.twitter.com/sccSbJJo3i— RGK Center (@RGK_Center) May 21, 2020