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Georgetown Graduates Thousands During Commencement

May 23, 2016 – The university graduated more than 6,200 students in 10 ceremonies this year, during commencement weekend, May 19-22.

“Today we celebrate this journey you’ve made, and the one on which you’re about to embark," President John J. DeGioia told undergraduate students Thursday at Senior Convocation, the event kicking off the weekend. "This is an extraordinary moment in your lives – there is nothing else quite like it.” 

“I encourage you to cherish it,” he added. “Cherish those around you in this room to reflect on all that you have achieved together.”

Deepening the Bench

The graduation ceremonies began on Thursday with the McCourt School of Public Policy, whose keynote speaker was USAID Administrator Gayle Smith.

"This is a daunting time to dive into the public policy world,” Smith told the 233 graduates. “As a field it is more competitive than it has ever been. And the challenges are about as big as I can remember.

“So I want to start by saying thank you to all of the graduates, for deepening the bench, and for choosing to help find the solutions to those challenges. We're going to need you."

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the McDonough School of Business and the School of Continuing Studies held their ceremonies on Friday, May 20.

Elena Poniatowska Amor, a journalist, novelist and poet, spoke to about 1,200 Graduate School students. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke at the graduate business ceremony, with 855 graduates, and the School of Continuing Studies, which graduated 674 students, hosted best-selling author Daniel Pink as its speaker.

Community and Smarts

“I have met a lot of business leaders in my life, and the ones who I admire and the ones who I remember are those who are committed to their community,” Pritzker said. “As you move up the career ladder, you are going to find yourself becoming more and more responsible for the well-being of your neighborhood, your city and your region.”

Pink told SCS students to "Argue like you're right, but listen like you're wrong.” "These days, it's tough to be the smartest person in the room,” he said, “because our rooms have gotten a lot smarter."

In the Graduate School address, Amor talked about what it means to be an author in Latin America, and lamented governments in the region that pay companies to spy on dissenters, authors and other non-criminal targets.

“…Public and political issues interfere in personal life,” she said. “Latin America is always out there, behind the window, watching, spying, ready to jump.”

Complicated Decision-Making

Georgetown College (789 undergraduates), the School of Nursing & Health Studies (154 undergraduates and 371 graduates), McDonough School of Business (341 undergraduates) and the School of Foreign Service (367 undergraduates ) held their ceremonies on Saturday.

Speakers were explorer, storyteller and water advocate Alexandra Cousteau (C’98) for the College; Beverly Malone, CEO, National League for Nursing, for NHS; Bruce Broussard, president and CEO, Humana, Inc. (McDonough); and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (SFS).

“As government officials and leaders, we try to do the right thing,” Johnson said. “Doing the right thing can be complicated. In government decision-making and policymaking, doing the right thing is rarely simple, pure or perfect. It’s rarely one-dimensional, or even two-dimensional. It’s often multi-dimensional. And one of those dimensions can be your personal convictions."

There was also royalty among the SFS graduates and audience members – Queen Rania and King Abdullah of Jordan came to Georgetown to see their son, Prince Hussein, graduate.

SFS-Qatar held its graduation ceremony on May 5.

Legacy, Non-Negotiables

Malone, NHS’ speaker, used the metaphor of packing a suitcase to give the students tips about their journeys going forward.

"Know where your North Star is,” she said. “Keep it in view. I'm speaking of the North Star of your energy, your passion, or simply your way forward. So I would suggest that you pack your core values.”

Cousteau told College graduates to "live with purpose, make your own ripples, craft your own legacies.” “Yours is the generation that will impose a radical reconsideration of how we live in this world, how we consume resources, how we restore natural capital, how we protect the future from the excesses of the past,” she said. “You will be the brave architects of this new world."

Broussard noted that the business school graduates would be tested often in life.

“Never compromise your non-negotiables,” he said. “Have courage. Ask questions. Stand up for what you believe in, even when it is more difficult and it’s the longer and harder path. But, I promise you, there will be more doors that open than close.”

Law and Medicine

Georgetown Law, which graduated 1,205 students, and the School of Medicine, which had 192 graduates, held their ceremonies on Sunday.

Dr. Kelley M. Skeff, the George DeForest Barnett professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine delivered the latter school’s commencement address.

“The field of medicine has never had a greater need for people like you,” Skeff told the graduates. “Our field needs an infusion of ethics.”

Georgetown Law’s speaker was Eric David Rosenthal (L’92), founder and executive director of Disability Rights International.

Rosenthal noted that he has a 14-year-old daughter and 15-year-old nephew.

“When I see those kids in orphanages that are the exactly the same age that are going to be sold and trafficked for the sex industry,” he said, “I cannot walk away. And I ask you not to walk away.”

Zhang Yuejiao (L'83),  Appellate Body Member, World Trade Organization, also spoke at the Georgetown Law ceremony.

Senior Convocation

Commencement events officially kicked off May 19 with Senior Convocation , where the undergraduate Class of 2016 gathered together in McDonough Arena for the last time.

More than 1,800 graduating seniors, who represent 48 states and 65 countries and territories, took 79,361 courses and earned 233,366 credit hours during their years at Georgetown.

A total of 63 seniors were campus student organization leaders and 34 were program coordinators in the Center for Social Research, Teaching & Service across 36 student-led organizations and seven signature programs for community engagement, social action and social justice research in the Washington, D.C. community and beyond.

The undergraduate Class of 2016 won numerous competitive graduate fellowships, including 15 Fulbrights (the largest number in Georgetown history) 13 Gilman International Scholarships, six Critical Language Scholarships, six Princeton Fellowships, two Presidential Fellowships, a Marshall Scholarship, a Schwarzman Scholarship, an Allbritton Scholarship, a Middle East and North Africa Regional Fellowship, a Truman Scholarship and a Pickering Fellowship.