Commencement 2015: A Bittersweet Celebration!

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By Daniela Warman (C19/PA5)

Published 6.3.15

Graduating Class of 2015

Graduating Class of 2015

This weekend was full of emotions at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre as we celebrated our graduates, who walked across stage and were awarded their MBA and MPA diplomas. The ceremony kicked off with a warm welcome from Presidio Graduate School President and CEO William Shutkin. After a similar welcome from Board Chair Suzanne Farver, she introduced our 2015 Commencement guest speaker, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

Presidio Graduate School President and CEO William Shutkin

Presidio Graduate School President and CEO William Shutkin

Our community was elated to have Darren, and this feeling was mutual, as he felt proud and honored to be our speaker. He believes that PGS is different, “PGS is not the typical business school, that’s why I am excited to be here today.”

Darren’s speech was powerful.

2015 Commencement guest speaker, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

2015 Commencement guest speaker, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

“How can we make capitalism work for good? In other words, we asked, ‘where markets lead, can justice follow?’” asked Darren, rhetorically.

Darren responded, “It can, if our businesses strive to optimize all kinds of value—social, environmental, cultural; not just to maximize shareholder value. It can, if we invest based not only on short-term gain, but also on long term good. It can, if we learn to resist the impulse to define every element of our lives in relation to capital…if we stop elevating market-oriented thinking above all other kinds and categories of human understanding. It can, if we think about markets and human dignity not as competing priorities, but as complementary ones.”

Acceptance of the graduating class by Suzanne Farver

Acceptance of the graduating class by Suzanne Farver

Darren’s on-point remarks were followed by the acceptance of the graduating class by Suzanne and William as everyone cheered with excitement for the graduates who embark on their mission (as the New York Times article stated) “to change the world.” This so-long-expected moment was followed by an awards presentation.

Evguenia (Gina) Melekh (C16) accepted the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award.

Evguenia (Gina) Melekh (C16) accepted the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award.

Congratulations to the PGS awards recipients:

  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant—Wendy Weiden (PA2) and Evguenia (Gina) Melekh (C16)
  • Outstanding Faculty—Cynthia Scott and Ryan Cabinte (C7)
  • Outstanding Student—Allyn D. McAuley (C19)
  • Alumni Enterprise Vanguard (“EVA”) —EOS Climate, received by Jeff Cohen (C5) and Joe Madden (C4), who reassured our graduates that their success was due to their time at PGS as it taught them to “dream and think big.”
 Jeff Cohen (C5) and Joe Madden (C4) from EOS Climate accepted the EVA award.

Jeff Cohen (C5) and Joe Madden (C4) from EOS Climate accepted the EVA award.

The ceremony reached a climax when the Student Speakers presented individual speeches representing their respective MBA and MPA program.

MBA Student Speaker Tom Flannigan (C15) reminded all of us of the sacrifice we’ve endured going through the program. But it is not only us who sacrifice time, opportunities, and relationships.

MBA Student Speaker Tom Flannigan (C15)

MBA Student Speaker Tom Flannigan (C15)

“Our decision to go to grad school may have been a personal decision with personal sacrifices, but it was also a sacrifice for those we care most about. Our greatest supporters: our family, friends, partners, and co-workers… They helped us all through those trying days when it was impossible to do it all and when we didn't know how we were going to get it all done. They gave us the strength to persevere and get us to where we are today and many of them are probably here today,” said Tom.

He couldn’t have said it better! His words resonated with all of us students and, most importantly, with all of those in the audience, who have encouraged us through the darkest moments, respected the space needed to get through every late night deliverable and celebrated with us every successful semester after semester. They too deserve a diploma!

Tom finished his speech with an urgent call to action to all in the graduating class, as their work is not done; it has actually just begun.

Let’s be bold, creative, and always work to incorporate sustainable practices, no matter what job we hold. Let’s give back in big ways that will inspire and affect positive change in world,” said Tom.

The energy in the audience was palpable. The adrenaline and the sense of urgency were heartfelt in every graduate. Like this, we welcomed the second student speaker on stage.

MPA Student Speaker Samuel Ruben (C17/PA4)

MPA Student Speaker Samuel Ruben (C17/PA4)

MPA Student Speaker Samuel Ruben (C17/PA4) encouraged the graduates to believe in themselves, as they have all received the skills and the training to take on the “monumental task” ahead of them to create positive change at both individual and global level and walk the talk to “change the world.”

Most importantly, Sam encouraged us to engage others in conversations in order to activate them and make them be part of this change.

“[We must] meet people where they are, not for the purpose of pulling them to our side, but for the chance to learn from them; to experience a view of the world we can never have; and, in so doing, learn how to be our better selves—how to wear the many hats necessary to speak to the diversity of work styles and worldviews we will encounter,” said Sam.

In order to do this, he explained that we must remember the “balance between activism and analysis necessary for effective change” a concept thoroughly discussed in MPA courses.

Both of them were inspiring speakers, speaking from their hearts with the passion all Presidians live by. PGS Alumni Association President Greg Kandankulam (C13) welcomed the graduating class into the alumni network and encouraged them to utilize it, to stand on the shoulders of giants, and to leverage our community as it is only as strong as we make it.

PGS Alumni Association President Greg Kandankulam (C13) welcomed the graduating class into the alumni network.

PGS Alumni Association President Greg Kandankulam (C13) welcomed the graduating class into the alumni network.

All of us came to PGS with the spirit of an activist, and our graduates embark on this new journey with the self-awareness and forward-thinking of an analyst. But it is only together that change will happen. Tom quoted an African proverb shared with him by ISC members, who went to Kenya, and resonated so strongly with the task at hand. “If you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. So let’s get to it.”

Graduates connecting prior to the ceremony.

Graduates connecting prior to the ceremony.

But first!... A beautiful reception with all of the graduate’s loved ones, and an after-party on Saturday night at Stock in Trade in the Marina, followed by a family-friendly picnic on Sunday at Off The Grid in The Presidio to celebrate like true champions all the hard work over the last couple of years!

Alumnus Clay Carlson (C17) congratulating Samantha Poblitz (C16).

Alumnus Clay Carlson (C17) congratulating graduate Samantha Poblitz (C16).

Congratulations Class of 2015, make us proud!

Daniela Warman (C19/PA5)

We want to hear what you think.
Send your feedback and comments to pr@presidio.edu

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