Commencement Award Recipients put Principles into Practice

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By Patricia Marcoccia, Axiom News

Published 8.1.13

“I wasn’t sure I heard correctly,” Joseph Herr laughs as he evokes the moment he received an outstanding student award at the Presidio Graduate School Commencement on June 1.

“I looked around to my left and my right and I saw my friends nodding their heads saying ‘get on stage.’ And I was thinking, ‘really?’” Joseph recalls. “My friends were high-fiving me and I remember feeling grateful – very overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Presidio Graduate School alumni Joseph Herr and Elizabeth Vyas both received outstanding student awards this year. The prize is bestowed to students who exemplify the graduate school’s core values and who actively engage with the Presidio community.

“It’s a very special thing to be recognized by your school colleagues and faculty, especially at a culminating event like that. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more rewarding ending to a great experience there,” says Joseph.

The MBA graduate in sustainable management took a yearlong break from his studies after three full-time semesters when his wife had a baby. He then came back to Presidio and completed his degree after two part-time semesters.

“One of the awesome benefits about coming back part-time is the community aspect,” he explains. “There is a great community of folks at Presidio that have kids and full-time work. It’s another subculture within the community that’s fun to be a part of.”

This community offered Joseph support, “sage relationship advice” and proof that balancing school, work and a family is possible. “When you have a child, every decision is a family decision, whether you think about it that way or not. My going to Presidio was all of us going there together. My graduation was as much my wife and my daughter’s,” he says.

During his studies, Joseph enjoyed a guest lecture by MPA Program Chair Ryan Cabinte, recipient of the faculty award at the commencement.

“He’s committed to serving the Presidio community and lending his expertise and contacts. He’s calm, good-natured and very intelligent so people in the community have a lot of respect for him,” Joseph says.

The professor of market failure and the regulatory environment was recognized for inspiring students through innovative curriculum and maintaining high levels of engagement with students.

Ryan describes his presentation style as Socratic – posing questions to gain insights. The strategic consultant and legal advisor focuses on engaging students in exercises that reflect their own thoughts back to them and provide opportunities for cultivating inquisitiveness. “The real motive is to apply what they’re learning in the public interest,” he says.

Ryan put this motive into practice when he decided to teach at Presidio: He applied the knowledge he gained working as a lawyer in corporate malfeasance to educating future leaders in managing businesses more responsibly. “It turns out that a lot of bad things corporations do have an environmental aspect to them. I used to [address] that as a lawyer but I realized that a more productive way would be to teach managers to form a sustainability point of view. There’s so much potential for corporations to be much more of a force of environmental and social good than they are,” Ryan explains.

As a faculty member and Presidio alumni, Ryan maintains a very personal commitment to the school and the people involved in the community in the past and present.

The commencement ceremony also awarded Communications Manager Rachel Fus and Program Coordinator Simone Kujau with staff awards to recognize their embodiment of the Presidio spirit of change-making and core qualities like audacity, humility, and collaboration in their daily work. Norman Rossman received the outstanding teaching assistant award for his contribution to the learning environment through active engagement.

Patricia Marcoccia, Axiom News

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