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Commencement ceremony celebrates the trailblazing Class of 2024

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A group of smiling students wearing purple orchid leis smile in the arena during the Commencement ceremony.

Families, friends and speakers traveled from around the world to recognize the accomplishments of GPS graduates

The UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) community gathered together on June 14 at LionTree Arena to celebrate the academic accomplishments of the Class of 2024.

Throughout the ceremony — which culminated in faculty members’ bestowing hoods on the students who successfully completed their master’s degrees in one of the four programs within the school — students and their families heard addresses from Dean Caroline Freund, student commencement speaker Jordan Chu ’24 and Mexican Ambassador Liliana Ferrer-Silva ’91.

Ferrer-Silva flew 21 hours from her posting in Thailand to serve as the commencement speaker in San Diego. In her address to the graduates, Ferrer-Silva — who serves as ambassador of Mexico to Thailand and concurrently in Cambodia — emphasized how important it is that the GPS curriculum leads students to focus on specific countries in the Pacific region, including the languages spoken there.

“By prioritizing strategic countries and complementing your training with proficiency in languages, our school has beautifully adapted to current needs and given you the competitive edge to go out there and do great things,” Ferrer-Silva said. “Language is the soul of a people. If you neglect one, you will neglect the other.”

It was in the context of language that Ferrer-Silva realized she wanted to work in diplomacy, which paved the way to her attending GPS. She outlined how working as an interpreter at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games inspired her to become a diplomat.  She began researching which graduate schools could help her reach that goal, and she ultimately landed on GPS.

“It was the best and most competitive school to study the Pacific Rim,” she recalled.

Even as the curriculum and international affairs have both changed tremendously in the intervening years, Ferrer-Silva said that the core competencies that are integral to a GPS education still serve her well.

“Everything I learned at GPS and during my postings has come back full circle to help me in my career,” she said. 

As for students embarking on their own careers, she gave this advice: “Live your life being at peace with dedicating your time to just causes and being brave enough to stand up for them.”

Jordan Chu, Master of Public Policy ’24, delivered the student speech after his classmates chose him to give the send-off address.

In his address, Chu spoke about how GPS not only equips its graduates with lifelong professional contacts, but it also provides a setting where students get to know each other on a more personal level as they attend class, participate in events and collaborate on projects together.

“These memories in the grand tapestry of our lives will outlast any LinkedIn connection,” he said.

Chu also spoke to his classmates about the impact they will have, especially when it comes to implementing solutions that lead to a peaceful and prosperous global community.

“In a chaotic world, it is easy to be discouraged and to give up on ourselves when the future looks uncertain,” he said. “However, even when the odds are against us, it is our responsibility to move forward and spread positivity.”

Freund, in her remarks, highlighted that even in an age marked by conflict, the education that the graduates received at GPS prepares them to do the hard work of finding peaceful solutions to even the most intractable problems. 

“I am hopeful because many of you will go on to careers in public service, whether now or later in your career, whether here or abroad,” Freund said. “You will take with you what you have learned about the world, about differing political systems, about conflict resolution, about economic development and about equity.”

Freund also highlighted the concrete skills that the graduates acquired during their time studying at GPS. 

“While no graduate program can prepare its students for every issue that will arise in the future, we have equipped you with an analytical toolkit,” she said. 

This toolkit includes the ability to interpret data, appreciate cultural diversity in all its forms and collaborate with peers to achieve goals.

“You have what it takes to make evidence-based decisions that will ultimately move our society in a positive direction,” she added.

For those reading on a desktop computer, hover your cursor over the image below to scroll through the photo gallery.

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View additional images from the ceremony and reception here.

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