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Commencement ceremony celebrates the Class of 2023 with keynote address from trailblazer Rear Admiral Ronne Froman-Blue, who paved the way for women in the military

Family, friends and loved ones gathered Sunday, June 18, for the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) commencement ceremony at LionTree Arena. 

GPS Dean Caroline Freund congratulated this year’s 211 graduates on their achievements in both their academic programs and other activities, reminding them of all they learned during their graduate program — from understanding the limitations of existing data to knowing how to work with others who bring much-needed skills to the table. 

“And you, in turn, have brought a discovery-driven mindset to your coursework,” Freund added. “Because of your diverse life experiences, you brought a unique perspective to the classroom — one that enriched your peers and challenged them to think differently and push past the status quo.”

Rear Admiral Ronne Froman-Blue speaking at the GPS Class of 2023 commencement ceremony
Rear Admiral Ronne Froman-Blue speaking at the GPS Class of 2023 commencement ceremony

A Navy admiral who broke glass ceilings

Freund then introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Ronne Froman-Blue

“Admiral Froman-Blue is someone who has broken so many glass ceilings that I think she must have been scratched more than once — but that did not stop her,” Freund said. 

Froman-Blue shared that the plans she had when she was sitting where the graduates were never materialized — and how grateful she was for that fact, as when one door closed, many others opened for her. 

“You don’t have to be so focused on just one thing because then your blinders will never let you see all the opportunities out there,” Froman-Blue said. “The world is constantly changing, and even doors that are unimaginable to you now will be open in the future.”

At the beginning of Froman-Blue’s 31-year Navy career, women couldn’t go to sea, couldn’t go into combat, couldn’t go to the Naval Academy and couldn’t fly airplanes — and there were no “lady admirals,” she quipped.  

“Today, these doors are open,” Froman-Blue explained. “Women are doing it all, and I hope that in some way by pushing on the door as soon as there was a crack, I was able to help pave their way.”

One throughline of her career — both in the Navy and afterward, working at a number of San Diego organizations like the area’s chapter of the Red Cross — was her focus on fixing problems and teambuilding. 

“I’m sure there are many fixers and builders among this graduating class today,” she said. “Make sure you find your strength — your superpower — and use it wherever you go.” 

Froman-Blue also reminded the graduates not to be afraid to take risks and lean into life’s adventures. 

“A ship is safe in port, but that is not what ships are for,” Froman-Blue said. “Sail out to sea and do good things for yourself, your family, your country and the world.”

‘We made it together’

Following Froman-Blue’s speech, Freund then introduced Master of Public Policy (MPP) candidate Peter Wilborn, the student commencement speaker as voted on by the Class of 2023. 

Wilborn spoke of his class’s abilities, strength and perseverance from the very beginning, as the students faced a daunting amount of challenging work. 

“And from there we began to grow: class to class, day to day, project to project, memo to memo, we would continue to look inward and ask ourselves some of the toughest questions we have probably ever had to ask,” Wilborn said. “Yet it’s with immense pride that I can say we made it together.”

Wilborn focused on that togetherness and how the class supported each other through the highs and lows, good times and bad. 

“We found a place where even though we would all be coming from different places and studying different things, we all saw that spark within each other that made us want to work that much harder and strive that much further,” Wilborn said. 

Wilborn concluded by reminding the graduating class that though their graduate studies have come to an end, the work itself is not done. 

“Inherently, public policy and international affairs require some of the strongest people and the wisest souls — people that can not only ask the tough questions about the world around us but who also seek answers where they were not sought before, and who take risks that may build bridges to nothingness today but will lay the foundation of solutions for tomorrow,” Wilborn said. 

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About author
Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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