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Celebrating the Class of 2021

May 26, 2021

Distinguished Commencement Speaker:
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization

The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) held its commencement ceremony honoring the hard work, perseverance, and accomplishments of the Class of 2021 on May 26, 2021. Once again, health and safety guidelines due to COVID-19 prohibited faculty, staff, friends, and family of the Class of 2021 from gathering in person, but hundreds of viewers joined the virtual celebration. 

Johns Hopkins SAIS Dean Eliot A. Cohen opened the ceremony referencing the unprecedented challenges the SAIS community experienced over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic. He praised the Class of 2021 for learning and completing coursework virtually during difficult times. Dean Cohen also commended the graduates on the variety of ways they have contributed to the world around them, ranging from social movements to professional endeavors. He concluded his remarks by praising the students and faculty for making SAIS more important and relevant than ever before.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, delivered the commencement address, telling the graduates the world needs their ideas and service. She recounted difficulties she has endured throughout her career as the first woman or first African in many positions, noting that the challenges have been worth it to help people. To end her address, Okonjo-Iweala reminded the graduates they have the tools to make a difference and urged them "to be hopeful, to be courageous, to be passionate, to be principled, to go out into the world and make change."

Maya Allaf, Student Government Association President, provided remarks outlining what the Class of 2021 experienced, ranging from attending classes virtually to witnessing social unrest domestically and globally. She also described the inspiration and pride she derives from being a member of a graduating class that demonstrated its resiliency and openness to challenges.

Following Allaf’s remarks, Dean Cohen was honored as the Founders Award recipient in recognition of his service, support, and contributions during his three-plus decade tenure at the school. Sheila Thalhimer, director of the Sydney R. and Elsa Mason Library, was recognized as the Dean's Award for Exemplary Service honoree for her efforts over the last year to ensure library resources were accessible to students and faculty during the pandemic. The SAIS Office of Student Life also announced its annual awards recognizing the outstanding achievements of students and faculty members.

Anthony Rini delivered the student address, noting what the Class of 2021 accomplished by earning SAIS degrees and calling on the graduates to use their degrees to help others. Rini concluded his speech by challenging his fellow graduates to change the world with one small act of kindness and justice at a time.

SAIS Europe held commencement exercises for its graduates on May 22, 2021. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center will hold its graduation ceremony on June 18, 2021.

Johns Hopkins SAIS 2021 Commencement Ceremony