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Celebrating the Class of 2023

May 24, 2023

On May 24, 2023, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) held its 79th commencement ceremony to honor and celebrate the hard work, perseverance, and accomplishments of the Class of 2023.

Some 3,000 members of the SAIS community—the graduates, family and friends, faculty, staff, and alumni—attended the commencement ceremony at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The school conferred degrees on more than 600 graduates in the Master of Arts in International Relations, Master of International Public Policy, Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance, Master of Arts in Global Policy, Master of Arts in Global Risk, Master of Arts in Sustainable Energy, Master of Arts in Strategy, Cybersecurity and Intelligence, and Doctorate programs. Fareed Zakaria, renowned journalist and bestselling author, delivered the commencement address.
SAIS Dean James B. Steinberg opened the ceremony with a recollection of how Bob Schieffer, also a renowned journalist, began his commencement remarks at another institution years ago. Steinberg quoted Schieffer’s words: “I love graduation day. It’s my favorite holiday. Everybody is happy; the students are relieved, the parents and families are overjoyed, and the faculty and staff can proudly send off a new crop of motivated young people out into the world.” 
Then the dean stated: “I couldn’t have said it better.” The graduating students eagerly welcomed his invitation to stand and applaud their families and friends who supported them in their education journey, as well as the faculty and staff whose dedication and commitment enriched their SAIS experience. Dean Steinberg also acknowledged the extraordinary support of the SAIS alumni community and the Board of Advisors. 
Students at Commencement 2023
The Class of 2023 is the last class graduating from the Massachusetts Avenue buildings that have been the school’s primary home in Washington, D.C. for 60 years. With SAIS relocating to 555 Pennsylvania Avenue later in the year, the dean reminded class members of a special open house planned for them in fall 2023. 
“One of the most rewarding parts of my job as I travel around this country and the world is to meet SAIS alumni and see the impact they are having in their chosen fields,” Steinberg noted. “I have every confidence that you will take your places in this long line of accomplishment as you move into a world of breathtaking change and complexity, armed with the skills and knowledge to help address the challenges and opportunities not just of today, but of decades to come.” 
Anika Penn, a 2010 SAIS graduate and the immediate past president of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association, urged the Class of 2023 to take full advantage of the entire university’s alumni network after graduation. “As the newest members of the alumni association, you will find many opportunities to create, celebrate, connect, and collaborate—both virtually and in person,” she said. “I hope you will remember that, wherever you go, there are Hopkins alums where you are, there are Hopkins alums doing what you do, and—perhaps most importantly—there are Hopkins alums doing what you want to do next. And we’re here to connect you with them and the university.” 
In her remarks, Fatimata Ndiaye, the Student Government Association’s president, extolled the atmosphere full of possibilities and the breadth of life experiences that fostered a strong sense of community among her classmates. Ndiaye noted that, while the Class of 2023 will not get to experience 555 Pennsylvania Avenue as students, they got to be part of the storied legacy of the buildings that housed the school for 60 years. “That is the beautiful chapter of SAIS history that we get to close as the Class of 2023.” 
Abi Rakheja, the student commencement speaker, urged his classmates to maintain a balanced approach, even as they pursue success in their careers. “Always take time for yourself,” he said, “and remember the most important things in your life: your family, your friends, and your health.” 
The ceremony also featured awards recognizing SAIS faculty, students, and staff. Among the honorees was Deborah Bräutigam, professor emerita in international political economy, who was recognized with the 2023 Founders Award, given to an individual who has provided extraordinary service to SAIS and made significant contributions to the school’s tradition of excellence. Setu van Lare-Hodges, assistant director of career management and employer engagement in the Office of Global Careers, received the Dean’s Award for Exemplary Service. 
A newly created honor, the Dean’s Special Achievement Award, went to staff in the departments of Information Technology, Campus Operations, and Mason Library, who will be transitioning to new roles at the university in 555 Pennsylvania Avenue this fall. A ceremony is scheduled for June 2023 to formally acknowledge these individuals and their significant service to SAIS over a combined total of more than 100 years. 
Class of 2023 graduate Yang Long Tan won two awards during the commencement ceremony: the Christian A. Herter Award, which honors a member of the second-year class with the most outstanding academic record during the first three semesters; as well as the William C. Foster Award, given to a member of the second-year class for sound scholarship and a record of leadership and distinguished service to SAIS. 
In his keynote commencement address, Fareed Zakaria discussed the challenges facing the international system in which China’s power has risen more significantly over the previous 33 years than anyone anticipated. On top of that, he said, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reintroduced the problem of one country defying the international system by seizing another’s territory—a problem widely assumed to have largely subsided after World War II. Zakaria noted that it will require an extraordinary level of understanding and skillful management to navigate the challenges of these new realities in the international system. He cited former President Franklin Roosevelt as an outstanding leader who commanded the unique set of skills—which Zakaria called “practical idealism”—needed to successfully reorder the world of his era. 
“I’m often asked in these situations to give practical advice,” Zakaria told the Class of 2023. “I really have none. I have no idea whether you should work in an investment bank, a hedge fund, the U.S. government, a foreign government. But what I do know is that the things that people value over time in life is what they have always valued.… It’s people who are honorable, who work hard, who think big, who act with integrity. Those things haven’t changed, even though we’re in a world of AI and quantum computing and bioengineering. And so, if you use those as your lodestars and your north stars, I suspect you will find a way to make a good living, and more importantly, to make a good life.” 

SAIS Europe held its commencement ceremony in Bologna, Italy on May 20. The Hopkins-Nanjing Center will hold its ceremony in Nanjing, China on June 16, 2023.

2023 Commencement Awards

Commencement Social Wall

Commencement Photo Album

Students at Commencement 2023