A celebration of the Classes of 2023: Service, gratitude, and doing difficult things

May 3, 2023

On Sunday, April 30, hundreds of joyful supporters—parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers, friends, spouses, children, faculty, staff, and others—gathered in the beautiful Hill Auditorium to celebrate 189 outstanding graduates that make up the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Classes of 2023. New graduates include four PhDs, 107 Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Affairs degrees, and 78 Bachelor of Arts in public policy degrees.

Interim Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes recognized the accomplishments of the new graduates and called them to action to use their gifts, talents, skills, and platforms to create positive change. “The Classes of 2023 are resilient. They care about each other and about the world. And, they care about service. After all, ‘Service to others is the rent that we pay for living on this earth.’”

Keynote speaker Annie Maxwell (AB ’00, MPP ’02), executive vice president of Omidyar Network, commended Ford School graduates for choosing the path of service. “I find myself looking at a class of individuals, who looked at this broken and fragmented world and said, ‘we can do hard stuff.’ I can tell you, that’s not the call a lot of people have made. And it makes me optimistic for the future to be with this group.”

In addition to thinking about the issues and places they would like to work, Maxwell called on the graduates to “get good at being bad at something and be ok with it,” to “get good at people” and seek out diverse groups to help solve wicked problems, and to practice gratitude.

“Innovation happens not in the center of fields, but on the boundaries and that’s true in great policy as well,” she said. “By folks who are not necessarily the expert in the work, but those who are able to cross different disciplines, fields, sectors, geographies. And that work at the boundaries means being ok with not knowing everything, at trying something new, at being bad at it, but soaking in all you can. It’s where creativity lies, where innovation lies.”


Other elected speakers included:

  • Morela Hernandez, Ligia Ramirez de Reynolds Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and faculty director of the Leadership Initiative, elected faculty speaker 
  • Aissa Laouan Wandarama (MPP '23), elected graduate speaker
  • Joe Timmer (BA ‘23), elected undergraduate speaker

Congratulations, graduates! Go Blue! 


Related content:

Watch the 2023 spring commencement ceremony

Watch memories from the 2022-2023 academic year