School of International Affairs celebrates Class of 2022

SIA Class of 2022
The SIA Class of 2022 celebrates following the Graduate Recognition Ceremony on May 8. IMAGE CREDIT: Ken Kalbach/Penn State School of International Affairs

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) celebrated the Class of 2022 at a Graduate Recognition Ceremony on May 8 in the Lewis Katz Building. Around 140 faculty, staff, friends, and family members attended the ceremony to support and cheer on the graduating class.

A total of 46 graduates completed their studies this spring, including 45 who are earning a Master of International Affairs degree and one who is completing an International Affairs Graduate Certificate. In addition, 14 SIA students anticipate completing a master’s degree in August 2022.

Interim Dean James W. Houck
Interim Dean James W. Houck addresses the Class of 2022. IMAGE CREDIT: Ken Kalbach/Penn State School of International Affairs

"The Class of 2022 is an impressive group of students who have contributed enormously to the intellectual and civic life of our university community, and it is with great pleasure that we celebrate and recognize their accomplishment," said James W. Houck, interim dean of the School of International Affairs and Penn State Law in University Park. “I am confident that they will contribute to the world in positive ways as members of the SIA and Penn State family.”

This year’s graduating class is a global cohort that includes residents of Canada, China, India, Lebanon, Morocco, and a U.S. permanent resident originally from Gabon.

During their time at SIA, the graduates pursued diverse academic concentrations, including African development, dispute resolution, energy and international policy, international business and economics, international cybersecurity, international law, and women’s studies, among many others.

“Graduation is a wonderful time to recognize the accomplishments of our students and an opportunity to wish our students well as they take their place in the international affairs community prepared to serve with intelligence, integrity, and honor,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, interim director of SIA and associate professor of international affairs.

During the ceremony, Ransom presented the SIA Academic Achievement Award, given to the graduate with the highest GPA in the class. This year, three graduates shared that distinction: Abigail Trzyzewski, Adam VanGorder, and Steven Zhang.

VanGorder, who completed a Master of International Affairs degree with a concentration in international energy development, was also selected as this year’s graduate student speaker. During his time at SIA, VanGorder served under two SIA professors as a project associate and a research assistant, completed several internships at energy and development organizations, and, along with fellow 2022 graduate Megan Soetaert, was awarded the Professional Master’s Excellence Award from the Penn State Graduate School.

Elizabeth Ransom and Adam VanGorder
SIA Interim Director Elizabeth Ransom (left) and Class of 2022 graduate Adam VanGorder. IMAGE CREDIT: Ken Kalbach/Penn State School of International Affairs

In his speech, VanGorder emphasized his cohort’s perseverance, interdisciplinary knowledge, and readiness to make a difference in the world.

“No matter the specialization, SIA celebrates its students’ wealth of knowledge and fosters an environment where these diverse specializations are encouraged,” he said. “The challenges of the pandemic made us adaptable and agile, and from that posture we are suited to address the mounting threats to society.”

While graduation is a day of excitement and celebration, many students also took a moment to reflect on their time at SIA and how it will shape their future.

“We learned how to stand up for what we believe in and to continue to be the voice for the voiceless,” said Jasmine Green, outgoing president of the SIA Student Government Association (SGA) who also was a founding member of the Black Student Association (BSA) within SIA, serving as its secretary for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“I know that all of us will go forth as diplomats, government officials, leaders, and educators and change the world,” she said.

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