Congratulations to the 2023 Global Studies Graduates!

a collage of photos featuring the global studies graduates

The Institute of Global Studies celebrated the diverse undergraduate journeys, accomplishments and aspirations of the class of 2023 in its annual departmental graduation ceremony on May 11.

The event drew about 100 attendees to an Anderson Library conference room adorned with world flags and filled with food from Vittles Catering. Each student walked the stage to receive a world map and had the opportunity to say a few words of thanks.

“We’ve always tried to create a sense of community among our students, and having a special recognition of students’ completion of their degrees continues that sense of community,” said IGS Director Evelyn Davidheiser.

In her welcome speech, Davidheiser mentioned the unpredictable circumstances these graduates overcame, with the pandemic beginning during their freshman year. The small IGS gathering gave students the opportunity to celebrate their resilience in an intimate setting with their family, friends, and classmates.

“Our students come from unique backgrounds, they tend to have unique study abroad experiences, they spend a lot of time working in the community and engaging with a lot of the big questions about justice and equity in the world,” said Global Studies advisor Danielle Dadras. “And so, there should be something special to celebrate those students.”

Celebrating Unique Undergrad Journeys

Individual recognition at graduation can be particularly impactful for those with non-traditional undergraduate journeys. One such student was Jada Brown, who took center stage as the event’s first-ever student musical performer. She opened the ceremony singing original songs with bandmate Colin Peters and later performed her new single “Elevated”, a reflection piece about her perseverance throughout college.      

Brown began her UMN career in the fall of 2015 and planned to graduate in the spring of 2020. She took a year off and worked in family services for the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, a local nonprofit organization. She waited to return until classes were no longer online, leading her to start her final year last fall.

Brown graduated with a Bachelor of Individualized Studies, combining three majors into her degree: Global Studies; Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies; and American Indian Studies, which she studied to connect to her Ojibwe culture.

“I liked how expansive and interconnected all those majors were,” Brown said. “In Global Studies, we learn how interdisciplinary everything is. All these systems are connected, so that's what I was really interested in.”

Another student who found his passion in Global Studies is Sakaria Ashiro. He attended the graduation event with his mother, siblings, wife and two young daughters.

Ashiro enrolled at UMN in 2004 but left after three semesters because his original major wasn’t inspiring him. For the following 16 years, he worked, traveled abroad and took college courses intermittently. He also got married and started his family.

When he returned to UMN in January 2020, he quickly gravitated toward Global Studies for its cross-cultural exploration of ideas.

Ashiro said he attributes much of his undergraduate success to Dadras, who helped him navigate class selection as a part-time student while working full-time. This fall, Ashiro will return to UMN for the Master of Public Affairs (Mid-Career) program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“One thing that I always believed in is everybody goes at their own pace,” Ashiro said. “I loved the 19, 20 years experience of undergrad.”

Facing the Future

During his commencement remarks, Professor Tom Wolfe highlighted how Global Studies encourages individuality. He gave the graduates a final assignment: to draw on their Global Studies experiences when defining the major to others, and to stay self-assured that the knowledge they acquired will set them on the right career path.

“After all, the future is a big question with no right answer,” Wolfe said. “When most people reach some august age and look back at their lives, they do not see a straight line, but a curvy one, full of dead-ends, detours, forks in the road and yield signs.”

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