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UNC MPA graduates celebrate Spring 2022 Commencement with return to in-person ceremony

Faculty, staff, family, and friends gathered on May 7, 2022, to celebrate the graduation of the UNC School of Government’s Master of Public Administration students. The event, held in person at the William and Ida Friday Center for the first time since 2019, celebrated the accomplishments of Summer 2021, Fall 2021, and Spring 2022 MPA graduates. Audiences also joined the ceremony remotely via livestream through the University.

View the recorded event here.

At the event, faculty member Carl W. Stenberg presented the Wright Research Paper Award, honoring the legacy of its namesake—former faculty member and public administration visionary Deil S. Wright. Stenberg presented the 2022 honor to Maurice “Bear” Tose for his paper, Examining Social Equity Performance Measures within NC Municipal Police Departments.

Graduation also plays host to an annual tradition in which the Alumni Association Board pins the graduates with their MPA program lapel pin as they process across the stage. Jennifer Fox ’19, board president, led this year’s pinning ceremony after graduates’ names were read.

In total, 25 students were pinned and hooded at the in-person ceremony and 63 were honored as UNC MPA graduates in the program.

 

“Step up and do it anyway”

Willow S. Jacobson, who took the helm as UNC MPA director in fall 2021, opened the ceremony with a message for her inaugural class of graduates: nurture the relationships, from near or afar, that helped get you across the stage.

“Look down the row of graduates and those around you,” she called upon the students. ”Some of these folks you've seen more in Zoom boxes than you've seen in person, but this is a set of individuals who have served as colleagues, as classmates, and as friends. They will continue to be a support network and a resource for you.”

Jacobson congratulated the graduates for persevering through an unconventional educational experience, urging them to remind themselves of this feat when confronting the inevitable challenges ahead in public service.

“I want to ask you to reflect for a moment on all that you've learned and gained over your time in the program,” she posited. “As I reflect on the challenges you will face, I know you will face hard things. I know you will feel fear at times, and I know you will step up and do it anyway. That is what public service leaders do. They step up and do it anyway.”

 

“Confidence, humility, and integrity” – the legacy of UNC MPA

In the ceremony’s keynote address, former faculty member and Albert Coates Professor Emeritus of Public Administration and Government David N. Ammons commended the students for their successful completion of the degree, particularly in the face of recent unprecedented challenges in the fields of higher education and public service.

“We admire this class for your intelligence, resilience, positive attitude, and your grit. The hand you were dealt included a pandemic. That wasn't the hand you wished for, but you played your hand very well,” he remarked. “I trust that you've established lasting bonds and that the graduate education you've received will provide a foundation for a wonderful career.”

Closing his address, Ammons dispensed graduates with his three essential traits of a successful public servant: confidence, humility, and integrity.

Ammons advised the students, “Walk a line drawn from both humility and confidence. Let's not make this mixture a heavy dose of humility tempered by a dash of confidence. Let's make it confidence tempered by humility.”

 

A Parting Address to Graduates of the “Best” MPA Program in the World

In his last Spring commencement as dean of the School, Mike Smith took to the podium to address the graduates. Before him, Smith remarked, were future public service leaders “from the best MPA program in the world.”

“The reason I say this is because the faculty prepare you in ways that are both totally rooted in theory combined with practical knowledge and skills,” he said. “Those two things certainly don't come together in most other programs.”

With Smith stepping down from his leadership duties at the end of 2022, he expressed his optimism that the field of public administration would be in good hands with the battle-tested next generation of leaders seated in front of him.

“I want to thank you for choosing public service at a difficult time when we need really talented people,” he remarked. “But what an opportunity. [Our nation] has fundamental issues and challenges that need to be addressed and you have a chance to make a difference.”

"It is important and hard, and it will be challenging, but you're prepared for it,” he concluded. “You're up for it. I have no doubt that will make your success even more important and it will make it even more satisfying that you did it in a time that was challenging.”

 

The School of Government and UNC MPA program extend their congratulations to all its recent graduates and look forward to bearing witness to their accomplishments as public servants.