The Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy’s faculty cheer as members of the school’s third graduating class file into Bailey Hall for their commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

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Brooks School celebrates third graduating class during Bailey Hall ceremony

The Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy celebrated its third graduating class on Saturday, May 25, 2024, as part of Cornell University graduation ceremonies. The afternoon celebration at Bailey Hall honored 279 graduates who received Bachelor’s degrees in Health Care Policy and Policy Analysis and Management and graduate degrees in Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Administration, and Ph.D. in Public Policy and in Economics.

Brooks School Dean Colleen Barry poignantly opened the proceedings by asking all of the graduates who had missed out on prior graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic to stand and be recognized for their achievements, past and present. Nearly the entire class of undergraduates stood, as faculty, staff, and guests applauded.

“You are our third graduating class. When you arrived at Cornell – depending on the length of your degree – our School either hadn’t been established yet or it was just getting off the ground. It amazes me to think about how much has changed in such a short time. I hope you feel the same pride I do to have been here at the very beginning. It is not often that an Ivy League University decides to start a brand-new school. We are all part of something special, something unusual,” Dean Barry said.

Cornell University Board of Trustees Co-Vice Chair Peggy Koenig ‘78– who recently pledged $5 million to endow a named directorship for the Brooks School’s Center on Global Democracy at Cornell, and chairs the Jeb E. Brooks School’s Dean’s Advisory Committee– attended the ceremony alongside fellow Cornell University Trustee Valisha Graves ’85. Koenig introduced the recipients of the John Siliciano Student Leadership Awards, which recognize graduating undergraduate and graduate Brooks School students who display leadership through stellar academic achievement, public engagement, and distinguished service to the university.

The John Siliciano Student Leadership Award recipients were:

  • Nikita Zachariah HCP '24 and Riya Patel PAM '24
  • MHA: Lyla Saxena MHA '24
  • MPA: Mollie Montague MPA '24
  • PhD: Megan Hyland 

The winners of the 2024 John Siliciano Student Leadership Awards pose with Brooks Dean Colleen Barry, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (interim) Gustavo Flores-Macias, and Cornell Trustee Peggy Koenig ‘78.

During her remarks, Dean Barry exhorted the graduates to use their knowledge to create a better world as she referenced the challenges of the past year, when student protests swept campuses across the country.

​​"Our purpose is to educate future policy leaders with the capacity to articulate views on the important topics of the day. With the skills of effective communication, persuasion, and negotiation. But, also, with the ability to acknowledge nuance and contradiction at the heart of every major conflict and the willingness to genuinely listen to differing perspectives. To listen with some humility and openness to the possibility that our views may shift through respectful dialogue. At their best, policy schools like ours can be the drivers, the mediators, and the critics of a continuously changing world,” Barry said.

Finally, after the graduating class members had received one last resounding applause, Dean Barry reminded everyone what it means to be part of the Brooks School community, urging them to return to the school and to stay involved in its life as alumni.

“There is no greater pleasure for us than to watch you thrive. Find ways to stay connected with your classmates, they offer a powerful network that can serve you in your careers. Become mentors to future classes of Brooks School students. At some point, come back again here to Bailey Hall, stand alone in this beautiful building and remember your graduation day. What it took to get here. What you accomplished while you were here. And how you have used your degree to make the world a better place,” Barry said.

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