Yesterday, during an asynchronous ceremony, GSPIA celebrated its graduate and doctoral students. This was the first virtual graduation ceremony in the School’s history. 

Dr. John T.S. Keeler was lauded as it is his final year as dean after serving GSPIA for 13 years and graduating over 2,000 students. We also bid farewell to outgoing Student Cabinet President Paul Donnelly. 

Of Keeler's tenure as dean, alumnus Wallied Shirzoi (MPIA '10) said, "Dean Keeler has dedicated, mentored and inspired students to become leaders in the world of public and international affairs. As the 2010 Student Cabinet President, I reached out to fellow graduates and they too celebrate Dean Keeler’s success. We are thankful for his efforts in growing and expanding GSPIA. We commend his hiring of faculty that accentuate the blending of operational experiences and traditional academics. Most importantly, we applaud his dedication to connecting GSPIA students to GSPIA alumni."

During our virtual ceremony, we celebrated our three Dean’s Award winners. Out of the top-ranking students from each degree program, this honor is awarded by the GSPIA Awards Committee to the student deemed best in the overall graduating class. They include: 

Samantha Monks (Master of International Development)

Kaitlin Powers (Master of Public and International Affairs/ Master of Public Health)

• Emma Yourd (Master of Public Administiration). 

Alumnus Dan Flaherty was recognized as GSPIA’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner. Flaherty currently works for the Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, serves as a member of GSPIA's Board of Visitors, and is a Master of Public and International Affairs graduate, Class of 1999. 

During his speech, he imparted advice to the graduating class to — "Enjoy this moment. You've worked hard. You've got your prize. Be proud of your accomplishment." 

Of Flaherty's impact on the school, graduate Kaelyn Vitale (MPIA '20) told a story about how he was quick to respond and connect her to his contacts at the Department of State when she got an interview there this spring.

"Dan is committed to pushing GSPIA forward, providing students with opportunities and guidance. He has served on the Board of Visitors and he is a staple in the DC Spring Break Trip. However, his commitment to student success doesn’t just take place during spring break or two days in April when the board meets. He has continually displayed a genuine interest in students," Vitale said. 

Alumna Beth Rossman also delivered her commencement speech virtually. She graduated from GSPIA in 1987, recently retired as Vice President, Global Government Relations - Aerospace, Honeywell, is a past Distinguished Alumni Award Winner and current GSPIA Board of Visitors member.

In her speech she told graduates that during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the post-pandemic world, society will need students like this class of GSPIAns more than ever. 

"My key message for you today — especially in these trying and challenging times — embrace the f-word, flexibility. GSPIA gave me so many important skills to go out into the workforce and I had an incredible career when I left GSPIA, although not one that followed my plans exactly," Rossman said. 

Of Rossman, Dean's Award Winner Kaitlin Powers said, "As a distinguished alumna and a member of our Board of Visitors, she serves as an excellent example of how we can use our education to make significant contributions to our society. Her generosity afforded me the opportunity to take an internship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where I was able to apply my skills and learn about the importance of service. This experience also helped me land my current position at USAID, which has been my dream job."

This year's faculty and staff awards are as follows: 

The Donald M. Goldstein Teacher of the Year Award: George Dougherty, Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Public Policy and Management Program 

• Staff of the Year, Dean's Office: Libby Hilf, Director of Alumni Relations and Development 

• Staff of the Year, Student Services & Career Services: Renee Kidney, Assistant Director of Student Services

Staff of the Year, Centers, Institutes & Initiatives: Diane Cohen, Assistant to the Director at Ford Institute for Human Security

Also recognized Thursday were the Pi Alpha Alpha inductees. PAA is the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. It recognizes outstanding undergraduate as well as graduate students in public administration, public policy, and public affairs. 

This year's inductees are: Kate Gascoine, Alexandra McCrossin, Melissa Ostrowski, and Emma Yourd.

The GSPIA community is encouraged to tune in to Pitt's Virtual Graduation Celebration this Sunday, April 26 at 11:30 a.m. to celebrate with the entire Pitt community. Congrats to Prince Matthews (MPA '20), who was selected to be Pitt's 2020 Graduate Commencement Speaker.