Event Highlight

SIPA Graduates Gather for Alumni Day 2024

By Giulia Campos MIA ’24 and Helena Hussey MIA ’24
Posted May 01 2024
Alumni Day class of 2009
photo: David Dini


Graduates from the 1970s through 2023 gathered on campus for the annual SIPA Alumni Day and Reunion Dinner on April 20. The program featured a keynote conversation with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who represented the United States in Ukraine from 2016 to 2019, while Gabriela Rocha MPA-DP ’13 and Katie Napolitano MIA ’08 received the 2024 Alumni Awards. Another highlight was the sold-out class reunion dinner in Low Library’s Rotunda, attended by nearly 300 guests.

The day began with a lunch and keynote program attended by about 250 alumni and friends, followed by a series of panel discussions. All told, more than 340 guests attended the program and/or dinner, including more than 40 alumni from 22 countries outside the United States and 100 or so US-based alums from outside the New York metro area. While most attendees had graduated in the last 30 years, the earliest class represented was 1975.

In her fireside chat with Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo, Ambassador Yovanovitch — who is also a Carnegie Distinguished Fellow at SIPA’s Institute of Global Politics — discussed the war in Ukraine and the spirit of the Ukrainian people defending their country.

“[Keren] and others have very kindly thanked me for being here [as a Fellow] but, in fact, I got much more out of it. Being around students is energizing and uplifting because it gives me hope for the future,” Ambassador Yovanovitch said in her opening remarks.

The evening’s highlights included countless selfies of Seeples, toasts to the reunion class years ending in 4 and 9, a special tribute from the class of 2009 to classmate Paola Roldan MPA-ESP ’09, and the opportunity for alumni to come together to celebrate their time at SIPA and hear about the successes of fellow classmates.

The day kicked off with lunch and welcome remarks by Habib Enayetullah MPA ’91, who chairs the SIPA Alumni Association and is also a member of SIPA’s Advisory Board. The afternoon featured four panel discussions with faculty members, alumni experts, and students, who discussed pressing global issues, ranging from energy insecurity to the rapid advance of Artificial Intelligence.

The SIPA Alumni Association also introduced a new award — the Service to SIPA Award — awarded posthumously to Peter Sang MPA-EPM ’10, and received by his family.

Alumni Day honorees
2024 honorees included Katie Napolitano MIA ’08 and Gabriela Rocha MPA-DP '13. / photo: Sirin Samman

Other SIPA alumni were also recognized for their incredible leadership. This year the Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Katie Napolitano MIA ’08, cofounder and co-executive director of Fair Futures, a coalition of more than 100 organizations that has been cited as the largest cross-sector collaboration and most successful youth-led advocacy movement in the history of child welfare. 

“Those who chose to study at SIPA represent so many different cultures, ethnicities, personalities and backgrounds,” Napolitano said during her speech. “And yet, we are a community of like-minded souls. What we have in common is curiosity and an ability to be comfortable with exploring the unknown. It’s not just about the policies that we enact, or the initiatives that we launch, or the technology we develop — it’s about the people behind them.” 

Gabriela Rocha MPA-DP ’13 was also recognized for her career transforming the lives of marginalized groups. As the cofounder (with fellow SIPA alumni) and CEO of Laboratoria, Rocha received the Emerging Leader Award for her organization’s work empowering women who dream of a better future to start and grow transformative careers in technology. With operations in 11 countries, Laboratoria strives to achieve a more diverse and inclusive digital economy that can transform Latin America’s future. 

“As a society, we lose out when we can’t see and we can’t hear the voices of those making change. When we shy away, it keeps everyone from acknowledging the phenomenal things women are doing every single day” Rocha said. 

Yarhi-Milo greeted guests at lunch by extending a warm welcome to all attendees and reflecting on the challenges and triumphs of the past year, emphasizing the importance of civil discourse and open debate within the SIPA community.

"Universities are vital places to hold these sometimes difficult conversations," she said, "but we must ensure that students’ voices are heard and that we nourish an atmosphere that encourages civil discourse and open debate."

Watch the keynote conversation between Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo: