News & Stories

SIPA Honors Class of 2024 in Evening Ceremony

Posted May 14 2024
SIPA students celebrate at Class Day 2024.
photo: Diane Bondareff


SIPA celebrated this year’s Class Day on May 13, conferring degrees on 846 graduates in a twilight ceremony at the University’s Baker Field Athletic Complex.

The site at the northern tip of Manhattan was a departure from the traditional location on the Morningside campus’s south lawn, but the graduates’ high spirits were undimmed. Supporting them all were enthusiastic family members and friends, a few thousand strong.

Guests arrived in daylight and watched with pride as the festivities continued through the gloaming and into the evening as hundreds of graduates took their turns crossing the stage.

Ian Bremmer was the featured speaker at Class Day 2024.
Ian Bremmer addresses the Class of 2024 / photo: Barbara Alper

Leading political scientist Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, was the featured speaker. In his address to the graduates he talked about a world riven by multiple conflicts — citing the war between Israel and Hamas, but also the ongoing carnage in Ukraine, overlooked war and famine in Sudan, gang violence in Haiti, and ethnic cleansing in Armenia. There are many claims on our attention, he said, and many failures of public policy to contemplate.

Bremmer, who is also an adjunct professor at the School, spoke pointedly about the war in the Middle East that had roiled Columbia and other campuses throughout the country in recent weeks and months.

“Wherever you come from, I’ve no doubt that you — SIPA graduates — know well that this conflict is deeply complex, with historical roots well beyond the fighting this year. And yet the nature of this conflict makes it useful to powerful interests in this country — useful to generate clicks, to capture attention, to sell ad space, to secure political advantage in this instant, without any attention to the long, slow slog of work and compromise that is the only path to peace.”

Bremmer turned a gimlet eye on the American political landscape, suggesting that public institutions are in decline because they have not been adequately tended.

All of you have something to offer. All of you can make a difference.
— Ian Bremmer

“Disinformation, conspiracies, and performative outrage are the most dangerous rot in the gardens of our institutions,” he said. “They will be impossible to eradicate if we huddle comfortably within our own bubbles, rejecting all the ideas and information that challenge us to question our assumptions, refusing to hear the other side.”

Bremmer ultimately exhorted the graduates to rise to a challenge to which there are no easy answers.

“Humans created these problems, and humans can solve them,” he said. “You must find different paths from those who came before you…. All of you have something to offer. All of you can make a difference.”

Orcun Dogmazer MIA '24 was the student speaker at Class Day 2024.
Orcun Dogmazer MIA ’24 addressed his classmates / photo: Diane Bondareff 

While change may not come quickly, Bremmer added, “each of us has a chance to use whatever talent and wisdom we have to learn what this world has to teach us… and to work with other people, especially those we disagree with, to build a more cooperative future.”

Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo had begun the festivities by congratulating the graduates in eight degree programs, including 27 members of the first class in SIPA’s new MPA in Global Leadership. “I could not be more proud and honored” to present and celebrate the Class of 2024, she said.

But the dean also acknowledged the recent unrest on campus and the divisions in our society.

“These moments of uncertainty and polarization and raw emotions give real opportunities for people to grow and for true leaders to emerge,” she said.

It may be comforting to seek those who think as we do, she added, but “leaning into this comfort results in going through life unchallenged and unchanged.”

It would be far better, she said, for the new graduates to remember why they came to SIPA in the first place — to learn “alongside those from different cultures, from those who have different lived experiences, and those who hold different world views.

“As I like to say, if you find yourself in a room where everyone agrees with you, you are in the wrong room.”

If you find yourself in a room where everyone agrees with you, you are in the wrong room.
— Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo

It was therefore no surprise to see a few respectful expressions of political dissent among the graduates – but the sense of festivity was not compromised.

As in previous years, Yarhi-Milo had made a point to highlight those who supported the graduates in their journey, leading a round of applause for the gathered families and friends.

Student speaker Orcun Dogmazer MIA ’24 thanked his own family and reminisced about his late father in a moving speech.

He also talked about the sense of “magic” he felt as a member of the SIPA community, and called the Class of 2024 “a collective of dreamers, brought together by our shared ambition for a better future.

“As we stand on the brink of a new chapter, let us carry forward the spirit of dreaming big,” Dogmazer said.

The celebration continued the following morning at a reception on Ancell Plaza outside the International Affairs Building. A sense of familiarity descended as the broad terrace and tents filled with happy chatter in multiple languages, as the new graduates introduced friends to their families, spoke with professors, took photographs. The morning was bright and clear — truly a day to remember as SIPA’s Class of 2024 left the ranks of Columbia students and joined the community of 25,000 SIPA alumni around the world.

Watch the complete Class Day program: