BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Undergraduate and graduate students in the Class of 2022 celebrated their accomplishments in O’Neill’s recognition ceremonies.
O’Neill families and friends gathered at two ceremonies to recognize the academic achievements of the O’Neill Class of 2022 at the Indiana University Auditorium. The events took place in-person after two years of virtual celebrations.
Graduates will remember their time at O’Neill as one marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The perseverance of students to complete college courses as the pandemic shut down many aspects of college life served as a reminder of the strength of the Class of 2022.
“I’d like to thank all of the parents, families, and loved ones for your unwavering belief and support that helped to propel these individuals to this moment in the face of a pandemic that disrupted their lives,” said Siân Mooney, dean of the O’Neill School at the undergraduate ceremony. “It is a testament to the character of each and every student here – you persevered despite the disruptions to your college career, and I could not be prouder.”
The O’Neill School recognized 619 bachelor’s degree recipients Friday evening.
Shibani Mody was the student speaker at the undergraduate ceremony. Mody, a BSPA graduate, spoke about her time at IU which included volunteer work at Middle Way House, Shatter the Silence, and multiple task forces and student boards.
“We all came here from different countries, states, and families, yet we all had one mission: To find out who we really are and to find out who we want to be in this world,” Mody said. “We all made the decision to go into public service because we felt a calling to make an impact in our community.”
Mody’s college story didn’t begin at IU, but after transferring to the O’Neill School, she found opportunity and purpose. IU was the place where she learned to take her passions and turn them into actions.
“Unity is the most powerful tool we have in bringing change, and life is not life if you are not happy,” Mody said. “Our world has become a more progressive and equitable place, but we still have much work to do. Speak up for one another and yourself in the workplace. Do not be silent when you see injustice. Believe survivors. Fight for the right to choose. Advocate for a cause bigger than yourself. But most importantly, know that what you do matters, your voice matters.”
The Saturday morning ceremony celebrated 10 doctoral degree recipients, 199 master’s degree recipients, and six graduate certificate recipients.
Minahil Sana Qasim, an MPA graduate, gave remarks on behalf of graduate students. A Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan, she works as an intern in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado and plans to return to Pakistan to promote equitable energy access.
“Today, those unending days of poring through reams of readings, the weekends spent writing policy papers, and the countless hours studying for our exams have finally been done with,” Qasim said. “We now embark into a world full of possibilities with the knowledge to serve the greater good from the top school in this nation.”
Qasim talked about the support of her grandmother, mother, and sister, and she dedicated her MPA to them. She also addressed the pollution issues in her home country and how her O’Neill degree can help her lead her communities back home into a cleaner, greener future.
“When I would share the problems that people in my country faced with my colleagues here at O’Neill, they took it upon themselves as policymakers of the future to fully understand these problems and only then to propose solutions to such complex problems,” Qasim said. “The sheer conviction that you can solve any problem you set your mind to was something I only read in books, but it was something that I found here at the O’Neill school every single day. To take a problem that is new to you, that you don’t fully understand, and then to examine it until you find possible pathways to solve it is what bound us all as graduate students, no matter where we were, no matter who we were, no matter where we came from.”
Christina Mendoza, BSPA’00, was presented the 2022 Distinguished Undergraduate Alumni Award during the undergraduate ceremony. Andrew Recinos, Jacobs BM’93, MAAA’95, was honored with the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award during the graduate ceremony. Both gave remarks to the graduating class on behalf of the O’Neill Alumni Association.
“There are more than 37,000 O’Neill graduates in the U.S. and abroad, and let me say, every day our alumni leave me awestruck,” Mendoza said. “O’Neill grads are leading federal, state, and local agencies and non-governmental organizations by using their management skills to advance arts organizations, protect natural resources, improve air and water quality in our communities, increase global food security and affordable housing, advance the cause of social equity and justice, and so much more. I am beyond excited to see what you all do with your O’Neill degrees.”
Recinos encouraged graduates to give back to future O’Neill students.
“You have the passion, the perseverance, the resilience, and the preparation to step into the world and do inspiring work,” Recinos said. “As leaders for the greater good, we would ask you to stay involved with the school and share your expertise with those that follow you, each with a different dream. Guest speaking, serving on career panels, providing informational interviews, leading IU Day events… there are so many ways that you can be an alumni leader and strengthen our IU impact.”
O'Neill's Executive Associate Dean Brad Heim closed the graduate ceremony with one last request of the attendees.
“I challenge our new graduates to leave O’Neill with a heightened sense of civic responsibility and to act on solving the most difficult problems of our time, whether they concern the future of the arts, the future of the healthcare system, the future of our communities, or the future of our planet,” Heim said. “This is why our school exists. This is why students come to the O’Neill school. You, the students, have become such leaders. I will leave here today confident in our future, because of you, and I am extremely proud of all of you.”
Recordings of the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies are available at broadcast.iu.edu.
Ken Bikoff, Faculty Liaison and Public Relations Officer
Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs | Indiana University
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
The O’Neill School is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2023 "Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs" by U.S. News & World Report, the O'Neill School is the top-ranked program in the country. Five of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including top-ranked concentrations in environmental policy and management; nonprofit management; and public finance.