MPP Commencement Speaker: Katherine Nace, MPP’24

May 20, 2024

Katherine Nace, MPP'24, in graduation cap and gown

Good evening to all our guests here tonight—Dean Madison, faculty and staff, family and friends, and of course, our Heller graduates to whom I want to extend another congratulations!

Today, I stand before you as a representative of the Master of Public Policy program. While I am deeply honored and humbled to have the opportunity to address you tonight, I would be remiss if I claimed that I fully embody the scope of my colleagues’ experiences and perspectives. Within our cohort of graduates, there is a wide range of backgrounds, passions, and visions for the future.

Despite the diversity of our interests, we are united by a common commitment to engage in meaningful work that contributes to positive change in our world. This shared dedication is what characterizes Heller as an extraordinary community—a place where individuals with multifaceted viewpoints come together to ask challenging questions and contemplate the unique role each of us plays in effecting change, both within our work and in the wider world.

Policy work is a delicate balance between envisioning a better world and operating within the constraints of the current reality. Over the past two years, we've faced numerous challenges, both within our campus and in society at large. These real-world policy dilemmas have permeated our communities, classrooms, and even our emotions. Yet, despite these challenging times, the unwavering support of our faculty, staff, and peers kept us grounded, supported, and focused.

As I considered the significance of graduation and what I’ll carry forward from this experience, I reached out for the insights of my MPP colleagues so we could all collectively reflect on this moment.

These are their words, my words, our words.

This program and experience have helped us bridge gaps in knowledge and acquire tangible skills essential for entering the field of policy. It has clearly demonstrated the widespread concern for these complex issues, and the number of individuals motivated to pursue degrees and careers aimed at tackling them. Furthermore, this experience has equipped us with the power and capability to critique and dismantle restrictive policies that perpetuate oppression. It has broadened our appreciation for the opportunity to delve deeply into pressing societal issues while navigating the nuances inherent in policy analysis and implementation. Importantly, beyond gaining concrete skills and knowledge, we are taking with us the invaluable relationships created in the Heller community, all of which made this experience much more valuable and fulfilling.

Graduation marks our entry into the next phase of our lives. It signifies changing narratives and continues the model for future cohorts with diverse backgrounds to uphold. Completing this degree affirms our readiness and preparation to embark on careers in policy work, involving career pivots for many of us, and builds upon our previous work and life experiences. This milestone prompts reflection on both the past and the future, signifying both the end of this chapter, and the beginning of a whole new book. As one of my colleagues described it (thank you, Abraham!), undergrad was like leaving the Earth and venturing into space. Now, it is time for us to go beyond our solar system and explore the galaxy.

So, 2024 graduates of the Heller School, we have the skills, we have the knowledge, and we have the passion. While learning is still a life-long journey, let us go forward with confidence and explore the galaxy. Congratulations! Thank you.