Maxwell celebrates graduates, faculty at Commencement Weekend 2017

Service. Leadership. Citizenship. The core values of the Maxwell community were on display at the 163rd Syracuse University Commencement weekend celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of 2017 graduates and faculty.

The weekend began Friday with Maxwell’s 2017 Graduate Convocation honoring graduate students and PhDs across the school’s scholarly and professional programs. Dean David M. Van Slyke welcomed graduates, faculty staff and guests before inviting Aygul Mametnazarova (EMPA ’17) to provide the student greeting.  

In her remarks, Aygul retraced her path from Turkmenistan to Syracuse, sharing the personal challenges she faced and the “pillar of confidence” that kept her moving forward. She explained that her journey began at age 17 when her mother and other relatives were oppressed by the government and taken away for many years. “At that gloomy time, my life could have taken any path, limited to a disadvantaged existence. However, by very fortunate coincidence, I turned at the right place and met my future mentor, who modified my fear and confusion into action. I became a human rights advocate … That’s when my journey to Maxwell began, and that’s when I learned the lesson about the importance of support.”


Gladys McCormick, assistant professor of history and co-recipient of the 2017 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for Teaching and Research (with Azra Hrodmažić, assistant professor of anthropology) provided keynote remarks and echoed the themes of hard-won clarity of purpose, service and community, and the idea that “working on pressing human rights issues can’t solely be an intellectual exercise.”

McCormick, whose scholarship concentrates on Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean, shared how the experience of growing up in four different countries amid the wars in Central America of the 1980s shaped her research, teaching and scholarship.

“I teach about worst case scenarios, what happens when the rule of law breaks, when institutions fail, when governments collapse,” said McCormick. “Doing this type of research at Maxwell is thrilling because I’m not in an intellectual silo, and I can move between disciplines to get answers that I need from both students and faculty alike. … I can find audiences here including many of our graduates today that engage, or will engage, in making policy.”

The event also celebrated faculty leadership across departments, recognizing department chairs for their service, and announcing the appointment of Michael Wasylenko as Maxwell Advisory Board Professor of Economics.

“Professor Wasylenko has a long relationship with the Maxwell School: from his time as a graduate student earning his PhD in economics, to when he ultimately returned to Syracuse University as associate professor of economics in 1986,” Van Slyke said. “In the 31 years since his return, Mike has done every job in the building, from professor, to department chair, to associate dean, senior associate dean, interim dean, and in that time, he has contributed significantly to the life and the culture of the Maxwell School. Mike is selfless, humble, earnest, and deeply committed to high quality teaching and an enriching student experience.”


Celebrations continued throughout the weekend, with the College of Arts & Sciences/Maxwell School Undergraduate Convocation on Saturday, followed by All University Commencement on Sunday, with the Commencement Address given by civil rights lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr.

Jordan highlighted the many ways in which Syracuse University throughout the years has “illuminated the way forward” —from being among the first universities to admit women, to creating opportunities for veterans following World War II, to the excellent preparation offered through its schools. Of Maxwell, he remarked, “For more than 90 years, the way forward for our country has come from the prestigious Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and it has been embodied by Syracuse University professors like the great Ralph Ketcham, who taught here for more than 60 years. Professor Ketcham passed away only a few weeks ago, but spent his career passing along the values and virtues of what it means to be an engaged citizen in our democracy.”


Farrell Greenwald Brenner ’17 from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School delivered the student address during Commencement. Graduating with degrees in gender studies and citizenship and civic engagement, Brenner celebrated the spirit of activism at Syracuse: “I am dedicating this to the troublemakers graduating here today. And there is a long tradition of troublemaking here at Syracuse University…. I am thinking of the kind of trouble that challenges the status quo; that makes people uncomfortable. I am thinking of the kind of trouble that is hard to make, but that ultimately creates ripples.”