Jump to Navigation

“IR/PS Celebrates Its Largest Graduating Class Since 1989”

June 24, 2013, IR/PS News

Click here to view a photo gallery.


Emily Murase, MPIA '90

More than 900 graduates, family members and guests participated in commencement activities at UC San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) on June 14 and 16.

The commencement weekend kicked-off with a reception for families and friends of the new graduates, which was held at the UC San Diego Faculty Club on June 14. This annual event is an opportunity to celebrate with fellow students, local alumni, faculty and staff. Special awards were given to outstanding students and the Class of 2013 was inducted into the alumni association. The evening concluded with the presentation of the prestigious IR/PS Alumni Association Outstanding Achievement Award to Emily Murase, MPIA ’90, an active public education advocate based in San Francisco.

On June 16, IR/PS Dean Peter Cowhey presided over the commencement ceremony at the UC San Diego RIMAC Arena and led the hooding of degree candidates with Barbara Walter, IR/PS Associate Dean. UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla conferred the degrees on 154 graduates, by far the largest graduating class at IR/PS.

Bowman Cutter, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Next American Economy Project at the Roosevelt Institute, was this year’s commencement speaker. Dennis Mello, MPIA ‘13, a former Peace Corps volunteer and U.S. Air Force civil engineering officer, delivered the class commencement speech.

Degrees and Awards

Of the 154 graduates, 120 earned a Master of Pacific International Affairs (MPIA), 28 earned a Master of Advanced Studies in International Affairs (MAS-IA), and 6 earned the Master of International Affairs (MIA).

Special awards were given to outstanding students:

  • Dechawuthi Dispanurat, Dean’s Teaching Award, best core curriculum teaching assistant as voted by 1st year class
  • Dechawuthi Dispanurat, Ayal Margalith Memorial Award for Leadership, greatest contribution to 1st year advancement and the IR/PS community
  • Dennis Mello, Grunwald Memorial Award, significant contributions in the promotion of inter-American understanding
  • Noah Miles Lazar Brennan, Allison Award, highest grade point average in the MPIA graduating class
  • Richard French, Language Achievement Award, outstanding achievement in language study
  • Chenhao Liu, The Econometrics Prize, best empirical paper
  • Adrian Pavia, The Writing Prize, best analytic paper
  • Aaron Bell, MAS-IA Academic Achievement, highest grade point average in the MAS-IA graduating class
  • Grant Shackelford and Sean Yiath, MAS-IA Peer Award, professionalism, scholarship, collegiality, integrity, and service

Each year, a faculty member who is held in high esteem by students, is honored with a teaching award. Krislert Samphantharak, professor of economics, received this year’s PIASO Faculty Recognition Award for Teaching Excellence.

Bowman Cutter

Commencement Addresses

In his commencement speech, economist and political thinker Bowman Cutter shared personal anecdotes and spoke to the new graduates about the importance of personal branding as they make their mark in the world.

“You focus in a way that my generation and my parents never did on building your own "brand," your own personal course. I suspect there are more students in classes on entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship at any one of many universities now than there were in the entire country when I was in college,” he remarked.

Personal branding is a concept of packing yourself strategically to advance your career. Cutter dismissed the general notion of personal branding as shallow or indicative of generational character flaw. He sees it as reflective of both the possibilities and challenges of the present generation.

“You actually will have the range of possibilities, the freedom of movement, and the tools to think realistically about a personal brand. You are probably the first generation in history to have that chance,” he noted.

Cutter went on to remind the audience of the responsibility that comes with creating your brands. “Your only true North Star will be to build your own brand and make your life’s run about what you love,” he summed up.

In addition to his role at the Roosevelt Institute, Cutter is currently the Chairman of the Board of CARE, the global development organization, and Chairman of the Board of Resources for the Future, one of the most important energy and environmental research institutes in the world. Read his bio here.


(Right) Dennis Mello, MPIA ‘13 and daughter

San Diego native Dennis Mello, MPIA ‘13, publicly thanked families, friends and fellow classmates in his class commencement address and urged his fellow graduates to choose jobs strategically.

“Whatever it is that motivated you then, or motivates you now, keep sight of that as you go out into the workforce. Choose your jobs and internships strategically so that you can get to where you want to be, “ Mello said.

Denis Mello was also featured in a UC San Diego news story featuring outstanding graduate students. Click here to read.