On June 12, students, friends, faculty, and family gathered for a much anticipated in-person graduation ceremony for the 2022 graduating class of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy (MIP) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).
Two years ago, the 2020 graduating class participated in a fully digital, online graduation ceremony in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and requisite healthcare precautions. While students of the 2021 graduating class were able to gather briefly in-person outside of Encina Hall last year, the majority of their commencement activities also took place online. This year, with high vaccination rates and decreasing COVID cases, both the 2020 and 2022 classes of the Master’s in International Policy were able to attend in-person commencement ceremonies at Stanford.
The Class of 2022 cohort is comprised of 21 students strong from nine different countries, including Chile, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Korea, Kosovo, Myanmar, Peru, and the United States. Outside Encina Hall, the graduates were welcomed by MIP Director Francis Fukuyama, who cheered the graduates for their hard work and applauded the many friends and family members gathered to support them.
Dr. McFaul reflected on the unique journey the 2022 class, from beginning with Zoom classes and remote learning to finally reconvening in-person for projects like the Policy Change Studio capstones and events like former president Barack Obama’s visit to FSI in April 2022.
“You all look better in three dimensions compared to two dimensions,” McFaul assured everyone. He went on to share four lessons he hopes will resonate with the newest FSI alumni:
1. Do Something, Don’t Be Something
The first lesson Dr. McFaul imparted to the graduates was to frame their goals and careers in terms of actions, not titles.
“Don’t think of your career as a place to be,” he said. “Think of your career as an action verb. Figure out what you want to do, then fit the jobs, the companies, and future degrees around those action verbs, not the other way around.” He stressed that any particular job title matters much less than a commitment to a mission, a set of values, or clear, concrete policy things you want to do.
2. Embrace both Uncertainty and Rejection
Speaking from his personal experience, Dr. McFaul shared how his first career plan following his DPhil degree from Oxford ended as a complete bust. As a fresh, young academic, he applied to 22 jobs, and was rejected from all of them. But while his immediate plans may have stalled, the rejections gave him a front row seat to the 1990-91 protests in Moscow, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the burgeoning calls for democratic change in Russia, all which altered the course of his academic, professional, and political life.
“From uncertainty can come opportunity, and from setbacks can come second — and dare I say, better — chances,” he reminded the graduates.
3. Continue to Invest in Connections
McFaul’s third piece of advice was a cautionary story of what not to do. “After my time at Stanford and Oxford, I didn’t invest time in maintaining friendships, and I regret that,” he candidly told the audience.
He stressed that these connections are not only for the purpose of networking and professional development, though those kinds of connections can lead to instrumental things. But more importantly, McFaul advised the students to develop and nurture relationships with fantastic, interesting people for the sake of allowing those connections to enrich and deepen the well-being and richness of their lives.
4. Keep in Touch with Stanford
Looking across the crowd, Dr. McFaul said, “Most of you are second years. Some of you are fifth years. I am a forty-first year student here at Stanford. I really love learning, and there’s no better place to learn than Stanford.”
He urged the graduates to remain active and invested in the community they have been a part of the last two years. “You have access to some of the most talented professors in the world. Use it! Don’t forget about it,” counseled McFaul.
Building on Dr. McFaul’s remarks, Soomin Jun, the student speaker at the diploma ceremony, asked her fellow classmates to look to the future with a determination to stand up for values and rights, and to not lose the compassion and empathy that have bonded them together as a cohort.
“Let’s not forget to humble ourselves and do good for those next to us and in our communities,” she said. Jun continued, “Let’s not forget that we are far more capable of achieving anything beyond anyone’s imagination. Voice up and stand up for your values and ideas.”
As the 2022 class moves on from their time as MIP students at FSI, five will be staying at Stanford to pursue further studies in political science, environment and resources, public policy, and journalism. Others will remain in the greater Bay Area working on technology policy, energy policy, digital privacy, and statistical programming. Others are heading from the West Coast to the East to work in government, international development, and policy analysis, while four of the class members will be continuing their military careers in Texas, Washington State, Kentucky, and Kosovo.
Wherever they’re bound, the Master’s of International Policy Class of 2022 will not soon be forgotten.
“This class is special to me,” Michael McFaul said. “We here at FSI and MIP have tried to lean into you, and you have repeatedly shown that you are a special class and special group of people together at a special time, and we all feel bonded with you.”