Celebration 2020

Elliott School of International Affairs

2020 Virtual School Celebration
Friday, May 15
4:00 pm EDT Undergraduate Ceremony
6:00 pm EDT Graduate Ceremony


Congratulations! We are excited that you will be joining us as we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates. 2020 Graduates, with their families and friends, can celebrate their commencement virtually on the Elliott School YouTube channel on Friday, May 15. Please direct any questions regarding the Elliott School Graduation Celebration to [email protected].

GW’s Virtual Commencement celebration will be held on Sunday, May 17, at 11:00 am. You are also invited to attend the May 2021 University-wide Bicentennial Commencement on the National Mall.


Watch the Elliott School Undergraduate Ceremony    Watch the Elliott School Graduate Ceremony


Celebration Program

The George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs 2020 Graduation Celebration Book




Reuben Brigety


A Message from the Dean

To the 2020 Graduates of GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs,


On behalf of our faculty, staff and alumni, I am proud to congratulate the class of 2020 on this culmination of academic achievement. Today, we recognize your accomplishments both as a celebration of academic endeavor and also as a testament to your resilience and perseverance under extraordinary circumstances. 

As graduates of the Elliott School, you have joined the ranks of international affairs professionals who work in fields finding solutions to our most pressing global challenges. This year, in particular, we have all felt the impact of decisions made in response to the global health crisis. As a result, for some of you, this event will alter and even shape your career trajectories. For all of you, it has indelibly marked your college experience.
During my time as Dean, I have had the utmost joy interacting with and mentoring the students here. For more than 120 years, the Elliott School has built upon a strong foundation to become one of the most respected schools of international affairs in the world. Now, as I prepare to move on to a new role, this year’s graduates will always stand out in my mind. You have proven to be an exceptionally thoughtful and dedicated group, coming together in the face of unforeseen adversity, united by your passion and the desire to make the world a better place. 

Today, each of you embarks upon a new path. The advisors, staff and faculty who have spent the last several years supporting you as you have navigated university life now wish you all the best as you begin your careers. As part of our global alumni family, you join a dynamic community of more than 25,000 graduates working to make a positive difference through careers in public service, the private sector and nonprofit organizations in approximately 100 countries. 

Raise High, Elliott School graduates! It is an honor to have you as colleagues in the field of international affairs. Be well. Do good. You carry with you all my very best wishes for success and happiness.




Reuben E. Brigety II, Ph. D.


Elliott School of International Affairs

The George Washington University

2020 Elliott School Speakers

Ambassador Nicholas Burns headshot



Keynote Address

Ambassador Nicholas Burns is the Goodman Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. He is the faculty chair of the Future of Diplomacy Project and the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.  He is also Executive Director of the Aspen Strategy Group and Aspen Security Forum and Senior Counselor at The Cohen Group. Additionally, he is Chairman of the Board of Our Generation Speaks, which seeks to bring together young Palestinians and Israelis in common purpose. 

Ambassador Burns served for 27 years in the United States government as a career Foreign Service Officer. He has served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2008); ambassador to NATO (2001-2005), ambassador to Greece (1997-2001) and State Department spokesman (1995-1997). He worked on the National Security Council as Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs; Special Assistant to President Clinton; and Director for Soviet Affairs for President George H.W. Bush. Burns served in the American Consulate General in Jerusalem where he coordinated U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and before that, at the American embassies in Egypt and Mauritania. He served on Secretary John Kerry's Foreign Policy Advisory Board from 2014 until 2017.

Alongside a career dedicated to public service, Ambassador Burns serves in leadership roles for several non-profit organizations. Ambassador Burns holds a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College and a Master of Arts from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.


Dr. Alexander Downes headshot



Charge to Graduates

Harry Harding Teaching Award Winner

Dr. Alexander B. Downes is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and serves as the director of the Elliott School’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies. He has received the inaugural Emerging Scholar Award from the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association, which recognizes scholars either under the age of 45 or within fifteen years of receiving their Ph.D. for making significant contributions to the field of security studies. He has held fellowships at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, and Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. At the Elliott School, he teaches courses on international affairs and international security, civil and interstate wars, and military effectiveness.


Sarah Nugent



Graduate Student Speaker

Sarah Nugent is a candidate for a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security Studies. She has worked on the U.S. State Department’s flagship professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, for over 10 years. She implemented the program at NGOs in San Diego and San Francisco at the community level, at the Institute of International Education at the national level, and now as a Program Officer at the State Department with the Office of International Visitors in the Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs. She recently completed her Capstone project on Italian exceptionalism to a major Islamist terrorist attack. She received her BA in International Security and Conflict Resolution with a minor in Italian from San Diego State University.


Rilind Abazi



Undergraduate Student Speaker

Rilind Abazi is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts degree in international affairs with a concentration in international politics and a minor in law and society. He has pursued his interest in migration policy and refugee protection by interning at the International Organization for Migration and Save the Children Action Network, focusing on research concerning protection of migrant children at the U.S. southern border. At GW, he has worked as a peer advisor for Elliott School’s first-year experience initiative, served on the Student Association and the Joint Faculty Honorary and Convocations Committee. He is also a member of the honors society Sigma Iota Rho.


Our Award Winners

  • The Distinguished Scholar Award, McKenzie Swain, B.A. International Affairs 
  • The Charles Sitter Award, Dominica Dul, B.A. International Affairs
  • The Wilbur J. Carr Memorial Award, Taylor Amos, M.A. International Development 
  • The Wilbur J. Carr Memorial Award, Anya Raadam, B.A. International Affairs
  • The John Henry Cowles Prize, Margaret Meiman, B.A. International Affairs and Economics
  • The Norman H. Friend Prize, Rilind Abazi, B.A. International Affairs
  • The Norman H. Friend Prize, Morgan Johnson, B.A. International Affairs
  • The Walter Roberts Award for Public Diplomacy Studies, Chaniqua D. Nelson, M.A. Global Communication
  • The Edward “Skip” Gnehm Leadership, Ethics, and Practice Prize, Sarah Nugent, M.A. International Affairs
  • The Elliott School Graduate Student Prize, François Reyes, M.A. Security Policy Studies

Mandatory Graduation Surveys

Required for all graduating students, these surveys are designed to help GW and Elliott learn more about the experiences and future plans of our students.


Undergraduate students should complete the GW Graduating Senior Survey:

Complete Undergraduate Survey


Graduate Students should complete two surveys:

Complete University Graduate Student Survey

Complete the Elliott School Graduate Student Career Development Survey



Hail Alma Mater
To thy spirit guiding,
Knowledge thy closest friend
In its strength abiding,
Pledge we fidelity
Ne'er its place resigning,
Hail thee George Washington!

2021 Commencement

The class of 2020 is invited to join GW at the bicentennial Commencement on the National Mall in May 2021. Specific details will be shared when they are available.