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Announcing the 2024 Graduation Ceremony Faculty and Student Addresses

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Spring is here, and we are almost one month away from the School of Professional Studies Graduation. As we have in the past, the School will hold both morning and afternoon ceremonies so that our graduates and their loved ones may experience this milestone more intimately and comfortably. If you are participating in any of the events on Friday, May 10, you can find details here.  

I am thrilled to announce our faculty and student speakers for our morning and afternoon ceremonies.

We have selected two distinguished faculty members to deliver separate faculty addresses, and both ceremonies will also feature student addresses.

The faculty speaker for our morning ceremony will be Gregory J. Wawro, Ph.D., who is the director and founder of the M.S. in Political Analytics program. He previously served as the chair of the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. He holds his Ph.D. from Cornell University and specializes in American politics, including Congress, elections, campaign finance, judicial politics, political economy, and political methodology. Wawro is the author of Legislative Entrepreneurship in the U.S. House of Representatives and coauthor (with Eric Schickler) of Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the United States Senate, which is a historical analysis of the causes and consequences of filibusters. His most recent book, Time Counts: Quantitative Analysis for Historical Social Science (with Ira Katznelson), seeks to advance historical research in the social sciences by bridging the divide between qualitative and quantitative analysis through an expansion of the standard quantitative methodological toolkit with a set of innovative approaches that capture nuances missed by more commonly used statistical methods. Professor Wawro is currently working on projects that explore the role that social media is playing in congressional elections and democratic participation.

Our faculty speaker for the afternoon ceremony will be Kristine Billmyer, Ph.D., who is a professor of professional practice in communication, dean emerita of the Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS), and director of the M.S. in Strategic Communication program at SPS. Dean Billmyer earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College. She is a recognized scholar, educator, and consultant in gender equity, diversity, and cross-cultural variation in language. She teaches Gender and Communication in the Workplace and Global Communication for Professionals. An advocate for the advancement of women globally, she speaks frequently at national and international meetings. Billmyer is currently working on a longitudinal project on women’s empowerment in Japan.

For our student speakers, the SPS faculty, staff, and students nominate two members of the graduating class each year as representatives. Our student speakers have the privilege of addressing their fellow graduates, reflecting upon their Columbia experience and sharing words of advice.

The student speaker for our morning ceremony will be Michele M. Trizzino (’24SPS, Human Capital Management), and Elena Wilson (’24SPS, Nonprofit Management) will be the speaker for our afternoon ceremony.

Michele M. Trizzino is the associate director of administration for the M.S. in Construction Administration program at SPS. Prior to this role, Trizzino was the inaugural advisor for the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program. She has a bachelor of science from St. John’s University, where she graduated summa cum laude and was valedictorian of her class.

Trizzino was awarded “2021 Outstanding Woman” by the Women Builders Council, the leading association representing women in the construction industry. In 2022, the Columbus Citizens Foundation and ABC-7 featured Trizzino for her academic success and professional accomplishments as an Italian American. Trizzino sits on the Scholarship Committee for the Columbus Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit organization in New York City committed to fostering an appreciation of Italian American heritage and achievement.

Elena Wilson is a Nonprofit Management student with a politics and finance background who wants to do good for her community. She graduated from Manhattan College with a bachelor of arts in government and a minor in psychology. During her time at Columbia, Wilson has served as a student representative on the University-wide Student Library Advisory Committee, been a University Life Ambassador for four semesters, served as treasurer for the Nonprofit Management Student Association, and served as both the nonprofit management representative and president of the School of Professional Studies Student Government.

Outside of school, Wilson volunteers to register voters with and is a mentor for young women navigating sobriety. She is grateful to have been given the opportunity to connect with students, faculty, and staff members in order to help others and create inclusive spaces where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions.

Thank you to all who have already committed to volunteering during our Graduation and Commencement activities. We encourage faculty to join the academic procession as marshals, and staff and faculty to volunteer as event hosts, to help create a memorable experience for our returning alumni. While SPS Graduation volunteer sign-up has closed, Commencement volunteers are still needed. You may sign up here.

Best of luck to all our students as you complete your assignments this semester. You’re almost at the finish line!