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Convocations highlighted by alumni trailblazers in the arts, politics, business and journalism

Northwestern convocations to be held throughout graduation weekend June 12-14
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law held convocation May 14.

As the class of 2021 prepares to garb themselves in Northwestern purple and accept their diplomas at University Convocation events June 12-14, several alumni speakers will congratulate and inspire the graduates both in person and virtually.

Six-time Grammy Award-winning conductor Giancarlo Guerrero (’92 MMus) will deliver a virtual address to the Bienen School of Music on June 13. Guerrero is music director of the Nashville Symphony and the National Forum of Music Wroclaw Philharmonic in Poland, and principal guest conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon. 

Giancarlo Guerrero
Giancarlo Guerrero

Born in Nicaragua, Guerrero immigrated to Costa Rica during childhood where he joined a local youth symphony. He studied percussion and conducting at Baylor University before earning a master’s in conducting at the Bienen School. He has remained committed to working with civic youth orchestras in the U.S., including Nashville Symphony’s Accelarando program, which provides an intensive music education to promising students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. 

School of Communication graduate Ebs Burnough (C’02) will deliver in-person remarks to the graduates June 12. A filmmaker, writer, producer and marketing and communications executive, Burnough served as the White House deputy social secretary and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s senior advisor.

In 2019, Burnough made his directorial debut with the documentary “The Capote Tapes” scheduled for release this summer. Burnough majored in theatre at Northwestern and now based in London, is president and founder of Burnough Solutions International (EBSI), which specializes in marketing, communications and event production.  

Samir Mayekar
Samir Mayekar

Samir Mayekar (’06 WCAS, ’13 MBA), will address graduates of both the Kellogg School of Management and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Mayekar is a first-generation American and holds a B.A. from Northwestern University (summa cum laude) and an M.B.A. with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management. Currently, he is Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood and Economic Development for the City of Chicago. In 2008, Mayekar joined Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as budget manager, helping raise nearly $900 million. After the election, he worked at the White House for two years where he was national security director of the Presidential Personnel Office, overseeing appointments at the Pentagon, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and Central Intelligence Agency. 

Mayekar also served as the president of the Northwestern Alumni Association (2018-2020) and on Northwestern’s Board of Trustees (2016-2020). He is co-founder of NanoGraf Corporation, a global manufacturer of advanced materials.

Medill School alumni — George R.R. Martin (BSJ ’70, MSJ ’71), Omar Jimenez (BSJ ’15) and Andrea Valdez (MSJ ’06) — will be Medill’s convocation speakers for 2021. 

Martin is an internationally acclaimed best-selling author and creator of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” one of the world’s most popular television shows.

Jimenez is a national correspondent for CNN. He gained international attention for his poise and composure after being unlawfully detained by Minnesota state police while covering a protest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.

“There’s no one path to what you want in a career, but my path wouldn’t have existed if not for some of the full court shots I was heaving at the basket,” said Jimenez. “I still work on my layups and my midrange, paying attention to what’s in front of me and what actually works, but every once in a while, you can’t be afraid to take a full court shot or two. You never know what might go in.”

Andrea Valdez
Andrea Valdez

Andrea Valdez is the senior vice president of audience strategy for The Atlantic. Most recently she was editor-in-chief of “The 19th,” a groundbreaking nonprofit media outlet reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy. Previously she served as editor-in-chief of the Texas Observer, editor of and editor of Texas Monthly's website. She wrote the book “How to be a Texan: The Manual.”

Other 2021 Convocation alumni speakers include G. Marcus Cole (JD ’93), Alexandra Sims (BS ’10) and Kaitlin Fahey (MA ’11). 

Convocation speakers and dates 

  • Bienen School of Music: Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor, Nashville Symphony Orchestra (June 13)
  • Feinberg School of Medicine: no speaker (May 24)
  • Kellogg School of Management: Samir Mayekar (’06 WCAS, ’13 MBA), co-founder and CEO of NanoGraf Corporation; Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development, City of Chicago (June 14)
  • Northwestern Pritzker School of Law: G. Marcus Cole (JD ’93), the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School (May 14)
  • Northwestern in Qatar: Dima Khatib, Managing Director, AJ+ (May 3) 
  • McCormick School of Engineering: Bruce Mau, CEO of Massive Change Network and distinguished fellow at McCormick’s Segal Design Institute (June 13)
  • Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications: George R.R. Martin (BSJ ’70, MSJ ’71), Omar Jimenez (BSJ ’15) and Andrea Valdez (MSJ ’06) (June 14)
  • School of Communication: Ebs Burnough (C ’02), director of “The Capote Tapes,” former White House deputy social secretary and senior advisor to Michelle Obama (June 12)
  • School of Education and Social Policy: Tarana Burke, founder of the global ‘me too.’ Movement; Cecilia Rouse, chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers and dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; and Alexandra Sims (BS ’10), founder and CEO of public affairs firm APS & Associates (June 13)
  • School of Professional Studies: Kaitlin Fahey (MA ’11), chief strategist for Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) (June 12)
  • The Graduate School: no speaker (June 12)
  • Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences: Samir Mayekar (’06 WCAS, ’13 MBA), co-founder and CEO of NanoGraf Corporation and Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development, City of Chicago (June 13)