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Set to inspire: opera conductor, tech CEO, stem cell researcher and others

Graduation season begins and Northwestern welcomes distinguished alumni and guest speakers for convocation ceremonies
Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya will deliver the convocation address at The Bienen School of Music on June 11.

Beginning this week, you may see students in purple regalia posing near blooming hyacinths, under the Arch, along the Lake Michigan shoreline or inside NU-Q’s four-story campus in Doha, capturing memories from favorite spots at Northwestern.

To celebrate students’ fulfillment of their degrees, each school hosts a convocation ceremony headlined by a speaker whose journey will offer inspiration to the Class of 2023.

The first ceremony took place May 8 at NU-Q with an address by His Excellency Hassan Al Thawadi, FIFA World Cup head and the secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

Attorney Sherrese Smith ’96 is set to deliver the Pritzker School of Law convocation address on Friday, May 12 at the Chicago Theatre.

Smith is a managing partner of Paul Hastings LLP and widely considered one of the preeminent data privacy, cybersecurity, media and technology attorneys in the U.S. 

Dr. George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School and an internationally recognized leader in stem cell science and cancer biology, will address graduates of Feinberg School of Medicine on Monday, May 15 at Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom.

Graduation festivities will continue through June 12.

2023 Convocation speakers

The Bienen School of Music address will be given by conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, director of the Chicago Opera Theater, Sunday, June 11 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.

Yakovskaya, a Jewish émigré from Russia, is founder and artistic director of the Refugee Orchestra Project, spurred by the Syrian refugee crisis in 2016.

The Graduate School Ph.D. and MFA hooding ceremony will feature speakers Kelly Mayo, dean and associate provost for graduate education, and Kathleen Hagerty, provost and First Chicago Professorship in Finance, Kellogg School of Management, Saturday, June 10 at Ryan Fieldhouse. 

The Kellogg School of Management convocation speaker will be James Reynolds, Jr. ’82, chairman and CEO of Loop Capital, a global investment services firm. Reynolds, a Kellogg Master of Management in finance alumnus, is a 30-year veteran of the financial services industry, where he held senior-level positions at several Wall Street firms before establishing Loop Capital as a municipal bond firm, and later expanding it into a diversified investment firm. The convocation will take place Monday, June 12 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

McCormick School of Engineering addresses will be given by alumni Christina Kosmowski and Rodney D. Priestley. Kosmowski ’98, CEO of LogicMonitor and a member of Northwestern Engineering’s McCormick Advisory Council, will address the undergraduate class, and Priestly Ph.D. ’08 will speak at the McCormick Ph.D. Hooding and master’s degree Recognition Ceremony on Sunday, June 11 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. 

Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications will welcome screenwriter and television producer Mara Brock Akil ’92 to speak with 2023 graduates and families as Medill’s convocation speaker Sunday, June 11 at Ryan Fieldhouse. Brock Akil has written and produced over 400 episodes of television, leaving a tremendous impact on Hollywood.

The School of Communication undergraduate convocation will feature actor and activist Stephanie March ’96, Saturday, June 10 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Best known for her role on the long-running hit series “Law and Order SVU,” March also advocates for women and girls around the globe with a focus on reproductive rights, education access and just legal representation. 

The School of Education and Social Policy convocation speaker will be Ekpedeme “Pamay” Bassey ’95, the chief learning and diversity officer for the Kraft Heinz company, who is a Northwestern master's in computer science alumna. Bassey has worked in edtech, K-16 and corporate education — both in startups and large companies — for more than 20 years. The celebration will take place on Monday, June 12 at Ryan Fieldhouse.

The School of Professional Studies convocation address will be given by Shurawl Sibblies ’15, executive vice president, colleague strategic partner and global labor relations at American Express, on Monday, June 12. Sibblies received a master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies.

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences address will be delivered by David Ngene ’08, senior innovator at Nike’s NXT Space Kitchen on Sunday, June 11 at Ryan Field. A first-generation college student, Ngene leads a team of engineers, scientists and designers to push innovation at Nike.