Innovation, Engagement are Keys to Future Success, Anne-Marie Slaughter Tells Humphrey School Graduates

Innovation, Engagement are Keys to Future Success, Anne-Marie Slaughter Tells Humphrey School Graduates

Public policy is the means by which we make change in our communities and around the world. On May 12, students from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs graduated with a challenge to pioneer creative and inclusive solutions to public problems.

The ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of 198 graduates, including the first cohort to receive the University’s Master of Human Rights degree, and the first recipients of the School’s new certificates in Election Administration and Human Services Leadership.

Members of the class of 2018 come from throughout the United States and 20 foreign countries.

Innovation is a vital component to shaping public policy in our fast-paced society, said keynote speaker Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America, a think and action tank dedicated to renewing America in the digital age.

Slaughter, a former top official in the US State Department and former dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said traditional methods used by policymakers, based on the notion that “you solve a problem once and you’re done, are impossible today.”

“Things move way too fast now. Technology is changing, and so are we. We need to be able to try things, monitor them in real time, change and improve them as we’re working,” she said. “We need both technology and policy to address issues facing our society.”

We also need citizens to be more involved in discussions around solving public problems, she said.

“We often focus on policy in terms of the big idea … but we don’t do nearly enough to include in the conversation the people that those ideas are supposed to affect,” Slaughter said. “So I encourage you to work on public policy with our citizens, not for them.”

Slaughter noted that graduates are facing a time of great trouble as well as great opportunity in the world.

“It’s also a time of uncertainty, especially relating to the future of work,” Slaughter concluded. “But we will always need people with creative problem-solving skills. So own that. Shape it, and be pioneering practitioners of public problem solving.”

Dean Laura Bloomberg told the graduates she is confident they will do great things in the future, “because I’ve seen just how much you have done here at Humphrey—both inside and outside the classroom—to advance the collective well-being of our School community.”

“Even as you celebrate today with your family and friends, ask yourself: How will you nurture the connections you’ve made here at the Humphrey School to drive the goals you want to achieve—not only for yourself but for your community and for society? How will you choose to live into your vision of yourself as an innovative leader?” Bloomberg said.

The student commencement speaker, Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduate Octavia Smith, encouraged her fellow graduates to remain engaged with the world around them, and to believe in their ability to make change.

Smith, who was chosen by her peers to deliver the student address, received two student leadership awards for her efforts to create a more supportive and inclusive culture at the School as president of the Humphrey Students of Color Association (HSOCA) this past year.

“The students, faculty, and staff here will leave me feeling hopeful about the future we can envision together,” she said. “My time here at the Humphrey School was filled with deep conversation about issues of equity for various marginalized groups. But I want to caution everyone against complacency. What you say and do matters. We all came here to make a difference in the world around us. You now have new tools to make that a reality.”

Humphrey School Alumni Board member Anne Carroll (MA ’83) said she is proud to welcome the graduates as new alumni.

“You have brought a robust range of experiences that has pushed us to further reflect our diverse society. You have come out on the other side as some of the most capable and passionate graduates in the country,” said Carroll. “We will be watching you as you do great things.”

Bloomberg noted that the past year was her first as dean, and also marked the School’s 40th anniversary.

“I’ve had a blast this year! Working with people who share a deep belief in our mission of inspiring, educating, and supporting innovative leaders gives me great optimism for the future.”


The Humphrey School Class of 2018 includes 198 graduates—195 master’s degree recipients and three PhD recipients.

The number of graduates by program:

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs (PhD), 3
  • Master of Development Practice (MDP), 18
  • Master of Human Rights (MHR), 7
  • Master of Public Affairs (MPA), 51
  • Master of Public Policy (MPP), 68
  • Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (MS–STEP), 11
  • Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP), 40