The New School News

The New School’s 88th Commencement Celebrates the Creativity, Perseverance, and Ingenuity of the Class of 2024

Nearly 3,000 graduates of the Class of 2024, festively clad in their gowns and mortarboards, attended The New School’s 88th Commencement in the Louis Armstrong Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. This jubilant celebration of the inventiveness, eclecticism and scholarship of the university featured separate ceremonies for the conferral of the undergraduate and graduate degrees, giving all participants the special moment of crossing the stage during the event. 

Interim President Donna E. Shalala presided over both ceremonies and congratulated the graduates as they take this next step towards creating positive change in this world. “I also want to thank the families and friends who have joined us from all over the world, members of our faculty, including this year’s Commencement Marshal, Professor Bhawani Venkataraman, deans, university leadership, and our incredible honorees.” 

During the ceremonies, Provost Renée T. White acknowledged the recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Award for Outstanding Achievements in Social Justice Teaching, which recognizes faculty for their excellence in teaching and for actively promoting social justice through their teaching. Provost White noted that “each year we honor our faculty at Commencement for the enormous role they play in our students’ academic journey – as teachers, mentors, and role models. These faculty were nominated by their students and colleagues and recommended for these awards by a faculty committee.”

Recipients of the 2024 Distinguished University Teaching Awards are Panteá Farvid, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology, Schools of Public Engagement; Rebecca Stenn, Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts, Eugene Lang College; and Rodger Stevens, Assistant Professor, Parsons First Year, Parsons School of Design.

The 2024 Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Social Justice Teaching were awarded to Ana Isabel Baptista, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management, Schools of Public Engagement; and Fabiola Hanna, Assistant Professor of Emerging Media, Schools of Public Engagement. 

Each year, a faculty member is recognized as the Faculty Marshal at University Commencement for their outstanding contributions to the university. The role recognizes their long-standing service, leadership, dedication to our students, and their lived commitment to The New School’s principles and values. It is a tradition in higher education for the Faculty Marshal, carrying a symbolic mace, to lead the procession of university leadership and faculty into the Commencement ceremony. This year, Bhawani Venkataraman, associate professor of chemistry, was selected to serve as Faculty Marshall through a new process that included faculty nominations for this prestigious role.

The crowd was treated to several musical performances throughout each ceremony by students from The New School’s College of Performing Arts. The School of Jazz and Contemporary Music’s Motor City Groove Ensemble, led by Marlon Saunders, assistant professor of jazz, warmed up the crowd with an energetic set featuring works by Stevie Wonder. The Kal Ferretti/Gary Jones III Quintet, led by Kal Ferretti and Gary Jones Jr., features five students graduating with a BFA in Fine Arts performed a festive rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Soprano Alexandra Kzeski, who is graduating with her MM in Voice from Mannes School of Music performed “Ah, Je Veux Vivre” from the opera Roméo et Juiliette by Charles Gounod, accompanied on piano by Luc Xu Cheng.


For the undergraduate Class of 2024, commencement marks a new milestone as they transition to a new phase as scholars, professionals, researchers, and creative practitioners. Student speaker Cece Deming-Bernstein, BA Politics and BFA Integrated Design, reminded her classmates of what can be accomplished when one looks to forge connections among what seem to be disparate categories. 

“No matter what school, no matter what majors, we push past categories of subject, experience, and practice,” said Deming-Bernstein. “I can ask you all how jazz music and fashion design are related, and many of you will have a lot to say. Parsons? School of Jazz? How about dance, classical music, and global studies? Copa? Mannes? Lang? The way we think and practice as students is interconnected and innovative, spanning across many subjects and practices. Categories are materials we can use in order to create magic.” 

The Class of 2024 was also joined by Commencement Speaker Sinéad Burke, a disability activist, design advocate, writer, and scholar, who was recognized with the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa for her profound impact on fostering a more inclusive society. The New School’s honorary degrees recognize individuals who exemplify the university’s principles of academic excellence, social justice, civic engagement, and creative experimentation. Burke has worked with Parsons Disabled Fashion Student Program, which is breaking barriers in fashion education, and creating opportunities for disabled students to make their way in the industry.

“Often, the format to create change, or how we perceive we can or should create change, is not accessible. For example, a certain amount of stamina is required to march. When creating educational opportunities, there is often a lack of sign language interpretation, or an absence of resources to support neurodivergent communities. But, we can all create change in our own ways, and challenge our perception of how others can or should engage in grassroots work.

“The path ahead will not be without turbulence, uncertainty and at times, a lack of self-belief but the world is better because we are in it—together—on the best days and the harder ones. On a day like today, we must revel in the accomplishments and sacrifices that it took to get here. That celebration is not a diminishment and cannot be a distraction to the traumas within the world, but these four years have taught you what you believe in, the person you wish to become, and how to organize and create change in the world.”


Student speaker, Tuerhong Guliniali, MFA Design and Technology, a designer, researcher, and radio host, shared her journey of learning to succeed despite uncertainties and learning to embrace the possibilities during her time at Parsons.

“My journey so far in this space has reshaped my comprehension, emphasizing the impact of creativity when rooted in narrative dynamics and community. As someone who is constantly in a rush to figure out the future, I came to the realization that I too can hold the mic and decide to nurture all aspects of expressions and manifestations of myself. Through constantly reiterating my existence in this institution, I have found my support system AND my community, who sees the complex dynamics that one can embrace…I hope all of you have also found connections that you can cherish beyond this space…I want us ALL to carry a sense of trust within ourselves and the community that we have found. Let’s continue exploring and building the world without fear and hesitation.” 

During the ceremony, experimental composer and musician John Zorn; New York Times bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist Erika Sánchez received honorary degrees for exemplifying The New School’s commitment to groundbreaking ideas, transformational achievement, fearless commitment, and the core values of the Class of 2024.

Zorn received a Doctor of Music, honoris causa, for his ability to effortlessly surf the boundaries of musical styles and genres, and open the minds of fellow artists, aspiring composers, and audiences as to what creativity is possible from the human imagination. He has also created countless opportunities for other artists, including through the iconic, experimental venue The Stone at The New School, which provides a home for avant-garde musicians to perform in an intimate and supportive environment. Zorn graced the audience with a performance on the saxophone, accompanied by Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Sánchez, who received a Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, uses her writings to guide readers through tumultuous political and social landscapes. A daughter of Mexican immigrants, she infuses her writing with her own experiences, inspiring readers across identities and generations.

“What I wish for you is to see things for what they are, to question even when it’s inconvenient. I urge you to think like a poet and look closely at what others ignore. Intellectuals are dangerous to the status quo because they think critically. They read and question. They ask for proof. That’s what poetry has taught me. And the way that many things can be true at the same time. 

So, will you commit to the truth with me? To all the work that lies ahead in the fight for kindness, beauty and what’s right? What pulses inside you? What is your spirit asking for? What are your ancestors telling you? What are your descendants asking of you? What do you want your life to mean? What beats inside you that will not be silenced? Please don’t be consumed by apathy or cynicism. It’s so easy to say everything is doomed and do nothing. It’s brave to demand that we do better. The world needs you. Humanity needs you.”

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