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ASU public programs convocation highlights commitment to service

Betsey Bayless
December 19, 2013

Almost 300 students in the College of Public Programs received their degrees at the fall 2013 convocation held at Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix. The ceremony featured keynote speaker Betsey Bayless, an alumna who played a major role in public service in Arizona for more than 40 years.

Bayless, who earned a master’s degree in public administration from the college, held appointed positions in the administrations of Governor Bruce Babbitt; was elected to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and to the Office of Secretary of State; and was hired as president and CEO of the Maricopa County Special Health Care District before her recent retirement.

While attending ASU, Bayless interned in state government for $2 an hour. She accepted a full-time position before graduating and worked her way up to become director of the Department of Administration, one of many positions she held under then Governor Bruce Babbitt.

“I took advantage of every management training session that my employer offered in order to develop my ability to direct large groups of people in agencies,” Bayless told students. “I also honed my leadership skills by seeking out and working with mentors and observing effective high-level officials.

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs, told graduates to learn from recent events. He cited the failure of the launch of the federal government’s health care website as a cautionary tale of good intentions that can have disastrous effects simply by how they're implemented.

Koppell also brought up the death of Nelson Mandela, the former political prisoner turned president of South Africa. Koppell told students to resist the idea that working with people you disagree with makes you weak, and to resist the notion that compromise is a failure. 

“What makes Nelson Mandela great, in my view, is something we typically vilify in contemporary society,” said Koppell. “This was somebody who was willing to work with his enemies. This was somebody who was willing to reach out to people whom he had every reason to hate at his core and saw them as his necessary partner.“

During the graduation ceremony, Koppell highlighted the achievements of four students selected as outstanding graduates from each of the four schools in the College of Public Programs. 

He praised Samantha McLaughlin from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice for seeking to understand why a relative was incarcerated. And for juggling an accelerated load at school with a full-time job and helping care for her father. And she still found time to play clarinet in several bands.

Koppell congratulated Sydney Harrison from the School of Social Work for demonstrating academic and professional excellence through her work with a nonprofit that helps LGBT youth. Plus, Harrison played the tuba in the ASU Marching Band, causing Koppell to suggest the college could form its own band with such talented musicians. 

The dean suggested ASU erred by not initially admitting Croatia native Adriana Johnston, who graduated with a 4.2 GPA from the College of Community Resources and Development. Before graduating, Johnston leveraged an internship into a full-time management position with a company in the tourism and hospitality industry.

And Koppell congratulated Sydney Bewernick for opting out of a nursing degree in favor of one from the School of Public Affairs. The Ontario, Canada native plans to pursue a career that combines her passions for public policy and children’s health.

The fall 2013 College of Public Programs convocation included the symbolic ritual of investiture for four doctoral students who earned doctoral degrees: Daniel Kenneth Plunkett, doctor of philosophy in community resources and development; Ljubinka Andonoska, doctor of philosophy in public administration and policy; Seeun Ryu, doctor of philosophy in public administration and policy; and Andrea Cimino, doctor of philosophy in social work.

The convocation was the first one held at Comerica Theatre, which provided a closer view of the stage for some 3,000 family members and friends who attended. Previous College of Public Program Convocations had been held at the Phoenix Convention Center.