News & Awards

At Graduate Hooding Ceremony, Dean Rouse Congratulates 100 Future Leaders in Public Service

Jun 6, 2018
Sarah M. Binder
Woodrow Wilson School

The Woodrow Wilson School awarded 100 students with advanced degrees, celebrated this week at a Hooding Ceremony on June 4 and at Commencement on June 5. We congratulate the nine Ph.D. students, 75 Master in Public Affairs (MPA) students (three MPA/J.D. and one MPA/MBA) and 16 Master in Public Policy (MPP) students who graduated this year and welcome them to the Woo alumni family.

At the annual Hooding Ceremony at the Woodrow Wilson School, Dean Cecilia Rouse addressed the graduates and their families, remarking on the great need for dedicated public servants in today’s society.

“You are graduating at a tumultuous time: inequality grows, with dire consequences for our economic, political and social fabric; foreign conflicts continue to cause unrest; political divisiveness pulls people to their respective corners unwilling to talk through their differences. The need for talented men and women to serve the public good has never been greater. As trained passionate and compassionate policy professionals, you have an obligation to apply your skills and talents to find solutions to the most vexing policy issues in our communities, in our nation and in the world. Our mission…has been to train not just skilled policy analysts but future leaders in public service. You are those future leaders and today we congratulate and celebrate all of you.”

To view and share images from the ceremony, visit our Facebook album!

Dean Rouse and graduating students at Hooding Ceremony



Several students were recognized with distinction and awards. They are as follows.


The following students achieved distinction on the second-year qualifying examinations: Alexander Brockwehl (Field I), Swetha Balachandran (Field II), Cleo Hirsch (Field III) and Kristen Kruger (Field III).



Three MPA students received Certificates in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP): Alexandra Kasdin, Tomer Kremerman and Marcelo Norsworthy.

Five MPA students received Health and Health Policy Certificates: Zehra Ijaz, Elizabeth Martin, Maggie Menold, Matthew Richardson and Anna Yalouris.

One MPP student received a Health and Health Policy Certificate: Anita Gupta

Four MPA students earned Certificates in Urban Policy: Swetha Balachandran, Christine Blumauer, Maggie Menold and Tom Stanley-Becker.

Nine MPA students earned Certificates in Urban Policy and Planning: Sean Chen, Karina Edouard, Seleeke Flingai, Amy Li, Lydia Lo, Stefanie Mavronis, Madeleine Parker, Nicholas Patane and Aparna Ramesh.


Graduate Prizes

The Master in Public Policy Prize was given to Elizabeth (Liz) Litchfield. Litchfield is originally from Darien, Illinois, and earned her B.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and International Studies at the University of Chicago in 2008. She has served as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State for eight years with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Through her tours in Algiers; Lybia; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Amman, Jordan; Litchfield developed a strong background in counter-terrorism, migration and legal issues, democracy and governance, and political economic analysis. In 2016, she served as the chief of the Political and Economic Section of the U.S. Embassy in Algiers and was promoted to the role of deputy chief in 2017. Litchfield will take on a new role as the deputy director of North Africa at the State Department in D.C.

The MPP Prize is given to a student who has achieved both an outstanding academic record and demonstrated a commitment to public service and community building at the Woodrow Wilson School.


The Somers Prize was awarded to Cleo Hirsch and Aaron Tobert.

Cleo Hirsch grew up in Hull, a small beach town south of Boston. She studied political science and American studies at Tufts University, then joined Teach for America and taught middle school social studies in New York City for four years, first in the Bronx, and then at the Harlem Children’s Zone. During that time, she also earned a master’s degree in teaching. For her summer internship, Hirsch served as a mayoral fellow in Chicago in summer 2017, where she worked on a variety of city initiatives including the push to expand pre-school enrollment and the Chicago Is With You task force created to protect and support undocumented immigrants. Hirsch served as one of three co-chairs of the Gender and Policy Network during 2017. She will be working with the Baltimore City Public Schools as a special assistant to the chief of staff.

Tobert grew up in Pennington, New Jersey. He attended Colgate University, where he studied economics and philosophy. Tobert worked as an economic research assistant at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation where he worked extensively on stress testing, which forecasts whether banks would be healthy enough to survive financial crises and measures the too-big-to-fail subsidy for large banks. In summer 2017, Tobert interned at the Economic Analysis Unit at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget. Aaron was active in community work while at Princeton, helping prepare federal and state income tax returns for low-income households in Trenton. Tobert will return to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget to work in their policy task force on issues related to social services and sustainability.

The Somers Prize – established by the late Anne Somers to honor the memory of her husband, the late Herman M. “Red” Somers, a former Woodrow Wilson School faculty member – is awarded to a student with domestic policy interests who has a distinguished academic and public service record.


The Stokes’ Prize was awarded to Swetha Balachandran. Balachandran is from Noida, India, and earned her B.A. in Business and Accounting at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore in 2012. She then spent four years working at Boston Consulting Group helping government agencies in Southeast Asia improve their operations and finance major capital projects. She devoted one year of that time to working on health care challenges with The Global Fund in Kenya and Uganda. She spent her summer internship doing spatial analysis and fieldwork on informal settlements in Cape Town, South Africa, and New Delhi, India. Swetha co-chaired this year’s very successful service auction (along with Alexander Brockwehl), which raised more than $20,000 for the Isles Youth Institute. They also helped to organize a community service day last September to acquaint WWS graduate students with the work of Isles. Balachandran will be working at Capria Ventures as an investment analyst fellow in Seattle, Washington. 

The Stokes’ Prize recognizes both academic achievement and public service leadership and is awarded to the graduating MPA student/s whose achievements best exemplify the world of the late Donald E. Stokes, former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School.