2017 Convocation Highlights

Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

Convocation is a rich, time-honored tradition at the NYU School of Professional Studies, during which we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. The Convocation ceremonies provide an opportunity for those graduating, their family members, administrators, and faculty members to come together and acknowledge their impressive achievements, and to applaud the hard work and sacrifices they have made to enrich their lives and advance their careers through education.

Browse through our photo and video highlights galleries of the School’s Graduate and Undergraduate Convocation ceremonies as well as of NYU’s Commencement. Below you will find the full bios of the keynote and student class speakers.

Convocation Speakers

Paul Begala

Graduate Speaker: Paul Begala

Born in New Jersey and raised in Missouri City, Texas, Paul Begala is a well-respected American political consultant and a commentator for CNN, where he is part of the political team that has won both an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Begala served as a senior adviser for the pro-Obama Super PAC, making him one of only a few individuals to play a critical role in electing two different presidents.

After helping to engineer Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign with his partner, James Carville, Begala served as counselor to the president, becoming one of Clinton’s closest aides. He also has consulted for political campaigns across the country and around the world, including advising politicians in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Former President Bill Clinton described his longtime friend and former aide as, “a witty dynamo from Sugar Land, Texas … who brought energy, focus, and credibility to our efforts.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Begala “embodies a passion for populism with a commitment to civility, no easy feat.”

Begala helped his friend, the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., launch the political magazine George, for which he wrote the “Capitol Hillbilly” column. He is the author of several New York Times bestselling political books, and is an affiliated professor of public policy at Georgetown University. He also has taught at the University of Texas and the University of Georgia. Along with Carville and GOP strategist Karl Rove, Begala was recently inducted into the American Association of Political Consultants’ Hall of Fame.

Begala earned a bachelor’s degree in government and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was the student body president.

Alexis Herman

Undergraduate Speaker: Alexis Herman

Alexis Herman was born on July 16, 1947 in Mobile, Alabama to politician Alex Herman and educator Gloria Caponis. She graduated from Heart of Mary High School in Mobile in 1965, and enrolled in Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and then Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama before transferring to St. Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she earned a BA in sociology in 1969. She attended the University of South Alabama for graduate studies.

After graduation, Herman worked with Catholic Charities in Pascagoula, Mississippi and several other agencies, promoting minority employment for women and youth. She also fought for unskilled African Americans in the shipbuilding industry, rallied to improve conditions for women’s employment, and succeeded in persuading several corporations—including Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines—to hire women for upper-level corporate positions. It was during this time that she first met Jimmy Carter while he was campaigning in Atlanta, Georgia for the presidency. Upon assuming the presidency in 1977, Carter appointed Herman to the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, making her, at 29 years of age, the youngest person to hold this position. During her four-year tenure, Herman launched the first initiative for women in the apprenticeship programs, promoted passage of legislation for displaced homemakers, and established the first federal childcare centers for workers.

After completing her service in the Carter administration, Herman founded A.M. Herman & Associates in 1981. She also continued to work for the Democratic Party and served as the chief executive officer for the 1992 Democratic National Convention. With President Bill Clinton’s victory, she once again entered public service as deputy director of the Presidential Transition Office. During the Clinton administration, Herman also worked as the director of public liaison for the White House and in May of 1997, she became the first African American to hold the position of secretary of labor, and only the fifth woman in the history of this office to be appointed. During her tenure, she actively sought to improve and expand global child labor standards and she orchestrated the 1998 Workforce Investment Act passage, which improved job placement centers. Through her efforts to establish the Youth Opportunity Grants program, which provided money for job training and education to youths living in poor regions, youth unemployment dropped to historic lows. The election of 2000 found Herman actively aiding Al Gore’s presidential campaign. She was again slated to assume a position on the transition team for the White House, but the Republican victory curtailed this work.

Based in McLean, Virginia, Herman continues to be active within the Democratic Party and has served as cochair of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, as well as on other committees and advisory boards. She also is the chair and chief executive officer of New Ventures, and she holds positions on numerous boards, including Entergy, Cummins, MGM Mirage, the CocaCola Company, Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago, and the Toyota Diversity Advisory Board. In 2007, she was inducted into the Minority Business Hall of Fame, and in 2017 she was inducted into the National Women’s History Project.

Today, Herman continues her work with several civic groups, including the National Urban League and the National Council of Negro Women. She also serves as cochair for the Clinton Bush Presidential Leadership Scholars Program and supports activities for her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta.

Student Convocation Speakers

Bhavana Surendra Singh

Graduate Speaker: Bhavana Surendra Singh
MS in Management and Systems, Division of Programs in Business

Bhavana Surendra Singh began her career as a business/technical consultant and developer at MNU Pharmaco in Mumbai, India. During her tenure there, she increased the client base by 30% through systems development and data analysis; developed a homegrown ERP system, which improved efficiency by 75%; and enabled interoperability between the CRM system and the new ERP system, improving the quality of quantifiable data collection by 50%. When her supervisors suggested she move to the business side of the operation, Bhavana decided to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree that would allow her to excel in the technical work she preferred.

The diversity of the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYUSPS) student body attracted her. “It’s one thing to read about different cultures, but to have the chance to actually interact with people from around the globe and to learn from them is an incredible opportunity,” she asserts.

Bhavana thrived as a student in the MS in management and systems program, increasing her marketability by expanding her skills and completing hands-on projects in technology risk management, database design, database warehousing and mining, and technology strategy management. For her capstone project, she developed the prototype for a complete mobile device risk management plan for the NYU global academic centers.

Bhavana also has contributed greatly to the NYUSPS community. As the Management and Systems Student Association’s president and graduate student representative, she worked with students, faculty members, and administrators to acquire STEM designation for the MS in management and systems. Securing this has opened new windows of opportunity for program graduates, enabling them to apply for positions that require STEM credentials. In addition, she and her team increased participation in Student Association events tenfold.

During her time at the School, Bhavana also served as a graduate assistant in the International Student Support Center (ISSC), the events chair for the NYUSPS Graduate Student Council, a core member of the Diversity Committee, and the events chair for the International Club. In recognition of her efforts in promoting cultural diversity and engagement through the International Club’s Global Village event, she was honored as a recipient of the NYU President’s Service Award.

Bhavana, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering in information technology from the University of Mumbai in India, plans to put the knowledge she has gained at NYUSPS to work as a business or technical analyst, while developing a start-up with the colleagues and professional contacts she has made over the course of her studies.

Reed Alexander Hodkin

Undergraduate Speaker: Reed Alexander Hodkin
BA in Social Sciences, Paul McGhee Division for Undergraduate Studies

Reed Alexander Hodkin’s multifaceted career spans media and entertainment. Reed first rose to prominence as a television actor in his preteen years. His career took off at age 11, when he landed a role as a recurring guest star on NBC’s Will & Grace. He then went on to join the cast of Nickelodeon’s top-rated sitcom iCarly, playing the infamous villain Nevel Papperman, and reprised that role again in a special appearance on its spinoff Sam & Cat. His portrayal of Nevel earned him a 2013 Kids’ Choice Award nomination.

Passionate about children’s health and the fight against childhood obesity, Reed became an ambassador for the Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2010, and later joined forces with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. These efforts were part of his nationwide eating campaign, which helps to change the foods offered to students in public schools, raise awareness for the childhood obesity epidemic, and inspire a generation of young people to take action.

In 2013, Reed wrote and published his first cookbook, KewlBites: 100 Nutritious, Delicious, and Family-Friendly Dishes (Rodale Books), which was endorsed by President Bill Clinton in a cover quote. As an author and chef, he has been repeatedly featured on NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and others, and profiled by the likes of People magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press.

Reed began his NYU career in 2013 at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, juggling his classes with simultaneous work on Nickelodeon and the launch of his cookbook. He soon found that the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYUSPS) Paul McGhee Division for Undergraduate Studies was a better fit for his hectic schedule.

“When I transferred to NYUSPS and took advantage of the online courses here, everything clicked. I could work in entertainment, same as always, without forfeiting the chance to one day graduate from NYU,” he says.

At NYUSPS, Reed pursued his passion for journalism. He had the opportunity to live and study abroad twice for academic purposes —first at the NYU academic center in Florence and later working at CNN International’s bureau in Hong Kong. Assigned to the Bureau’s news-gathering and digital divisions, Reed wrote and contributed to dozens of stories for CNN.com, and lent a hand to on-air broadcasts and the emerging CNN Money platform.

Throughout his studies at NYUSPS, Reed has balanced his course work with a range of professional endeavors. He launched a consultancy business—Reed Alexander Digital & Media—and served as a weekly on-air contributor to BBC Radio in London. He also served the NYU community by representing NYUSPS in the University Senate, spending a year as president of the newlyformed McGhee Student Association, and presiding over the Senate’s Public Relations Committee as vice chair.

In looking towards his future, Reed sees the promise of possibility ahead. “I’ve decided law school will be the next chapter for me,” he shares. “I have seen the world through the eyes of my NYU education over these past four years, and along the way, I’ve become a better journalist, student, and member of my community for it.”