CEU’s 32nd Graduation Ceremony Marks a Historic Year

June 23, 2023

On June 23, 585 students were conferred at CEU’s 32nd graduation ceremonies, marking a historic year for the university which granted degrees to CEU’s first class of BA graduates.  

The morning undergraduate ceremony conferred degrees on 12 bachelor’s students, followed by CEU's afternoon graduate level commencement ceremony, which conferred degrees on 573 MA and PhD students. Of the class of 2023, the university awarded 27 doctoral degrees, 451 master’s degrees, as well as 14 non-degree certificates. The recipients now join CEU's global alumni body of more than 18,000 graduates in 148 countries. 

CEU Master’s and PhD Graduation Ceremony  

Initiating the commencement proceedings, Pro-Rector for Teaching and Learning and Professor Tim Crane, Master of Ceremonies, welcomed students, families and distinguished guests and the broader CEU community 

He took time during his remarks to remember those from CEU’s community who passed away this academic year, honoring the great commitments and contributions of Donald Blinken, William Newton-Smith, Josef Jarab Gaspar Miklos Tamas, Julia Szalai and Andras Gero. 

CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

During her opening remarks, CEU’s President and Rector Shalini Randeria addressed the audience, emphasizing the university’s broader mission: 

CEU is not just a place of academic excellence and disciplined hard work. It is, above all, also an ethos, an unflinching ethical commitment to the values of an open, tolerant society we all hold dear. The very fact that you are receiving your diplomas today is testimony to your conviction that the world can be made a better place and you will do everything in your power to help bring this about. 

The President continued: 

This institution, your true intellectual home for the last years, uncompromisingly stands for a core set of values, the fundamental values of free and equitable open societies. As authoritarian threats to democracy, liberty, and equality mount, these are the ideals that you carry with you into the world and defend. Not only have your studies at CEU prepared you to excel in your chosen academic fields, but I’m confident that you have learned well the lessons of practicing solidarity, pluralism and tolerance. 

Alexander Soros at podium. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Alexander Soros, Member of the Board of Trustees, and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations, New York, offered his greetings: 

My father really loved attending CEU graduations; it was always a high point of his year, and it has become the same for me.”  

Highlighting the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has had on universities, classes and students, he congratulated the graduating students for making it through that difficult time, adding:

Each of you being here today is a testament to your ability to overcome adversity and succeed.  

Geoffrey W. Smith, Alexander Soros, Pashtana Durrani (L-R). Photo by Daniel Vegel.

CEU Chairman of the Board of Trustees Geoffrey W. Smith provided the commencement address, in which he highlighted the pace of change, rapid innovation and participation in cultivating public goods. His closing advice to students was: 

Make a list of the most important problems of your time, find out where those problems are and work on them…If you identify the right problems and work on them hard, you may or may not solve them, but I promise you that the work you will do will create enduring value for the world.” 

Marija Golubeva, who graduated from CEU’s Department of History in 1995, was the distinguished alumna speaker. Having served as a member of the Latvian parliament and Chair of the European Affairs Commission, Golubeva developed and implemented Latvia’s response to the refugee crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Addressing the graduates, she said: 

There is something that allows us to hope for positive development and it is the combination of competence and principle. Now you have competence thanks to your education at CEU and soon, you will have a chance to show from your work and through your interaction with society that you have principles. That was my main takeaway from this university...In the end it was the adherence to open society and intellectual freedom that this university teaches and something that stays with you. 

CEU's 32nd Commencement. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Student speaker Yevhen Yashuk, MA in Comparative History, who is from Ukraine, said to his fellow students: 

When I entered my BA studies in Ukraine, I found out that three of my professors were CEU graduates. They were my introduction to CEU, and thanks to that, I am standing in front of you now. Those three women are continuing to teach others who will most probably join the CEU community soon. I am so proud to be their student as they are conducting seminars and lectures under the shelling and blackouts. I also realized the privilege I had to stay in a safe space while my colleagues of all ages are staying at the frontline, in hospitals or volunteering centers they themselves have founded. They are still students like any of us and they are keeping in touch with their professors and defend their theses in the breaks between their everyday duties. 

Regarding his work as part of CEU’s Invisible University for Ukraine (IUFU), Yashuk stated: 

I was honored to see how great education works here, and now I can bring it further. Since April last year, we have been working with 400 students from Ukrainian universities within the Invisible University for Ukraine, another great initiative established at CEU, and I saw how students were willing to maintain their studies by joining our classes from the occupied territories, shelters or the frontlines. 

Highlights of the event also included an address from Crane honoring the recipients of the 2023 Best Dissertation Awards and acknowledgement of master’s students receiving Outstanding Achievement Awards for high performance. Seven faculty and staff were also recognized for their work and community service during the presentation of the 2023 CEU Excellence Awards.  

CEU's 32nd Commencement. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Closing the programCrane announced the winner of the 2023 Open Society Prize: Afghan women and girls. The Open Society Prize is awarded annually to persons of exceptional distinction who serve the ideals of an open society. 

During the laudatio, delivered by Randeria, she expressed: 

“In a world plagued by patriarchy, violence against women and gender injustice, it is your indomitable spirit of Afghan women and girls has broken through the confines of silence and fear, stepping forward to voice the concerns and aspirations of women worldwide. You relentlessly fought against the discrimination and marginalization of women and are working to dismantle the very foundations of gender inequality. Your courage shines as a beacon of hope and inspiration to us all.” 

The six awardees on behalf of Afghan women and girls were Pashtana Durrani, Zeba Mirzayee, Munisha Mubariz, Tamana Zaryab Paryani, Summia Tora and Aydin Sahba Yaqouby, three of whom (Mirzayee, Tora and Durrani) were present at the ceremony to accept the award.  

CEU Bachelor’s Graduation Ceremony 

The CEU bachelor’s graduation ceremony conferred 12 degrees to students competing the Culture, Politics and Society and the Philosophy, Politics and Economics three-year programs. 

CEU Bachelor's graduates during ceremony. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Pro-Rector for Teaching and Learning and Professor Tim Crane served as the Master of Ceremonies welcoming students, family and the CEU community.  

Tim Crane. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Crane played a pivotal role in establishing CEU’s undergraduate studies program in Vienna, along with Professor Dorit Geva, who served as Dean of Undergraduate Studies during the first years of the program, and who also spoke during the ceremony. 

In her opening remarks, CEU President and Rector, Shalini Randeria addressed the honored guests, situating the role of undergraduate studies as part of CEU’s broader mission: 

In our times of dizzying changes, education that draws on a vast array of social sciences and humanities to foster a keen sense of critical inquiry is more needed than ever. As one of my predecessors at this university, Yehuda Elkana, argued 15 years ago, no single discipline can deal on its own with the great problems humanity is facing.”  

Addressing the graduating students, she added: 

I bid farewell to you from CEU in the hope that we will welcome some of you back as graduate students and that you have also learned here to fulfill your potential as concerned citizens, committed to the values of democratic, open and humane societies. 

CEU Chairman of the Board of Trustees Geoffrey W. Smith provided the commencement address, highlighting the importance of cultivating public goods. 

Andres Moles. Photo By Daniel Vegel.

Current Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor Andres Moles addressed the students: 

“The graduation ceremonies celebrate not only the end of a cycle, but also new beginnings. As you go out into the world, either to continue studies or enter employment, please remember to embody the values of the open society that drives our university: democracy, toleration, inquisitiveness, freedom and justice.” 

Dorit Geva. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Former Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dorit Geva, reflected on the role of friendship in her remarks: 

“There will be hard experiences in your lives…You will need resilience. Some of that resilience will come from friendships and the personal commitments in which you invest. I sincerely hope that some of your CEU friends will play that role in your lives for many years to come.” 

Together, BA graduates Fiona Bogensberger, Beatrice BotturaNatasa Powell and Anna Flaismanova co-delivered the student speech, acknowledging the individual strengths of each of the 12 graduates, and animating the room with humor and heart.  

CEU Bachelor's student speakers. Photo by Daniel Vegel.

Bottura and Powell were also honored with the Undergraduate Studies Outstanding Service to the Community Award for their stewardship of undergraduate studies.  

CEU is one of the world’s most international universities with a unique founding mission, and an acclaimed center for the study of contemporary economic, social and political challenges, sustainability and the environment, and a source of support for building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and human dignity. 

CEU extends its warm congratulations to the class of 2023, encouraging them forward on their paths as creative and independent thinkers, lifetime learners and active citizens.