Heartfelt Speeches and Somber Tribute: Scenes from a Degree Celebration, 2024

A man in a mortarboard and robe stands at a lectern in front of people wearing green regalia.
Some 500 soon-to-be graduates prepare to turn their tassels as Schar School founding dean Mark J. Rozell welcomes them to the 2024 Degree Celebration on May 10. Photos by John Boal Photography, LLC.
A woman with long dark hair and wearing a black mortarboard and robe stands at a podium.
Restaurateur of the Year and Schar School Master of Public Policy alumna Rose Previte makes a point in her keynote speech.

While other universities cancelled or curtailed commencement ceremonies in the wake of nationwide protests over the war in Gaza, the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Degree Celebration 2024, held Friday, May 10, at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia, was relatively drama-free. Unless you consider some 500 future graduates and 2,000 of their family members and friends loudly cheering and clapping to be dramatic.

Highlights included a heartfelt and memorable keynote speech delivered by Rose Previte, the Washington, D.C., region’s 2023 Restaurateur of the Year, who, in addition to owning several “best-of-the-year” list restaurants, is a Schar School alum (’07 MPP). See how she attributes her journey to owning a Michelin-star restaurant to her Schar School Master of Public Policy degree. She assured students there was employment waiting for them, and if it wasn’t ideal, they were now empowered with the skills to create their own.

In a somber moment, Schar School founding dean Mark J. Rozell presented the parents of the late Mari Tisera with a plaque commemorating Tisera’s bachelor of arts degree in government and international politics. Tisera, who died of melanoma in June 2023, is just the 32nd student to receive a posthumous degree at George Mason and the third Schar School recipient. See how she flourished in her brief college career.

In the end, Dean Rozell welcomed the new graduates to their new 16,000-strong Schar School community—the alumni.

A man in a mortarboard and black robe holds a framed diploma while a woman and man show emotion.
The parents of Mari Tisera receive their daughter’s posthumous bachelor of arts degree. Tisera died in June 2023 of melanoma.