Returning graduates of the YSE classes of 2020 and 2021

YSE Welcomes Back Classes of 2020, 2021 for In-Person Alumni Commencement Celebration

Nearly 100 graduates returned to campus with family and friends for an in-person celebration, which included ceremonies at Old Campus and Kroon Courtyard.

The Yale School of the Environment recently welcomed back graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 for a special in-person alumni commencement celebration that included ceremonies at Old Campus and Kroon Courtyard.

Nearly 100 alumni from YSE returned to campus for the two-day event, which began with a reception on Friday, May 13, and continued Saturday, May 14 with a morning procession from Kroon Hall through downtown New Haven to Old Campus where Yale University President Peter Salovey addressed the first full class of graduates from all the Schools since 2019.

Morgan Pierce

Morgan Pierce ’20 MEM

“It feels wonderful to be here,” said Morgan Pierce ’20 MEM, who carried the YSE flag during the procession. “It’s really indescribable and emotional to be reunited with friends and classmates after such a chaotic period of the pandemic. And it’s very emotional to have reached such a level of education, which is the highest level of education in my family. To be able to celebrate this with my family is really monumental.”

Kangning Huang ’20 PhD, who returned to YSE with his 6-month-old daughter Iris to participate in the ceremony, said that he was grateful to be able to celebrate his achievement in person with fellow classmates. The class of 2020’s commencement was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kangning Huang with Xuhui Lee

Professor Xuhui Lee and Kangning Huang ’20 PhD and Huang's daughter Iris

“I thought I had missed my graduation forever in 2020. I received my degree on the couch in my home. They really made this ceremony meaningful,” said Huang, who is now an assistant professor of environmental studies at New York University, Shanghai.

During the afternoon ceremony under the tent in the Kroon Hall Courtyard, Dean Indy Burke noted the exceptional circumstances the alumni had faced in completing their degree programs during the pandemic, and the challenging circumstances they now faced as environmental professionals in a world increasingly threatened by climate change.

“People worldwide have become more and more polarized the more dire the climate and pandemic and food shortages situations become. The chasms seem wider, in many countries around the world, more bellicose and strident arguments, and there are fewer wise listeners and sincere engagers out there — leading. This is why we need you,” she said.

We need you leading where you are, and we are so proud of you. And we are depending on you. You are listeners, wise engagers, creative innovators, negotiators, savvy problem solvers, passionate advocates, true leaders, and experts in your field.”

Indy BurkeCarl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean, Yale School of the Environment

“We need you leading where you are, and we are so proud of you. And we are depending on you. You are listeners, wise engagers, creative innovators, negotiators, savvy problem solvers, passionate advocates, true leaders, and experts in your field,” Burke said.

Yale School of the Environment Commencement

YSE 2022 Commencement Information

Details of the May 23 commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022!

Guest speaker Katie Dykes ’00 BA, ’06 MA/JD, who is commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and served as deputy general counsel for the White House Council of Environmental Quality during the Obama administration, told the returning alumni to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” She advised them to embrace being leaders, making decisions, speaking up, being good listeners, and not waiting their turns.

“I believe our best chance at averting catastrophe also depends on another trajectory — the rapid acceleration of young people, young environmental professionals like you into positions of leadership in the great institutions of our country,” she said. “So, what I want to tell you today is how very possible it is to become an impactful leader early in your career. I didn’t say easy, but possible, and for the health of our planet it is important to become a courageous leader early in your career.”

More coverage of the Yale Alumni Commencement Ceremony can be found here.

Photo Gallery

Alumni Commencement Celebration for Classes of 2020, 2021

Photos: Cloe Poisson

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