International Institute Commencement Address: 14 Points for Success

Kantathi Suphamongkhon, 39th Foreign Minister of Thailand, Burkle Center Senior Fellow and UCLA alum.

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Duration: 22:15

By the end of the summer, 328 undergraduate and 33 graduate degrees are expected to be conferred for the 2007–08 academic year in nine interdisciplinary programs run by the UCLA International Institute. Sixty Global Studies students are on track to complete theses for their bachelor's degrees this year, which would make that program's second graduating class three times the size of the first one. Overall, the number of undergraduate degrees granted by the Institute this year will increase by 19 percent from 2006–07.

These individual achievements—361 degrees to be earned by 360 students, plus 179 minors—were marked at the end of the spring quarter on June 14, 2008, at the International Institute Commencement Ceremony. Keynote speaker and UCLA political science alumnus Kantathi Suphamongkhon, a former Thai foreign minister who is currently a Regents' Lecturer and a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, wished the graduates "the very best in the world of globalization."

Suphamongkhon advised students to use their "UCLA thinking tools" to achieve their ultimate goals, which ought to be set high. His own goal after graduation was indeed to become Thailand's foreign minister—the role in which he believed he could serve his country best, given his abilities.

"I kept this ultimate goal a secret, because it seemed such a long shot," he said.

Each of the Institute's Interdepartmental Programs (IDPs) focuses on a world region or on themes including globalization, Islamic civilization, and economic, political, and social development worldwide. The largest bachelor's program, in International Development Studies (IDS), is to award 189 degrees this year. At the other extreme, just three students will have earned their bachelor's degrees in Southeast Asian Studies this year; meanwhile, two have taken doctorates in Islamic Studies, the only PhD program run directly by the Institute. Most of the 31 master's degrees conferred will be in African Studies or Latin American Studies. One student, Amy Andersson, simultaneously earned bachelor's and master's degrees in East Asian Studies, completing an MA thesis on Japanese literature, art, and aesthetics.

Every year, IDS honors two graduates for academic excellence and activism. This year's IDS Activist award went to Danielle Ogez, coordinator of the campus chapter of Polaris Project, an advocacy group that fights global human trafficking. Ogez has also volunteered with Human Rights Watch and a UCLA Medical Center program that helps chronically ill children.

In a very unusual four-way tie, IDS academic awards went to Joseph Felix (double major in IDS and French & Linguistics), Christina Lenon (IDS and Political Science), Natasha Oxenburgh (IDS, Political Science, and Scandinavian Languages), and Sarah Zingg Wimmer (IDS). All had cumulative grade point averages above 3.9.

For more information on degree programs at the International Institute, visit