United States Ambassador Delivers Personal Commencement Address
Webster University Geneva held its Annual Commencement Ceremony this Saturday, May 7 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva. This spring, over 130 students from 50 different countries were conferred their degrees in presence of distinguished guests, friends and family members. Dr. Acedo, Director, Webster University Geneva, invited Suzan G. LeVine, “Suzi” LeVine, United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein to deliver the keynote address.
Appointed by President Barack Obama, Ambassador Levine took up her duties as United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein in June 2014. Prior to joining the U.S. Government, Ambassador Levine’s professional and volunteer life revolved around education. Notably, she served as the co-founder and then chairperson of the advisory board for the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington.
In the early years of her professional life, Suzi focused her career in the field of software development and the Internet. As a Product Manager for Microsoft she helped launch the final versions of MS-DOS and Windows 95. Later on, with Expedia, Inc. she worked as Director of Marketing and then Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the luxury travel division.
In her inspiring and deeply personal commencement address to her “fellow humans,” Ambassador Levine described some of the unconscious biases she experienced from childhood up into her professional life. She opened with a description of the state of the world and how it has improved in recent years and how today’s graduates can contribute to this.
Ambassador LeVine, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with Aerospace Applications from Brown University went on to speak about her educational experiences. She invited the students, faculty and guests to raise their hand if they had had a teacher who changed the course of their life and to call out their name. She then provided an example of a “magical teacher” who had inspired her in the seventh grade and then went on to talk about the gender bias she experienced at her own university graduation ceremony.
Ambassador Levine then spoke about the unconscious bias she experienced in the workplace and how this informed her own behavior as a leader. She offered three important points of advice to the future leaders in the room, “Treat people fairly; pursue results without road-kill (try not to burn out your team); be transparent with your team.”
Lastly she highlighted what she calls, “upside down unconscious bias.” She spoke about her husband being the primary care giver to her two children and the inability of society to recognize him in his “stay at home” role. She advised, “Be conscious of how we think of and treat others. Make space for people to make their own life choices.”
In her closing statements she spoke directly to the graduates, “As you go forth into the world, you will blow away our highest expectations. You will make the world a better place. Congratulations to the class of 2016. May you foster a world full of respect, fairness and well-being, now and into the future.”
The personal, strong and relevant themes of Ambassador Levine's speech, delivered with the right touch of humor and emotion, will be long-remembered by all those present at this year’s commencement ceremony.