The Jackson Institute for Global Affairs recognized its Class of 2020 graduates today in a celebration unlike any other in its history. With the campus mostly shuttered due to the global pandemic, a traditional Commencement ceremony was simply not possible.

Instead, the Jackson community came together via iPhones and laptops, from Helsinki to East Rock, to mark their transition from students to alumni.

Jackson’s graduate degree recipients were invited to join an online “toast,” where faculty, staff and Senior Fellows applauded their academic accomplishments. Heartfelt messages were shared on a digital message board. Jackson’s director, Professor James Levinsohn, and Jackson’s director of graduate studies, Marnix Amand, both recorded video messages for the graduates.

“The skills, the knowledge, all of the things that you’ve acquired over the last couple years here at Jackson, they’re needed now more than ever. You came to Jackson because you wanted to lead, because you wanted to play a role in tackling global policy challenges. Well, you’ve got one,” Levinsohn told graduates, in a recorded message.

Rising to the occasion in difficult circumstances is something Jackson students do well. Most Jackson students begin their graduate studies after working for several years, often in challenging environments for NGOs, in government roles or in the military. In the Class of 2020, students came to Yale after working for a nonprofit in South Sudan, serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, working as a journalist for the Chinese State Television station, and in many other complicated environments.

“I’m sorry to see you leave. But I know that you are going to go out and do some amazing things. Stay well, stay in touch. And again, congratulations,” Levinsohn said.

Two students received awards for outstanding academic achievement. Tuomas Lihr M.A. ’20 and Vu Ha M.A. ’20 were both recognized with the Award for Academic Excellence in Global Affairs.

The Jackson Institute mailed mortarboards and tassels to each of its 20 M.A. and three M.A.S. graduates, as a small keepsake of their time at Yale.

All Class of 2020 graduates will be invited to return to the Yale campus for a traditional Commencement ceremony at a later date.