Tipping Our Caps: Dickinson's First Graduate Cohort Awarded Diplomas

“The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn," says Annwen Hughes White '19, M.A. '23 (right), pictured here with Adjila Boubacar M.A. ’23. Photo by Dan Loh.

“The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn," says Annwen Hughes White '19, M.A. '23 (right), pictured here with Adjila Boubacar M.A. ’23. Photo by Dan Loh.

First master's degree, certificate recipients celebrate Commencement

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Dickinson marked a major milestone on Commencement, as the college bestowed graduate degrees and certificates to the first alumni of the managing complex disasters program.

The program launched in 2021, drawing from the college’s distinctive liberal-arts approach, leadership in global education and civic engagement and its fruitful partnership with the U.S. Army War College. The goal: To prepare students to effectively and ethically respond to natural and humanmade disasters, examine and analyze contemporary challenges and lead in a complex and globalized world.

Annwen Hughes-White ’19, M.A. '23; Kirsten Walsh ’17, M.A. ’23; and Adjila Boubacar M.A. ’23 earned master’s degrees on Commencement Day. Paige Hahn, Jessica Keifer and Thomas Vari achieved certificates with a focus on coping with public health disasters. Kiefer and Mann additionally received certificates in human and social factors in disaster situations.

Hughes-White, a California native, majored in Italian studies as an undergrad. She was working as a research assistant when the COVID-19 pandemic hit—an experience that inspired her to be among the first to apply to Dickinson’s new program. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn,” she says, noting that she now plans a career in disaster management.

Walsh, a former environmental science major and ROTC member, also earned a managing complex disasters master's just a few years after walking down Dickinson's old stone steps. Now living in Hawaii, Walsh enrolled after transitioning from active duty in the Army and working as a research analyst for the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. Learning about the factors contributing to social vulnerability, exposure to natural hazards and disaster emergency has enhanced her understanding of operations, logistics and leadership in the disaster-management sphere.

During Commencement Weekend, the grads had a chance to connect in person—with each other and also with a luminary in their field.

Deanne Criswell, the first woman to serve as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was in Carlisle to accept an honorary doctorate of emergency management and to deliver Dickinson’s Commencement address. On Sunday morning, she met with students in the master’s program, sharing insights gleaned through her FEMA leadership and through leading the coordination of COVID-19 response efforts in New York City, as commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department.

Hughes-White is grateful for that opportunity—and for all of the connections she’s forged, through this program, with students, professors and subject experts around the world, as she charts a career path tuned to making a meaningful difference.

“I have really enjoyed meeting students and professors from so many different industries, backgrounds, geographic locations and sectors of the industry and bringing a different lens to our studies: psychology, geoscience, political science and gender studies and the military,” she says. “The conversations we’ve had, the skills we’ve gained and the things we’ve studied in our courses will add to the depth of our experiences moving forward.”



Published May 31, 2023