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Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability dean urges graduates to inspire others

During the school's 2024 commencement ceremony, Dean Arun Majumdar told graduates they “can change the world.”

View of grad caps from the back of the commencement audience with Dean Majumdar speaking at the front of the patio
Dean Majumdar shared remarks with students, faculty, staff, and guests attending the school's commencement ceremony on June 16. (Image credit: Javier Flores)

The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability welcomed its second-ever class of graduates in a commencement celebration on the Mitchell Patio on June 16. Dean Arun Majumdar framed the events as a beginning, filling the air with words of inspiration and a solemn challenge.

“Like so many important moments in our lives, today is not so much a destination as it is a landmark on a much longer journey,” Majumdar began. “You are leaving our ceremony today armed with knowledge and skills that can change the world.” 

Close-up of Arun Majumdar speaking in academic regalia at a podium
Dean Majumdar encouraged students to think of their graduation as part of a long journey in creating change. (Image credit: Javier Flores)

He urged graduates to think of the legacy, decades from now, of their time at Stanford. “It is my hope that your ambition remains strong, not only in service of your goals but also in the understanding that you will inspire others to do great things as well,” he said.

Majumdar also recognized faculty as the foundation of the school’s education mission. “They bring world-renowned expertise into our classrooms, labs, and field stations to train current and future sustainability leaders,” he said.

In the 2023-24 academic year, the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability awarded 405 degrees: 56 Bachelor of Science, 286 Master of Science or Master of Arts, 2 Engineer, and 61 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, from the departments of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Earth System Science, Geophysics, Energy Science & Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE, joint with the School of Engineering), and from three interdisciplinary programs: the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER), the Change Leadership for Sustainability Program, and the Earth Systems Program. CEE held a separate diploma ceremony on Sunday at Memorial Auditorium.

Excellence in teaching

Before welcoming Deana Fabbro-Johnston, associate director of the Earth Systems Program, to the stage to assist with the conferring of diplomas, Majumdar took a moment to acknowledge the recipient of the school’s 2024 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Kyle Douglas smiling and shaking hands with Dean Majumdar at the front of the commencement ceremony
Douglas was praised for his patience as a mentor, engaging and innovative lecture style, and devotion to his research. (Image credit: GradImages)

The award went to Kyle Douglas (PhD Structural Engineering ’07), a research engineer and lecturer in civil and environmental engineering. Working in the lab of Sarah Billington, the UPS Foundation Professor at Stanford and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Douglas specializes in sustainable concrete. Douglas teaches courses including CEE 285A: Advanced Structural Concrete Behavior and Design, CEE 176A: Energy Efficient Buildings, and CEE 223: Materials for Sustainable Built Environments.

Nominations for the Excellence in Teaching Award can be made by any student, staff, or faculty at the school, but Douglas’ nominations were distinguished in coming entirely from students in his classes.

Majumdar read from two of the nominating letters. One noted Douglas’ quality of emphasizing how each student has the skills and knowledge to make a lasting impact on the world through sustainability. The second praised Douglas for the “eternal flame of passion” he brings to class each day.

At the CEE ceremony, Assistant Professor Khalid Osman was presented with the Eugene L. Grant Award, which recognizes dedication and excellence in teaching by a professor in the department. The awardee is selected based on voting by the undergraduate students in CEE.

Student awards

A graduating student holding their award and smiling with a faculty member
Students were honored with a number of awards from the university, school, and individual departments. Pictured: Erin Hirsch receiving an award from Julia Novy. (Image credit: GradImages)

The Centennial Teaching Assistant Awards were presented to eight graduate students for their tremendous service and dedication in providing excellent classroom instruction as teaching assistants: Nina Berlin Rubin (Earth System Science), Caroline Blythe (Earth Systems), Erica Bower (Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources), Thom Chaffee (Geophysics), Ellie Fajer (Earth Systems), Lina Fowler (Sustainability Science and Practice), Sarah Hickernell (Earth and Planetary Sciences), Xunfeng Lu (Energy Science & Engineering).

Forty-eight students received the Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Academic Achievement: Ingrid Ackermann, Gabby Barratt Heitmann, Rebecca Becht, Keona Blanks, Sky Chen, HannahZoe Chua-Reyes, Laney Conger, Madeline Connelly, Nazli Dakad, Annabelle Davis, Caroline Dee, Julia Donlon, Jess Fairlie, Jatzia Felix, Esther Filipek, Bryana Gastelum, Ruby Gates, Liza Goldberg, Bennie Hesser, Nona Hungate, Ahmad Koya-Oyefuwa, Alyssa Krull, David Lee, Catherine Lisama, Maddie Lloyd, Acacia Lynch, Lily Lyu, Dulce'Celeste Martinez, Aditi Narayanan, Matthew Nguyen, Adria Nyarko, Isabela Onyshko, Ali Palm, Page Proctor, Freddy Rabbat Neto, Tida Rau, Dakota Riemersma, Gillian Roy, Riley Shaper, Vivian Leilani Shay, Sicada Sloan, Emily Snell, Eliana Stern, Emma Sun, Sze En Tan, Cecilia van Paasschen, Valeria Vega Yanez, Aiyana Washington.

Earth & Planetary Sciences

  • Harriet Benson Fellowship Award: Emily Ellefson
  • Earth & Planetary Sciences Outstanding Senior Award: Emily Snell
  • Earth & Planetary Sciences Outstanding Graduate Award: Tyler Hall

Earth System Science

  • Earth System Science Award for Scholarly/Research Achievement: Yannai Kashtan
  • Earth System Science Award for Community-Engaged Science: Clarice Perryman
  • Earth System Science Award for DEI Leadership: Stephanie Lim


  • Undergraduate Best Thesis Award: Riley Shaper
  • Exceptional Thesis Award: Milad Bader
  • Department Citizenship Award: Paul Summers

Energy Science & Engineering

  • Frank G. Miller Fellowship Award: Alaa Alahmed, Fatimah AlNasser, Alexis Bonnafont, Xiaowen He, Anders Luffman, Audrey McManemin, Shufan Xia
  • Henry J. Ramey Fellowship Award: Mohammad Aljubran, Jimin Zhou
  • Robert G. Lindblom Memorial Award: Alyssa Krull
  • William H. Brigham Memorial Award: Alaa Alahmed, Dimitri Saad

Sustainability Science and Practice Coterminal Master’s Program

Pamela A. Matson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sustainability Leadership: Eric Bear, Erin Hirsch

Earth Systems Program

  • William W. Whitley Citizen Scholar Prize: Tanvi Dutta Gupta
  • Miller-Marsden Prize for Innovative Research on the Environment: Dakota Riemersma
  • Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research & Honors Thesis: Liza Goldberg
  • Earth Systems Award for Outstanding Research: Gabby Barratt Heitmann, Ali Palm, Maya Passmore
  • Earth Systems Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Scholars Award: Aiyana Washington
  • Excellence in Senior Capstone Award: Justina Lee, Vivian Lelani Shay, Acacia Lynch, Cecilia Van Paasschen, Gillian Roy, Tida Rau, Valeria Vega Yanez
  • Award for Outstanding Service to the Earth Systems Program: Laney Conger, Sky Chen, Nazli Dakad, Julia Donlon, Calvin Probst, Drive Rojrachsombat

Civil and Environmental Engineering

CEE students have been recognized with awards from campus units including the School of Engineering, the Stanford Alumni Association, and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, in addition to various external organizations. Awardees recognized at their ceremony on Sunday included the following:

  • Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Council Exceptional Master’s Student Graduation Award: Anoushka Raj, Leon de Souza
  • Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Council JEDI Graduation Award: Claire Anderson, Tess Hegarty, Winnie Lourdes Zambrana Orozco

Commencement photos: Proofs of students receiving their diplomas at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability commencement ceremony will be sent from GradImages to the student’s Stanford email following the ceremony.

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