(Posted May 13, 2017)

Kristin Lord delivers the Commencement address for Juniata College's graduation ceremony May 13.
Photo by J.D. Cavrich
Kristin Lord delivers the Commencement address for Juniata College's graduation ceremony May 13.
Photo by J.D. Cavrich

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Kristin Lord, president and CEO of IREX, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to building a more inclusive world by empowering youth, cultivating leaders and extending access to quality education, after congratulating the Juniata College for its global vision, told the assembled 2017 graduating class at Juniata’s 139th commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 13, “engaging the world is not exactly in vogue these days. Yet you are right to do so: Global engagement remains the right path, not only for Juniata students, but for all of us.”

The graduating class of 343 undergraduate students was awarded bachelor of arts (106) or bachelor of science degrees (237) at the ceremony. Juniata also graduated five students who earned master’s degrees: three in in accounting and two in the new master’s of arts in nonprofit leadership.

In addition, Miriam Smith Wetzel, a 1952 graduate of Juniata who retired from Harvard Medical School in 2000 as assistant professor of medicine, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Lord, who has led IREX’s (IREX stands for International Research and Exchanges Board) efforts in international education and development since 2014, explained “global engagement as a mindset and a way of life that anyone can embrace, even if you never leave the country,” she said. “Engaging the world will challenge your mind and uplift your soul, but it can also break your heart. For every act of ingenuity or humanity, there is cruelty and intolerance; after every breakthrough, setbacks. To echo Martin Luther King Jr. and others before him, the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. But it does not always bend as much or as quickly as we want it to.

"Engaging with the world is still worth the effort. And I am asking you, the class of 2017, to be the generation that gets global engagement right.”

"Engaging the world is not exactly in vogue these days. Yet you are right to do so: Global engagement remains the right path, not only for Juniata students, but for all of us."

Kristin Lord, CEO, IREX

Lord illustrated her points through her own life story, a story of coming from a small town in Massachusetts and receiving opportunities to travel abroad before the Berlin Wall fell and saw China’s rise from poverty. She referred to life-changing events and career changes that she called “an unorthodox journey,” saying, “I learned that the best route to impact is making the effort to genuinely understand issues from multiple viewpoints and being willing to question even friends and allies when necessary. That, by the way, is also a surefire way to make people mad at you once in a while.

“I decided that if no one is ever uncomfortable, either you aren’t really working for change or you’re not doing work that matters,” she added.

Lord went on to illustrate how global outreach and peacebuilding is never easy work but also asking the crowd what the alternative to such work is. “If we turn our backs and close our doors, will we really be better off in the end?” she asked. “For good or ill, I think the answer is no. Change does happen, all too slowly, then sometimes all at once. The pressure builds until something bursts forth. We don’t know when it will happen but when it does, it is powerful.”

She pointed out that in her lifetime extreme poverty around the world dropped by more than 70 percent, the percentage of people living in democracies jumped 25 percent, the overall rate of violent conflict has declined and half of the world’s 7 billion people now have access to the Internet. “The arc of history is longer than it appears in the moment,” she said. “We will be more secure and better off still if we remember that America chose a path of global engagement after seeing the devastation caused by isolationism, fascism, prejudice, intolerance, economic mercantilism, and two world wars.”

Lord ended her speech telling the assembled graduates that American security comes not from walls and fear but from vitality and strength. “I believe that if we truly want both security and justice, we must make life better not just for ourselves but for people of all backgrounds, in our country and around the world,” she said. “Our nation’s greatest accomplishments have come from being open rather than closed, brave rather than fearful. That is what I wish for our country going forward -- and for you as individuals.  But you are going to need to do better than my generation at extending the gains across our society, pulling others up and communities together.”

            The 2017 Senior Class Gift collected more than $46,000 (68 percent of the class contributed to the gift), for an endowed scholarship named in their honor.

Kristin Lord is a longtime advocate for global engagement and international education. Before joining IREX, Lord was acting president and executive vice president at the United States Institute of Peace, a federally created organization that seeks to prevent, mitigate and resolve global conflict worldwide. During her tenure, she oversaw the launch of an online education initiative, the creation of the Peace Tech Lab and the development of a five-year strategic plan.

From 2008 to 2013, she served as executive vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, where she oversaw the center’s research efforts and edited more than 100 publications. She also wrote significant reports and studies on diplomacy and development, cyber security, U.S. global engagement and violent extremism.

Lord earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies in 1991 from American University, and went on to earn a master’s degree in 1993 and a doctorate in 1997, both in government, from Georgetown University.

Lord has focused on international education from the start of her career, which began in 1995 at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She taught on the school’s faculty and served as associate dean for management and planning and associate dean for strategy research and external relations, where she initiated a wide range of education programs for students, diplomats, and midcareer professionals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Lord received an international affairs fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations. In that capacity, she worked for the U.S. Department of State as a special adviser to the undersecretary for democracy and global affairs from 2005- 2006. Lord left George Washington University for the Brookings Institution in 2008, where she led a science and technology initiative for the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and authored a major report on America’s role in the world.

Lord is the author of “Perils and Promise of Global Transparency: Why the Information Revolution May Not Lead to Security, Democracy or Peace” and “Power and Conflict in an Age of Transparency.”

            Miriam Wetzel, a resident of Casco, Maine, is a retired curriculum consultant for Harvard Medical School and a former content analyst for Harvard Health Publications, She retired from Harvard Medical School in 2000 as assistant professor of medicine.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Juniata and went on to graduate study at Temple University from 1952 to 1954 on a State Senatorial Scholarship awarded to her by the Miss America Foundation as Miss Pennsylvania. She and her family moved to Maine in 1971 where she taught music in the Lake Region School District and was principal of the Manchester School in Windham from 1977 to 1981. She earned a master’s degree in 1975 in education administration from the University of Maine, Portland-Gorham, a master’s degree in 1982 in human development from Harvard University and a doctoral degree in human development in 1987 from the University of Pennsylvania.

            She was hired by Harvard Medical School in 1985 as curriculum coordinator and played a large role in implementing a new method of medical school education that de-emphasized lecture-based classes in favor of small-group problem-based learning and case studies. Over her career at Harvard, Wetzel taught and helped implement the new curriculum model, called “The New Pathway,” at medical schools across the United States and internationally.

            Wetzel has been active as a Juniata volunteer for much of her career. She served as the first female president of the Juniata College Alumni Council in 1970. She also received the college’s 2006 Alumni Achievement Award.

            After she retired, Wetzel co-wrote a book, “The Health Care Dilemma: A Comparison of Health Care Systems in Three European Countries and the U.S.” She has had articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Annals of Internal Medicine and the British Postgraduate Medical Journal.


Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.