2015 College Graduation Speakers

Monday, June 1, 2015

Maria T. Zuber, C’80, E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Nadia Y. Laher, C’15, were the speakers for the 2015 University of Pennsylvania College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony, which took place on May 17 at Franklin Field.

A distinguished planetary scientist, Zuber has held leadership roles on nine NASA missions aimed at mapping the moon, Mars, Mercury, and several asteroids. She remains involved with six of these missions and is the principal investigator for NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, which is measuring the gravitational field of the moon in order to reveal its internal structure and thermal history. Responsible for research administration and policy at MIT, Zuber oversees more than a dozen interdisciplinary research laboratories and centers. Previously, she served as the head of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. President Obama appointed her to the National Science Board in 2013. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Scientific Achievement Medal. In 2004 Zuber served on the Presidential Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy.

Nadia Laher, from Burke, Virginia, is a graduating political science major with a minor in creative writing. She received the John Thouron Prize for summer study at Cambridge University in England in 2013 and spent the fall of 2013 at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. Last summer she served as an Immigrant Rights Program intern at the Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C. She facilitated discussions on the impact of race on society and the campus community as director and board member of Penn’s Race Dialogue Project and sat on the Admissions Dean’s Advisory Board as admissions and outreach chair of the United Minorities Council. Laher also works with Philadelphia youth as a dance mentor through CityStep and has volunteered as a creative writing tutor through Write On. A staff member at Kelly Writers House, she has received awards for her fiction and creative nonfiction. In addition, she is a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society and is now working as a Venture for America Fellow.