Commencement Speaker and IR Major, María José Lozano Sanabria

International Relations chief María Jose Lozano Sanabria was selected to speak for the Graduate of the Class of 2019 during San Francisco State University’s 118th convocation on Tuesday, May 28.

“Be transformative,” she exhorted 8,700 graduates, “whether you engage in justice, politics, education, the economy or any other field. Work actively on change by addressing challenges beyond the surface. Context, root causes and Check pre-existing conditions.”

The keynote speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, acknowledged Lozano Sanabria for “remarks that challenge us to the greatness ahead.”

“I am proud to represent before you a nation that is often underrepresented and misinterpreted,” said Lozano Sanabria, a Colombian native who moved to the United States at the age of 14.

“SF State has provided me with a secure educational space that has enabled me to better understand the political, social and economic dynamics of my country,” he said. “From here, I’ve seen the process of peace building in Colombia and the challenges associated with reconciliation.”

Lozano Sanabria used that safe space to conduct research around migration policies, culminating in a thesis on transformative justice in post-conflict settings, which explores ways of peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

“For the first time in my academic career, most of my professors were women who mentored and empowered me every day,” she said. “For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to work with immigrant women like myself on research projects. For the first time in my life I saw the power of bottom-up pedagogy. The ability to engage horizontally with my professors and the importance of building collectively rather than imposing knowledge.”

Lozano Sanabria served as the Managing Director of International Relations Journal, the department’s academic journal, as well as project assistant for the College of Liberal and Creative Arts’ Social Science Alliance. “She’s the kind of student who always puts a smile on your face,” recalls Dr. Berku Ellis, the journal’s co-advisor.

Fluent in English, Spanish and French, she will attend the prestigious Science PO University in Paris for graduate school.

He and his classmates join a long tradition of international relations alumni who are changing the world by working in diplomacy as well as in NGOs, law, academia and other fields. More information about IR alumni and their careers is available here

They were honored as part of a long-standing tradition in which each of the university’s six academic colleges wear their college academic hoods for the honor of representing their classmates during the ceremony with two students, one graduate and selects a graduate.

She was one of two chosen among 12 honorees, a graduate student, to give remarks during the ceremony to her classmates and an estimated 30,000 friends and family members.

More details about the ceremony, including an interview with Lozano Sanabria and other Hood recipients, are available at

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