Commencement Speaker and IR Major, María José Lozano Sanabria

Author: Department of International Relations
June 4, 2019

International Relations major María José Lozano Sanabria was chosen to speak for the undergraduates in the class of 2019, during San Francisco State University’s 118th Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 28.

“Be transformative,” she exhorted the 8,700 graduates, “whether you engage in justice, politics, education, economy or any other field. Actively work on transformation by addressing challenges beyond the surface. Contextualize, examine root causes and pre-existing conditions.”

Keynote speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi acknowledged Lozano Sanabria for remarks “that challenge us to further greatness.”

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

“SF State has provided me with a safe pedagogical space that has enabled me to better understand the political, social and economic dynamics of my home country,” she added. “From here, I have witnessed the process of peacebuilding 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 that explores methods of peace building and conflict resolution.

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

Lozano Sanabria served as managing director of the International Relations Journal, the department’s academic journal, as well as the project assistant for the College of Liberal & Creative Arts’ Social Science Alliance. “She is the kind of student who always put a smile on your face,” recalled Journal co-adviser, Dr. Burcu Ellis.

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

She and her classmates join a long tradition of International Relations alumni who are transforming the world through diplomacy as well as work in NGOs, law, education and other fields. More information about IR alumni and their careers in available at our Alumni section.

She was honored as part of a longstanding tradition in which each of the University’s six academic colleges selects two students, one undergraduate and one graduate, for the honor of representing their classmates during the ceremony by wearing their college’s academic hood.

She was one of two chosen among the 12 honorees, one a graduate student, one an undergraduate, to deliver comments during the ceremony to their 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