Former Nigeria fiance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was on Thursday honoured and decorated at MIT Doctoral Hooding ceremony 2016 after she gave a keynote address urging MIT’s newly minted doctoral graduates to solve “the world’s toughest challenges.”
Okonjo-Iweala, who is a development economist and former high-ranking World Bank official, during her speech outlined a list of pressing global issues that will require a concerted public effort, now and in decades to come: sustaining economic growth, reducing economic inequality, limiting climate change, providing global access to water, tackling new health problems, and managing the global shift to a more urban-oriented society.
“They are real challenges,” she said “and every challenge presents an opportunity.”
Discussing her own professional experiences, she recalled thinking, “If I made it out of MIT with this degree, surely I have the ability to solve these problems.”
She cited her own work helping to tackle the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, and reducing domestic corruption as a government minister in Nigeria, as times when the intellectual tools and systematic analysis from her graduate study particularly helped her professionally.
Okonjo-Iweala received her MCP from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and a PhD in regional economics and development. She served at the World Bank for 21 years, as a development economist, vice president, and corporate secretary, before becoming Nigeria’s finance minister in 2003.
In 2007, Okonjo-Iweala returned to the World Bank as managing director. She served as Nigeria’s finance minister for a second time from 2011 to 2015, and is currently a senior advisor at Lazard, the global advisory and asset management firm.
This year’s event marked the second time MIT’s doctoral hooding ceremony has had a keynote speaker, a new annual tradition at the Institute and the speaker is chosen with input from MIT faculty and doctoral students. The institution awarded 646 doctoral degrees this spring, across all five schools of the Institute.
MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, delivering her welcome address at the ceremony, congratulated MIT’s PhDs on their journey to achieving the highest level of scholarship and wished them luck in solving humanity’s most pressing challenges.