Northeastern University announces speakers for global campus commencements

Graduation cap tassel for Northeastern's commencements.
Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern University’s 2024 commencement.

Northeastern University recently announced the speakers for its undergraduate and graduate commencement exercises at Fenway Park in Boston.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance, will address the graduate students at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 7, while Mariam Naficy, a serial entrepreneur and e-commerce pioneer, will address undergraduates at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, Northeastern has also announced the speakers for commencement ceremonies at its global campuses. The esteemed list includes a United Nations ambassador, Google executive, tech company founder, Canadian elected officials, health-care executive and the governor of Maine.

· Michèle Taylor, United States ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, will speak at Mills College at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 30, at Northeastern University in Oakland, California.

· Marquis Cabrera, founder and CEO of technology company Stat Zero, will address Silicon Valley graduates at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, California. Silicon Valley

· Felicia Guity, a chief operations and executive strategist at Google, will speak at the Seattle ceremony at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, in Benaroya Hall.

· Sarah Roth, president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation, will address Vancouver graduates will at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, at The Centre for Performing Arts.

· Ali Cyrus Ehsassi, chair of Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee and member of Canada’s Parliament, will speak at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2.

· Matthew DePace, vice president of community engagement at Novant Health, will speak on the Charlotte campus at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 3.

· Janet Trafton Mills, the governor of Maine, will address graduates of the Roux Institute at 1 p.m. on Friday, June. 9, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine.

Mills College: Michèle Taylor

A Mills College graduate, Taylor was sworn in as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in February 2022. She is a lifelong human rights activist, daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and advocate of women and girls. 

Taylor has championed access to STEM careers, the end to violence against women, and equality for LGBTQI+ persons. She previously served on the board of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Taylor was also a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council, a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southeast board, and served as vice chair of the National Finance Committee for the Democratic Party. 

For over two decades, Taylor served in various roles for the North Carolina Outward Bound School, including as vice chair of the board, instructor and course director. 

Silicon Valley: Marquis Cabrera

A 2011 Northeastern graduate, Cabrera is the founder and CEO of Stat Zero, a global technology corporation based in Silicon Valley, California.  

Prior to Stat Zero, he was IBM’s global leader of digital government transformation, including emerging technologies. Before IBM, Cabrera worked for Massachusetts Appeals Court and President Obama in the Chief of Staff’s Office at the White House. He currently sits on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council and Metaverse’s Governance Committee. 

At 16 years old, Cabrera developed a tech program and system that was adopted districtwide by a New York School District to improve school district security.  He then worked in the Boston innovation community with Wayfair and Y-Combinator’s WeFunder.  Cabrera later founded two startups:, a first mover in public sector customer experience metrics, and, an upstart Uberizing physical therapy. 

Seattle: Felicia Guity

Guity is chief operations and executive strategist at Google. She was previously the cloud sales and productivity and readiness lead for Amazon, and leader of strategic cloud alliances and partnerships at Citrix.

Guity spent a decade in various roles at Microsoft. During that time, she was promoted from entry level to the top 1% of company leadership, the first Black woman to do so. At Amazon, she was responsible for supporting the company’s growing Americas enterprise sales business. 

She has been recognized among the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and  the “Top Women Executive in Advertising & Marketing” by Black Enterprise, and the “Top Most Influential Women in Corporate America” by Savoy Magazine.

Guity is also active in the community and serves on the board of directors of Powerful Voices, We Connect The Dots and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Vancouver: Sarah Roth

Roth, who earned her MBA from Northeastern in 2001, has had a nearly 30-year career leading fundraising campaigns for academic institutions and healthcare providers. She currently serves as the CEO and president of the BC Cancer Foundation in Vancouver, the only provincial cancer center in Canada. 

After graduating with a bachelor’s and master’s in history and French from Washington University in St. Louis, Roth worked as a secretary in the university’s alumni and development office, where she got a taste for fundraising. 

Before arriving at the BC Cancer Foundation, she spent eight years as the assistant dean of development and alumni relations in the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine, where she launched and completed a $437.6 million campaign.

Roth is also chair of KidSafe’s board of directors, a non-profit organization providing a safe space for over 800 children facing adversity.

Toronto: Ali Ehsassi

Ehsassi is the Liberal member of Parliament for Willowdale, a Toronto neighborhood, and currently sits as the chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Born in Geneva and raised in Tehran, Ehsassi and his family fled the Iranian revolution, settling in Toronto at the age of 15. 

Before he was first elected to Parliament in 2015, Ehsassi worked as a lawyer for Global Affairs Canada and also served as one of Canada’s top international trade legal experts. That experience served him well when he was named parliamentary secretary to the minister for science, innovation and economic development in 2019. 

A defender of human rights, Ehsassi has been at the forefront of Canada-Iran relations. He has also been instrumental in Canada’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leading several parliamentary delegations to Kyiv and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Charlotte: Matthew DePace

DePace is a health-care executive with over 15 years of experience in community engagement, public relations and marketing. He currently serves as the vice president of community engagement at Novant Health, a leading health-care provider.

A Northeastern graduate with his master’s degree in project and nonprofit management, DePace has held a variety of leadership positions in the health-care industry. Prior to joining Novant, he worked for Northwell Health in New York for eight years, most recently as a leader in the department of Community and Population Health.

Prior to joining Northwell, DePace worked within the nonprofit health sciences industry for organizations including the Parkinson’s Foundation, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and the American Arbitration Association. 

DePace also teaches courses in health-care administration, project management, health-care economics, health-care marketing and nonprofit administration.

Roux Institute: Gov. Janet Trafton Mills

In 2018, Janet Trafton Mills defeated incumbent Gov. Paul LePage to become the first woman elected governor of Maine. Since then, she has focused on improving access to health care, implementing policies to combat climate change, and worked to strengthen Maine’s economy.

Mills has also been a big supporter of the Roux Institute, funded by a $100 million grant from Maine-born benefactor David Roux and his wife Barbara Roux. “The Roux Institute will be an anchor and an attraction to people far and wide,” she said in 2020. 

In 2008, Mills was elected Maine’s first female attorney general. Prior to that, she served in the Maine House of Representatives. Mills began her career as an attorney, practicing law in the areas of child abuse, child advocacy and family law. She also served as attorney general in Maine for over 20 years.