Simmons Names 2024 Commencement Speakers & Honorary Degree Recipients

A side-by-side photo collage of Meredith Woo and Dr. Claudia Goldin
Dr. Meredith Woo and Dr. Claudia Goldin

Simmons University will recognize two Honorary Degree recipients during the 2024 Commencement ceremonies. Renowned American academic and author Dr. Meredith Woo will serve as Simmons’ Commencement speaker at the morning ceremony. Trailblazing Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist Dr. Claudia Goldin will serve as our afternoon Commencement speaker.

About the 2024 Honorary Degree Recipients

Dr. Meredith Woo, renowned American academic and author

Meredith Woo

Dr. Meredith Woo will be awarded a Doctor of Public Service degree.

Meredith Woo has long been a stalwart in championing women’s education. Her dedication to this cause was exemplified when she took the helm at Sweet Briar College, a decision made two years after the college announced its closure. Sweet Briar underwent a comprehensive restructuring under her presidency (2017-2023). This included an academic reset that replaced general education with a core curriculum on women's leadership, a move that not only demonstrated her commitment to the cause but also significantly improved the college's academic offerings. Her plans to generate greater revenue and stabilize the budget further underscore her strategic acumen. In the fall following the restructuring, the first-year enrollment went up 42 percent, a testament to the renewed interest and confidence in the college under her leadership. The U.S. News and World Report also recognized Sweet Briar as one of the "most innovative liberal arts colleges” in the nation.

Woo also serves on the board of the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, supporting students often from societies with limited opportunities for women.

After a distinguished career that included services as Dean of Arts and Science at the University of Virginia and directing higher education efforts worldwide on behalf of the Open Society Foundation, she has returned to scholarship. She is currently on the faculty of Arizona State University and helps design new higher education systems around the country and the world.

Woo has authored and edited seven books, including Race to the Swift, about the industrial and financial policy behind rapid economic growth in South Korea. She was the executive producer of Koryo Saram: The Unreliable People, a film about Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of Koreans during the Great Terror. She graduated from Bowdoin College and earned her Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

Dr. Claudia Goldin, trailblazing Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist

Dr. Claudia Goldin

Dr. Claudia Goldin will be awarded a Doctor of Public Service degree.

Claudia Goldin is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University and holds the Lee and Ezpeleta Professorship of Arts & Sciences at Harvard University. She was the director of the NBER's Development of the American Economy program from 1989 to 2017 and is a co-director of the NBER's Gender in the Economy group. Goldin was awarded the 2023 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel "for having advanced our understanding of women's labour market outcomes."

An economic historian and a labor economist, Goldin's research covers a wide range of topics, including the female labor force, the gender gap in earnings, income inequality, technological change, education, and immigration. Most of her research interprets the present through the lens of the past and explores the origins of current issues of concern. Her most recent book is Career & Family: Women's Century-Long Journey toward Equity (Princeton University Press, 2021), which has been translated into 15 languages.

She is the author and editor of several books, among them The Race between Education and Technology (with L. Katz; Belknap Press, 2008, 2010) which was the winner of the 2008 R.R. Hawkins Award for the most outstanding scholarly work in all disciplines of the arts and sciences.

Goldin is best known for her historical work on women in the U.S. economy. Her most influential papers in that area have concerned the history of women's quest for career and family, coeducation in higher education, the impact of the "Pill" on women's career and marriage decisions, women's surnames after marriage as a social indicator, the reasons why women are now the majority of undergraduates, and the new lifecycle of women's employment. 

Goldin was the president of the American Economic Association in 2013 and was president of the Economic History Association in 1999/2000. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of Labor Economists (SOLE), the Econometric Society, and the Cliometric Society. She received the IZA Prize in Labor Economics in 2016 and in 2009 SOLE awarded Goldin the Mincer Prize for life- time contributions to the field of labor economics. She received the 2019 BBVA Frontiers in Knowledge award and the 2020 Nemmers award, both in economics. From 1984 to 1988 she was editor of the Journal of Economic History. She is the recipient of several teaching awards. Goldin received her B.A. from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

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