Commencement Speakers

The University of San Diego is proud to welcome our 2018 commencement speakers. Click on a speaker's name for a short biography.

School of Law | Saturday, May 19, 2018 | Erik Greupner '04, JD

Graduate Programs I | Sunday, May 20, 2018 | Dima Ghawi '04, MBA

College of Arts and Sciences | Sunday, May 27, 2018 | Adama L. Iwu '05

School of Business and Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering | Sunday, May 27, 2018 | Ali Reza Arabnia '87, MBA


Erik Greupner

Erik Greupner '04, JD

School of Law Commencement Speaker

Erik Greupner was named chief operating officer of the San Diego Padres in November 2016. Working together with executive chairman Ron Fowler, Greupner has day-to-day management responsibility for the Padres’ business operations. 2018 marks his eighth season with the team.

Prior to becoming part of the Padres, Greupner worked as a corporate and transactional attorney with the international law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. While at Gibson Dunn, he advised senior management of public and private companies in general corporate matters, acquirers and targets in mergers and acquisitions transactions and institutional investors and fund sponsors in the formation and operation of private investment funds.

Before his time with Gibson Dunn, Greupner worked in sales management roles with Goldman Sachs & Company, Scudder Weisel Capital, LLC and Life Time Fitness.

Greupner earned his Juris Doctor degree magna cum laude from the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, as well as serving as executive comments editor of the San Diego Law Review. He was as a judicial intern for the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. 

A native of Minneapolis, Greupner graduated cum laude from Wheaton College, Illinois with an undergraduate degree in philosophy and communications. He currently serves as the chairman of the advisory board of trustees of Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation and on the board of directors of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

He and his wife, Laura, have a son, Thomas, and two daughters, Ella and Kate.


Dima Ghawi

Dima Ghawi '04, MBA

Graduate Programs I Commencement Speaker

As a young girl in Jordan, Dima Ghawi dreamed of an education and a brighter future than her culture was willing to allow. At each turn, she was faced with the limitations of her conservative homeland and a traditional Middle Eastern family, who believed a woman's time was best spent in the home, not the classroom. She was confronted with dangerous and life-threatening circumstances designed to hold her back, and despite it all, she pushed forward to create her own destiny.  

Dima has a unique perspective on what it takes to not only succeed in the corporate world, but also what is required for aspiring female leaders to shatter glass ceilings and their own limitations.

Her work ignites the untapped potential in individuals across the globe, empowering them to transcend limitations and become courageous, purpose-driven leaders. Through keynote speeches, workshops and executive coaching, Dima shares her unique leadership journey with one goal in mind: to motivate and activate those around her to reimagine their potential and grow into leaders.

Dima draws from two decades of corporate experience leading global teams and developing future leaders worldwide. She has worked across the globe for Fortune 100 companies including IBM, Merrill Lynch and Intuit and has honed a keen expertise in developing leaders to meet the demands of the global workforce.

In addition to her global empowerment work, Dima serves on numerous nonprofit boards. She has been recognized for her services with the 2014 President of the United States Bronze Volunteer Service Award, the 2014 Baton Rouge Business Report’s “Forty Under 40” award and the 2016 Louisiana State University “Esprit de Femme” award.


Adama Iwu

Adama Iwu '05

College of Arts and Sciences Commencement Speaker

Adama Iwu has served as senior director of state and local government relations for Visa since 2015. She is responsible for advancing Visa’s technology and business policy issues in the western half of the U.S. These issues include technical topics such as cybersecurity, data security, virtual currencies, data breach and privacy, as well as general business issues such as labor and taxation. She also manages Visa’s relationships with a number of technology and industry trade associations, while collaborating with industry leaders and policy makers to advance smart policy objectives and drive Visa’s state-level efforts on issues related to payments.

Prior to joining Visa, Adama was the head of California Government Affairs for Farmers Insurance from 2010-2015, managing their political and legislative activities. She has also served as the director of Western States Government Relations at Advance America and as thedirector of government affairs for the California Association of Physicians Groups. Adama began her career as an Executive Fellow in the Schwarzenegger administration in 2005.

In October of 2017, The Los Angeles Times published an open letter — led by Adama and signed by more than 140 women — on the pervasive culture of sexual harassment, discrimination and assault in politics. That letter struck a chord with women in politics and other industries, who reached out to share their stories and to call for solutions. This resulted in the creation of the We Said Enough Foundation, whose mission is to eliminate bullying, harassment and assault in the workplace. Adama now serves as president of its board. In 2017, Time Magazine recognized Adama as a Silence Breaker and featured her on the cover of their “People of the Year” edition.

Adama earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of San Diego. She currently resides in San Francisco.


Ali Reza Arabnia

Ali Reza Arabnia '87, MBA

School of Business and Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering Commencement Speaker

A native of Iran, Ali Reza Arabnia was already a successful businessman at an Italian company when he applied to a number of MBA programs. Though he was accepted at all of them, he liked the fact that USD was the only school emphasizing social responsibility. Once he visited the campus, the decision became very simple: He was University of San Diego-bound.

Although his company sponsored his studies, he was also given a near impossible goal: to complete the 2-year program in just one year, which he did in 1987. Upon his return to Italy, Arabnia was given charge of a failing automotive paint company, a small firm that proved to be his first real challenge as a CEO. After three years of hard work, the business turned around and became the biggest company in the world in its field.

Arabnia’s values were severely tested after Sept. 11, 2001, when his company’s Chicago branch suddenly lost profitability. At a corporate meeting in December 2001, he was pressured to lay off 60 people. He refused, and instead gave up his own salary, bonus and stock options. By February, the business was back on track. Under his leadership, the company has reacted to various challenges over the years by investing heavily in innovation and research. USD recognized Arabnia with an Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award in 2007.

In 2014, he was honored by the President of Italy as the “Cavaliere del Lavoro,” or the “Knight of Labor.” This title began in 1901 and is awarded each year to those who have distinguished themselves with their innovative contributions to Italy’s economy.

Based in Milan, Italy, Arabnia is group president and CEO of the Geico Taikisha Group, a global leader in the planning and construction of turnkey automated car painting systems, whose innovations have revolutionized the industry. He credits the company’s success to a simple ethos: “We listen, act, and do our utmost to deliver what customers’ most critical expectations are in the most open and honest way possible.”