With faces beaming and tassels swaying, faculty and degree candidates of the University of Michigan School of Public Health processed into U-M’s historic Hill Auditorium on April 30. One group of graduates wore hand-decorated, bejeweled mortarboards that spelled out “Celebrate the journey, MPH 2015” and “Thanks, Mom and Dad.”
Speakers repeatedly reminded the graduates that they are positioned to do a world of good at a time when there is so much that needs to be done to improve the public’s health.
“You have chosen to dedicate your lives to bettering the health and wellbeing of your fellow human beings. I know of no greater calling,” said Dean Martin Philbert who presided at the ceremony. U-M Regent Andrew Richner and Vice Provost and SPH Professor Alfred Franzblau were among the honored guests.
Friends and family from near and far filled the auditorium to applaud the achievements of the 359 graduating students, who hail from 19 countries and 226 undergraduate colleges and universities.
Ms. Farnaz Malik, a graduating MPH student from the department of epidemiology, addressed her fellow members of the class of 2015, their families, guests, and professors on stage.
“We live in a world where we see and hear about various public health issues and achievements – be it the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the recent measles outbreaks across the US, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, awareness campaigns to end teen smoking, the push for nutritious meals for children around the world, and just this past week – the devastating earthquake in Nepal,” said Malik. “Public health is changing; and it’s powerful. And we are the next group of leaders to champion it further.”
Dr. Jenna Coalson, a graduating PhD student from the department of epidemiology, addressed her classmates, stating, “There are no magic bullets in public health. There are reasons, deep, structural, interlocking reasons, why these problems haven’t been solved already.”
At the same time, she encouraged her classmates to approach the future with enthusiasm: “Public health has such vast potential for positive influence. We’re not just going to help a few individuals – we’re going to help whole cities, whole countries, the world!”
A long-standing tradition at graduation is the selection of the Excellence in Teaching Award that was given to Dr. Jose Bauermeister, assistant professor of Health Behavior and Health Education. Ms. Emily Youatt, a doctoral candidate in Health Behavior and Health Education, received the first-ever SPH Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.
Known for creating powerful poetic presentations, Mr. Sekou Andrews—an elementary schoolteacher turned actor, musician, and national poetry slam champion—gave voice to the mission of public health. “Total health should not have an ethnicity, a zip code, a tax bracket,” he said. “You, the [nearly] 400 new health warriors armored in caps and gowns, you are ready to resuscitate the public’s health.”
Mr. Andrews then challenged the graduates, saying, “You chose to get into public health because you are the few bold enough to believe you can do a whole world of good. I charge you all to descend upon this world with the whole weight of your passion…be nothing less than contagious. Inspire the world to hope and believe, and to wish upon you like a star.”
Dean Philbert concluded the ceremony, saying “Graduates, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many of you, and I have a profound sense of the intelligence, talent, drive, and fundamental goodness of this class. Many of you are going to accomplish extraordinary things, and we are eager to celebrate those achievements. All of you are going to make a difference. You have chosen to dedicate your lives to bettering the health and well-being of your fellow human beings. I know of no greater calling.”
The University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club took the stage to perform “The University” (Michigan Song). The ceremony concluded when University Organist James Kibbie stepped to the famed E. M. Skinner/Æolian-Skinner organ to offer Symphony V, Charles-Marie Wider, as the faculty and students recessed from the auditorium.
To read more, click here.