The University of Michigan’s historic Hill Auditorium was filled with pride, gratitude, and optimism on April 27, as the School of Public Health faculty and Class of 2017 graduates processed into the hall.
Friends and family from near and far filled the auditorium to applaud the achievements of the 374 graduating students, who hail from 38 U.S. states and 13 countries around the world.
Dean Martin Philbert set the tone for the ceremony by talking about the many different paths that lead to public health.
[Photo: Dean Martin Philbert]
“Prior to matriculating here, you were on different career paths: at least one of you was a dentist, and another of you was an art consultant,” Dr. Philbert said. “You were pre-med in undergrad, or you studied biology, Spanish, anthropology, and engineering—just to name a very few. You came from right here in Ann Arbor and from around the world. Whatever you were, wherever you came from, you imagined that better future, and it began here.”
The guest speaker, Ms. Tatyana McFadden, echoed Dr. Philbert’s message about embracing the journey. Ms. McFadden, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down, talked about her inspiring journey and the extensive preparation that led her to become the fastest woman in the world by age 27.
Ms. McFadden has 17 Paralympic medals and 18 World Major Marathon wins, including four consecutive Grand Slams (first place in Boston, Chicago, NYC, and London marathons in the same year). She has broken five world records in track and field.
Graduates Ms. Nosheen Hayat and Dr. William Lopez were selected as student speakers.
Ms. Hayat, a first-generation college student who chose Michigan for her MPH because she wanted to work on agricultural systems and food insecurities, emphasized her gratitude for community and how excelling in public health will honor the sacrifices her family made for her.
Ms. Hayat was born and raised in Jhelum, a small village in northern Pakistan. Her father was a domestic worker for a World Bank official. Seeing what people at this organization accomplished with their educations inspired her father to pursue higher education for his own children.
“If my dad didn’t have that vision, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Ms. Hayat said. “It wasn’t common for people in my village to invest in a daughter’s education during his time. I’m sure he faced a lot of opposition in our home village. My mother moved thousands of miles away from home, not knowing English, to do this for her children.”
Dr. Lopez completed a PhD in health behavior and health education in September 2016. While conducting a survey-based research project on immigration in 2013, a large immigration raid occurred in Ypsilanti, giving Dr. Lopez and his team a unique opportunity to study immigration enforcement. He interviewed many of the families involved in the raid, and the work evolved into his dissertation.
“I ask you find peace in the tension of public health,” Dr. Lopez said to his classmates on graduation day. “To be perfectly comfortable being incredibly uncomfortable in that gray space between quantitative and qualitative research, between positivism and subjectivity, between blank-slate science and the empathy that brought you to public health in the first place.”Michigan