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Saturday, May 14, 2016 7:59 p.m.

CCAS graduates told to move ‘onward’

Katherine Bradshaw, the student speaker, asked graduates to think of their lives as stories with plots, characters and themes. Jake Amorelli | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Katherine Bradshaw, the student speaker, asked graduates to think of their lives as stories with plots, characters and themes. Jake Amorelli | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduates from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate programs heard words of encouragement from student and faculty speakers at the second undergraduate commencement celebration Saturday afternoon.

Speakers, including Dean Ben Vinson, encouraged graduates to both reflect on their time at GW and look to the future after graduation.

1. Moving onward

In his address to the graduates, Vinson recalled moments in history that “encapsulated an onward movement,” like the famous portrait of George Washington crossing the Delaware River.

“For most of us what we do and what we experienced is not going to be written down in history books,” he said. “But that’s what I like about this word onward, because it describes what’s next for you.”

Vinson said that while the initial steps of moving onward can be scary, everyone eventually finds their footing.

“I continue to have to navigate obstacles, make difficult choices, come to terms with the roadblocks and learn to celebrate the smallest of victories,” Vinson said. “For me, and for most of us, these are the acts of journey, of moving onward.”

2. ‘The readiness is all’

Alan Wade, a theatre professor, framed his speech as a play between two characters: one of whom was himself and the other a director casting a commercial selling graduation caps and gowns.

Wade gave advice to graduates by quoting Shakespeare.

“As Hamlet says ‘The readiness is all,'” Wade said. “They’re prepared for whatever their next step is.”

Wade added that when he dropped off his son at GW as a freshman, he leaned out of the window of his residence hall room and said, “Do you smell that? It’s freedom.”

“That freedom, that independence, is a necessary component in engaging the world, in creating one’s self and in owning that creation of being – something Hamlet famously muses on,” Wade said.

3. Life is a story

Katherine Bradshaw, the student speaker, asked graduates to think of their lives as stories with plots, characters and themes. Bradshaw, who double majored in classical studies and English, reminded the graduates that they have all been characters in someone else’s story and the protagonist in their own.

“When we each began the stories of our lives we had a myriad of blank pages to fill,” Bradshaw said. “Today we’re rapidly moving through those pages, filling them with the events, people and ideas that make up our individual journeys.”

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Chris Evans, the student speaker for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences called on officials to improve mental health policies on campus. Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Chris Evans, the student speaker for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate celebration, called on officials to improve mental health policies on campus. Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Updated: May 15, 2016 at 12 a.m.

Speakers at the first Columbian College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate commencement celebration in the Smith Center Saturday inspired graduates to take advantage of life’s opportunities.

Chris Evans, the student speaker, urged University officials to change Mental Health Services polices after he spoke about three students who died by suicide on the Mount Vernon Campus two years ago.

Here are some highlights from the event’s speakers:

1. Improving mental health resources

Evans, who graduated with a double major in political communication and sociology, demanded that officials extend the hours for counseling services after 5 p.m. and on weekends and make sure students do not have to wait for appointments.

He also suggested that students have access to unlimited free counseling sessions.

“If a student shows the strength to walk into the doors of our counseling center, we should welcome them free of charge the first time and every time after,” Evans said.

Evans asked that officials improve University policies related to mental health and that graduates fight mental health stigma in their careers.

“Let’s be the University that leads the way,” he said. “Let’s step up and do our part and make sure that our community holds strong for years to come.”

2. Be your life’s architect

Daniel Martinez, an assistant professor of sociology, advised the Class of 2016 to step out of their comfort zones as they set out into the “real world.”

He likened the students to architects, because they have the ability to design their own futures and change the blueprints for their careers along the way.

“We only get one shot at this thing called life, so make it count,” he said.

3. Enjoying the moment

Ben Vinson, the dean of CCAS, urged the graduates to stay “thirsty” for life’s opportunities.

Vinson also encouraged them to revel in the importance of the moment when they walked across the stage at the ceremony.

“Right here, right now, you are better prepared than you have ever been for understanding your own destiny,” Vinson said.

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Reverend Laura Cunningham speaks at the interfaith service at the Western Presbyterian Church. Anne McBride | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Reverend Laura Cunningham speaks at the interfaith service at the Western Presbyterian Church. Anne McBride | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduates, faculty, families and friends gathered at the Interfaith Baccalaureate Service Saturday at the Western Presbyterian Church to speak about how faith has shaped their GW experience.

Reverend Laura Cunningham, the pastor at the Western Presbyterian church, opened the ceremony by welcoming the GW community and expressing her gratitude for the close relationship the church has maintained with GW.

“In our 160 years of service this is a church that has been excited by any connections to GW, to the point that I am a little surprised that one of these banners doesn’t say ‘Go colonials,’ “ Cunningham said.

1. Thanking faith

Chaplain Meraj Allahrakha, the community adviser of the GW Muslim Student Association who received his master’s from GW in 2010, thanked God for all those involved in helping the graduates pursue their education and maintain their faith in college.

“Oh God we thank you and remember you for allowing us to wake up at 8AM get to those classes,” Allahrakha said. “We thank you for all the friends that you have allowed for us to meet here on this journey for they are supports and pillars in this sink hole of faith that sometimes we refer to as college.”

Reverend Adam Park, the chaplain at the Newman Student Center, said the achievements of the graduates are a great reason to celebrate and that although the process was not always easy, it makes graduation even more significant.

“We celebrate these achievements because we recognize that it wasn’t always an easy process there were some trying moments to endure but it is precisely because of those moments that make this occasion today even more special,” Park said.

2. Finding yourself

Student speaker Elina Mir, the vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said that when she first came to GW she had no desire to outwardly express her faith. She said her high school lacked diversity and treated her badly for her Muslim faith.

“Because of my experience I came to college not wanting to be open about my muslim identity,” Mir said. “I am thankful for everyone at GW for creating an atmosphere of tolerance.”

Mir said that finally getting involved with the Muslim Student Association and the GW community helped her grow and be more open about her faith.

Student speaker Thomas Pacer, a member of GW Catholics, said he was a transfer student from a small Catholic university and that when he came to GW it was the “polar opposite.” He said when it was tough for him to make friends and succeed at GW’s NROTC program, it was hope and faith that got him through.

“Hope requires trust,” Pacer said. “This choice to trust and hope is what allows us to realize the true joy found in faith. Such faith gave me the hope that even in hard times I was surrounded by immeasurable goodness.”

Student speaker Hannah Schaeffer, a member of the Jewish Students Association, said graduation reminded her of her bat mitzvah. She said that both crucial times in her life have made her think about herself and her faith.

“To grapple with who you are and what you believe in is a powerful exercise and very quickly became a reoccurring theme over my years at GW,” Schaeffer said.

3. Finding your light

Student speaker Laura Porter, a member of GW SPEAK, said she never imagined standing in front of this audience today. She said Saturday is her 2,087th day at GW and that another important number to her is 1,291, the number of days she has lived in sobriety.

“Always remember the light from knowing that you are and always will be a part of a community,” Porter said. “A community of friends, mentors, and teachers, a community that shines so bright it could be only at GW.”

Student speaker Michael Massaroli said that when he was six years old, he lost his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that when the community came to support his family, he knew he wanted to give back. He said the greatest thing he has learned at GW is how to devote himself to helping others.

“I knew that I wanted to devote my life to giving back to the communities that were so selfless in supporting our family in this time of tragedy,” Massaroli said. “I have seen so many things from so many people at GW that will make me an immeasurable better man than I was before I started college.”

4. An accepting community

Student speaker Andie Dowd, former president of the Student Association, said that she learned from her time at GW the importance of the freedom and right to practice any religion one chooses.

“I owe so much of my experience to those who have welcomed me into the GW community with open arms,” Dowd said.

University President Steven Knapp concluded the ceremony by praising the profound impact that student leaders have on the GW community. He said the religious community has a unique identity and open spirit.

“I express our thanks and admiration for what you and the Class of 2016 have achieved,” Knapp said. “I pray that the power of imagination and the spirit of compassion that have guided you through your four years with us will never leave you but will continue to shape your lives.”

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at: www.hatchetphotos.com

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Emilio Fernandez, an alumnus and engineering entrepreneur, delivered the keynote address at the SEAS commencement ceremony Friday night. Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Emilio Fernandez, an alumnus and engineering entrepreneur, delivered the keynote address at the SEAS commencement ceremony Friday night. Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Speakers at the commencement ceremony for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Friday night told graduates that although their skills are technical, they should always remember the social impact of engineering and computer science.

At the ceremony, selected students were presented with awards from the school before the dean of the school, David Dolling, thanked parents, siblings, friends and spouses for helping graduates make it through what he called one of the most challenging programs at the University.

1. Have a positive impact

Emilio Fernandez, an alumnus, former member of the Board of Trustees and founder of Pulse Electronics, recalled during his keynote address seeing his father flee oppression in Cuba to come to the United States with nothing but a few papers in his possession.

“All he had when he arrived in this great land was his desire to provide a better live for his family. His diploma was one of the paper’s he carried and it gave us hope and a path to a new life,” he said.

Now, Fernandez said his father’s diploma hangs in his office “as a reminder of the permanency of higher education.”

He urged the graduates while they pursue difficult and demanding work to everyday “take a refreshing deep breathe and reflect on the social implications of your work.”

“It will make your careers more enjoyable and meaningful. Having a positive impact on the world is fun,” he said.

2. Taking flight

Maria Stroukoff, who is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, encouraged graduates to make decisions that will lead to new and surprising adventures.

She reminisced about a piece of advice her aunt gave her as a senior in high school that compelled her to leave her home in Oklahoma to study at GW.

“She said, ‘Maria, take the flight.’ That meant go for the unknown, take a leap of faith, start a journey,” she said. “I followed through on that advice the last four years and it has never failed to led the most incredible adventures.”

Stroukoff encouraged her fellow graduates take the flight as they went out into the world.

“I think you’ll find the path truly rewarding in the most unexpected ways,” she said.

3. A life changing gift

Katherine Stasaski, who received the distinguished scholar award and a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the ceremony, reflected on the societal impact of technology and engineering.

She recalled being part of a team that went to the Washington Literacy Center to install software that would help illiterate adults learn to read.

“This one woman came up and hugged our team and said we were changing her life and giving her the gift of  literacy,” she said. “It is that powerful experience that made me realize the true potential engineering has to positively impact society.”

4. From D.C. to Doha

Dolling saluted the diversity of SEAS students, noting that many are international students and that 40 percent of the graduating class were women.

“Whether they hail from D.C. to Doha, from Bethesda to Beijing, or New York to New Delhi, they all share a love of learning and a desire to master their discipline and challenge themselves,” he said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at: www.hatchetphotos.com

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Pamela Jeffries, the dean of the School of Nursing, speaks to graduates at the school's commencement ceremony. Anne McBride | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Pamela Jeffries, the dean of the School of Nursing, speaks to graduates at the school’s commencement ceremony. Anne McBride | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Speakers encouraged 326 nursing school graduates to step outside of their comfort zones and declare their future paths at the School of Nursing’s graduation celebration Friday in Lisner Auditorium.

Pamela Jeffries, the dean of the nursing school, welcomed graduates and their families with a message of reflection and focus. Jeffries urged graduates to seek career-building opportunities beyond hospital walls, before introducing student speaker Tara Brander, a doctoral graduate of nursing practice.

1. Defining success

Brander, who is the first in her family to earn a doctorate degree, reminded her peers that they, together, have survived tough journeys to receive their degrees. She asked them to consider how they define success: by having a degree or by what they achieve with their degrees.

“Success for those of you sitting in this room will be measured by what you have done with your degree years from now, or even next week,” Brander said.

2. Influencing a community

As nurses, Brander said, the graduates will answer a “unique” calling to help improve the lives of others. She pushed her classmates to find chances to give back to their communities outside of the workplace.

“We as nurse leaders should strive to be healthcare providers but also influential within our community,” Brander said.

She encouraged graduates to step outside of their comfort zones, speak up for those who are vulnerable and admit to and learn from their mistakes.

3. Choosing a place

Keynote speaker Pamela Hinds is the director of the Department of Nursing Research and Quality Outcomes and Co-Director of the Center for Translational Science at Children’s National Health System and a professor of pediatrics in the nursing school.

Hinds spoke about the importance of “place” in the field of nursing. She shared an anecdote about a father and son at the hospital where she works who felt comfortable and safe in her and her colleagues’ care, because they had created a friendly atmosphere.

She said the graduates should find places where they feel they can achieve their goals.

“I want you to be in a place where you can fly, to do everything that you have been prepared and educated to do, where in fact, you can achieve your health care legacy,” Hinds said.

4. Declaring a legacy

Hinds said graduates can declare their legacies by setting goals, no matter how lofty. She said that a legacy is the answer to the question, “What is it that I want to be better in healthcare because of me and my efforts?”

Following a legacy, she said, may take students on alternate paths and lead them to dead ends, but that pursuing a legacy will give their careers meaning.

“I, and many others, have been waiting for you, waiting to see you assess, analyze, interpret, create new understandings, to care, to change, and to improve our systems,” Hinds said. “We’ve been waiting for you for awhile, but I know the wait is well worth it.”

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at: www.hatchetphotos.com

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Anne McBride | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduating School of Business master’s student Khadijah Nimrod encouraged her fellow graduates to take responsibility for the future. Anne McBride | Hatchet Staff Photographer

At the School of Business master’s and doctoral programs celebration in the Smith Center Friday, students, faculty, family and friends gathered to watch as graduate students were recognized for their achievements.

The graduates heard words of advice from speakers, who stressed the importance of cherishing accomplishments, like the ceremony, and never accepting failure.

1. Always in a hurry

Keynote speaker Baroness Joanna Shields, the United Kingdom Minister for Internet Safety and Security who earned her MBA from GW in 1987, said that she did not attend her GW graduation.

“Coming back to GW has been surprisingly emotional in terms of a homecoming,” Shields said. “I have never been one to look back or take time to appreciate achievements, in fact, I will confess to you here today that I didn’t attend my own graduation ceremony.”

Shields said she was in “too much of a hurry” to attend the ceremony. She said being in a hurry has facilitated her unrelenting drive and quick responses, but has often made her miss out.

“Over time I have realized the importance of appreciating a moment like this,” Shields said. “It gives you time to reflect and thank those that have supported you and contemplate the role you will play in the future.”

2. Breaking down walls

Shields said that when she graduated from GW in 1987 the world was a different place. She said it was just before President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall.

“Years later we are building new walls, isolating ourselves and keeping people out,” Shields said. “There are many factors driving this rhetoric.”

Shields said that one of those walls is the Internet, because while there are millions of people active online and communication is expanding, it can also be isolating. She said there is no denying that intolerance and online social discourse is redefining what is important.

“Change is the new normal. We need to embrace it by being certain in our own actions,” Shields said. “At a time when we are harnessing the power of data and making machines more intelligent to serve us better, I think it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that human intelligence, empathy and compassion are always factored into the equation.”

3. ‘Failure is not an option”

Student speaker Khadijah Nimrod, who graduated with a master’s in tourism administration, drew inspiration from a quote by Beverly Kearney. “My hero is my history and my history is a legacy of people who have triumphed over tragedy who have succeeded in spite of the oppression how can I fail because they have taught me failure is not an option,” Nimrod quoted Kearney.

Nimrod said the future depends on what the graduates do today, and one day the graduates before her will be “the heroes guiding others to success.”

4. One last assignment

Linda Livingstone, the dean of the business school, said this week’s graduation marks an important milestone in the graduates’ lives and that faculty and staff in the school look forward to what the graduates accomplish.

“As you leave here and carry with you the legacy of George Washington with a degree granted by the authority of Congress that is truly an only at GW experience,” Livingstone said. “Onward and upward.”

Vivek Chourdhury, the associate dean of graduate programs, concluded the ceremony with “one last assignment,” asking everyone in the audience to rise and make as much noise as possible.

“Now I would like all of you to stand as a School of Business and I would like all of our guests, family and friends to make as much noise as possible to let all of Foggy Bottom and all of the world know that we are here,” Chourdhury said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at: www.hatchetphotos.com

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The Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell addressed legacy families at a reception. Jake Amorelli | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell addressed legacy families at a reception. Jake Amorelli | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Elise Zaidi.

Alumni and parents of Class of 2016 graduates gathered at a reception in Alumni House Friday honoring the commitment legacy families show to GW.

Legacy families are families in which more than one member attended or currently attends GW.

Here’s what speakers had to say about the perks of being a GW legacy family:

1. Taking advantage of the community

Matt Manfra, the associate vice president for alumni relations, congratulated the nearly 100 legacy students from the Class of 2016 on officially joining the alumni network.

“We hope that our newest graduates continue to stay in touch and stay active with us,” Manfra said, adding that the GW community is “worldwide, diverse, and ready for you all.”

Manfra also thanked the families for their donations and continued dedication to the University.

“There is a lot of pride in this room,” he said.

2. Watching family graduate

Darrell Darnell, the senior associate vice president for safety and security and a 2014 School of Business alumnus, described the importance of being a GW legacy as he celebrates with his son Eric, who is graduating this weekend.

“With me what this has really been about is watching my son grow before my eyes,” Darnell said.

Like all of the legacy families present, he had the pleasure of having his son attend his alma mater and go from being a young man to a young adult, Darnell said.

3. Strengthening parental bonds

Marguerite Wedeman, an international affairs and Chinese double-major and recipient of the prestigious Schwarzman scholarship, is the daughter of two GW alumni.

Wedeman’s mother, Kelly Eaton, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international affairs and a Ph.D. in political science, while her father, Andrew Wedeman, was born in GW Hospital and earned a bachelor’s in political science and master’s in security policy.

Andrew Wedeman focused on Chinese security policy, and found GW was the perfect fit for his goals, he said. He said that he looks forward to his daughter completing a fully funded master’s program in China, where the family once lived.

“There wasn’t any pressure to come here, but I think my interests line up with my parents interests very closely so it made sense to come to GW,” Marguerite Wedeman said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at: www.hatchetphotos.com

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Former Provost Steven Lerman, center, hooded his wife, Lori J. Lerman, at the doctoral hooding ceremony Thursday. Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman, right, delivered remarks at the event. Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Former Provost Steven Lerman, center, hooded his wife, Lori J. Lerman, at the doctoral hooding ceremony Thursday. Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman, right, delivered remarks at the event. Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman asked the 317 doctoral candidates at the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony Thursday to uphold academic integrity and broaden their academic horizons.

“Very likely, most of you here today will be leaders in the community you choose,” Maltzman said. “Lead by example.”

Maltzman’s message was in three parts: keep learning, broaden your horizons and always uphold principles of academic integrity. He stressed the importance of “breaking out of the disciplinary box” that often traps scholars, and urged students to explore new fields over the course of their lives.

“Kindle again and again the flame of knowledge,” Maltzman said.

Lastly, Maltzman emphasized the importance of morals as crucial cornerstones of character in future leaders.

The doctoral charge is an integral part of the roughly 900-year-old traditional ceremony, that first began when doctoral students started using the hood to display their academic regalia. Today, the trims of each hood are colored different to indicate what degree the holder bears.

The result was a rainbow procession of hoods and robes – dark blue for the doctor of philosophy and psychology degrees, orange for the doctor of science, light blue for the doctor of education – that filtered into the Smith Center to the pomp provided by Potomac Brass.

The dean of each school called out the names of their students one by one to the center, where the faculty adviser that worked closely with the student hooded each with the color of their degree.

During the ceremony, former Provost Steven Lerman hooded his wife Lori J. Lerman for her Doctor in Nursing Practice, taking the place of her advocate Christine Pintz.

Before closing his message to the graduates, Maltzman also added a quick reference to Steve Jobs.

“Make good use of your degrees, make good use of your lives, and think differently,” Maltzman said.

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Tywan Wade, the student speaker at the business school's ceremony, encouraged fellow graduates to XX. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

Tywan Wade, the student speaker at the business school’s ceremony, encouraged fellow graduates to support one another. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Crystel Sylvester.

Business school undergraduates learned at their commencement celebration Thursday that ambition and selflessness are cornerstones of business success.

Dean of the School of Business Linda Livingstone, guest speakers and student speakers all highlighted important lessons from their collegiate and professional careers to guide graduates to stay connected to the GW community.

Here are the most inspirational pieces of advice given to the graduates:

1. Wear your hats proudly

Mitch Blasér, the chief operating officer of Ironshore, began his address describing the kind of hats graduates will have to wear.

“I see a lot of graduation caps out here today, and I thought it was important for you all to know that when you leave here, you’ll have to wear many, many hats,” he said.

Blasér pulled out several caps at the beginning of his address, including the NIT Colonials cap and his GW alumni hat.

He urged graduates to be proud to wear their alumni hat, because “this one might actually get you a job.” He said that the more the community helped each other, the more influential the community would become.

Livingstone also said graduates have a responsibility to their alma mater, and that they should “build on the legacy.”

2. Raise your hands

Blasér also noted the importance of taking initiative in the business world. He said that in business, people like to work with people who “get things done.”

“Be known as a go-to person, and people will go to you,” he said.

He urged graduates to not get caught in “it’s not my job” syndrome. He said that it’s important to not care about immediate gratification.

“Life is about choices, and we don’t have many,” he said.

Wade also pushed his peers to look past their setbacks and “non-believers.”

“To everyone that has haters, know this: one day you’ll be up on a stage in front of 3,000 people, and they’ll have no choice but to listen to you,” he said.

3. Look ahead and make history

Student speaker Tywan Wade, who was the youngest student to run for Student Association president as a freshman in 2013, emphasized the importance of peer support.

“Why do we support the dreams of our celebrities, but not our peers? I think if we did, the world would be a better place,” he said.

Wade told his fellow graduates that their accomplishments inspired him. He reminded them to look to the future, citing his failed run for SA president.

“The past doesn’t define us, so promise me you won’t be afraid of the future,” he said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at: www.hatchetphotos.com/2016-GW-Commencement-Week

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Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity, addressed graduates of the Milken Institute School of Public Health ceremony. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity, addressed graduates of the Milken Institute School of Public Health ceremony. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

At the Milken Institute School of Public Health commencement ceremony Thursday morning, speakers shared their own experiences in public health and encouraged graduates to write the next chapters of their own.

The ceremony was held for the first time at the Smith Center, an indication of the school’s growing enrollment, particularly online, Dean Lynn Goldman said.

Ushered in with the music of bagpipes, graduates heard from Goldman and other speakers about the importance of using their public health degrees to help others, particularly those in underserved communities with limited access to healthcare.

1. ‘The transformative power of passion’

Keynote speaker Debra Eschmeyer, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to combat childhood obesity, told graduates to never underestimate the “transformative power of passion,” which she said led her from a small dairy farm in Ohio to the White House.

Eschmeyer said her own public health journey began about 12 years ago, when her husband, Jeff, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 25-years-old.

She knew there was no way to reverse his diagnosis, but she decided to work to prevent Type 2 diabetes, which develops later in life.

“I knew I could do something, I could do something to prevent that suffering,” she said.

She co-founded FoodCorps, a national non-profit organization to push for healthier environments in schools across the country.

Eschmeyer asked graduates to reflect on what they wanted to do with their public health education.

“I want to make sure you guys take a moment today to think about your story. To think about why you’re here, why you’re driven and why this is your passion,” she said.

2. A road to recovery

Student speaker Melinda Hasbrouck looked back on the events that interested her in pursuing her master’s degree in public health policy.

As a second-year law student, Hasbrouck said she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and bulimia, after her father became sick with multiple sclerosis and her younger brother was injured in a shooting.

“During quiet times I often thought about the struggles of underserved and underrepresented populations. I thought to myself: ‘I’m educated, I’m strong, I’m resourceful. If harm is coming to me, what was happening to those who could not support themselves,'” she said.

Hasbrouck now leads Our Door Community Wellness Center, which provides support to those with mental health or substance abuse disorders and, Hasbrouck says, promotes a simple message: “Recovery is real.”

Hasbrouck said all graduates in the audience have “authored their own” public health stories.

“Together our impact will far exceed ourselves as we pave the way for healthier generations,” she said.

3. Healthcare for all

Goldman highlighted the school’s work throughout the year on global health crises from the Ebola and Zika viruses to the impacts of climate change, which she said demonstrate the commitment of faculty, staff and students to closing the healthcare gap around the world.

“Public health is about ensuring the conditions that make people healthy. Everyone should have the opportunity to live longer and healthier lives, lives free of disease and disability, mental illness, injury and substance abuse. Lives in which everyone has access to healthcare,” she told the graduates.

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