On Thursday, May 10, more than 1,100 graduates from the College of Public Health and the School of Social Work, representing more than 30 programs, received their bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at the College of Public Health Graduation Ceremony in the Liacouras Center. With their classmates in Temple’s other schools and colleges, they make up the university’s largest graduating class on record.
This graduation ceremony marks the fourth official graduation as the College of Public Health and the first ceremony since the college received the highest level of accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health. The ceremony followed the university commencement ceremony earlier in the day, where U.S. Senator Cory Booker delivered the address.
In her opening remarks, College of Public Health Dean Laura A. Siminoff reminded the graduates that, no matter their destination, the new graduates will fulfill crucial roles in service of the public. Some will join the workforce as practitioners seeking to improve public health and wellbeing at the individual and population levels; others will embark on research careers addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time; and many will pursue further education, whether attending other institutions or continuing to a master’s or doctoral program at the College of Public Health.
“Whether your ultimate destination is in research, practice or education, you represent the future of healthcare, health service delivery and public health practice. This excellence is reflected in all of our new graduates,” she said. “Regardless of discipline, you share common traits: strength in practical experience, understanding of how research and evidence can make a difference in the health and well being of individuals and populations, and a deep commitment to serving others.”
J. Toni Oliver, who is president of the National Association of Black Social Workers and received her master of social work from the School of Social Administration (now the School of Social Work) in 1979, was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters for her career as a leader in the field of child welfare. In her address, she related lessons from her 30 years working to improve foster care and adoption opportunities for children of color, urging graduates to keep in mind what she called the three Ps: purpose, passion and possibilities.
“Today, when you cross this stage and take that degree in your hand, I want you to see it as more than a passport to a job. I want you to envision yourself grabbing on to your purpose—a purpose that you can become increasingly passionate about,” said Oliver. “I want you to know that there are possibilities for you in your chosen fields that are far beyond your imagination. Years from now, when you look back, I want you to be able to say, ‘It was for this purpose that I was born.’”
Student speaker Ciara Sheerin, who received her bachelor of social work during the ceremony, echoed Oliver’s sentiments of social justice, purpose, and service. Drawing on her passion for criminal justice social work, Sheerin called on her fellow graduates to use their educations to empower others and to bring compassion and empathy to their future careers.
“Together, we are bound by our experience, which has given us a duty to serve and to be leaders,” said Sheerin, who is set to pursue her master of social work at the University of Pennsylvania. “As graduates, we have a mission to honor our experiences, and those of others, in order to make the world a better place for everyone, not just a few.”