Collaboration has been key in addressing public health challenges of the past, such as polio, and it will continue to be key for today’s challenges, such as gun violence, said Dr. Michelle Williams, Dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, at the Convocation ceremony celebrating 2018 graduates.
“Public health has always been about hunting in packs,” she told students and their families gathered under a big tent on the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Quadrangle. By working together, “we can achieve things no biostatistician or epidemiologist, no policy analyst or social scientist, no immunologist or geneticist — no expert or activist — could ever do alone.”
Ms. Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, was the keynote speaker. “You are graduating at a time of deep uncertainty but of great potential for a better future,” Ms. Robinson told students. Offering an overview of two current public health challenges — climate change and the lack of universal health coverage in the U.S. — she said that students have “the talent, the training, the commitment, and the expertise to meet the challenges ahead.”
On a warm, sunlit day, 663 students gathered to celebrate their achievements. The Harvard Medical School (HMS ) Quad provided a new venue for the event, which has been held in the past in the Kresge Quad. The new location provided much more space for students, families, and guests. In addition, the Harvard Chan School ceremony — held on Wednesday instead of the traditional Thursday — was renamed a “convocation” instead of “commencement” in recognition of the fact that Harvard University doesn’t officially confer degrees until Thursday’s Commencement exercises in Cambridge.
Among the students there were 41 Doctors of Philosophy, 25 Doctors of Public Health, 62 Doctors of Science, 28 Masters in Health Care Management, 399 Masters of Public Health, 101 Masters of Science, and 7 Masters of Arts. Graduates came from 64 countries and 39 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia.
At a reception the evening before Convocation, awards were presented to 14 graduating students, nine faculty, and four staff members.