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The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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May 17, 2015

Celebrating the Class of 2015

A group of graduates poses for a picture

See more commencement photos on Heller's Facebook page

On a beautiful spring Sunday, 144 Heller School graduates from around the world gathered together to receive their diplomas at the 2015 commencement ceremony. After the degrees were conferred, representatives from each of the academic programs addressed the crowd in the Spingold Theater Arts Center. 

The weather was at the heart of Patricia Nuñez Garcia, MA-SID’15’s speech, in which she compared the journey towards graduation to the changing and sometimes harsh New England seasons, telling her classmates that “we all learned that perpetual and constant change is what makes this world be alive, and we have chosen to be catalysts of this change…We know that we have chosen a challenging professional life, driven by our personal passions. We have not settled, and having tasted what not settling feels like, we will do it again.”

Read Patricia Nuñez Garcia's commencement speech

In another graduate address, Princess Osita-Oleribe, MBA/MS’15, said Heller showed her that empathy alone isn’t enough—“appropriate actions” are required to be true change-agents. “Today, having earned an MBA in non-profit management with my cohort, we know that great profit is not only measured in dollars and cents, but also in the lives we are able to touch and change for the better,” she said. “I know that Heller graduates are set to contribute positive energy, our newly-earned knowledge and hard-won skills to the world. So let us not feel alone in this course we have set out on, but always take the front row in facilitating, collaborating and fostering sustainable global development, peace and conflict resolution. Let us take the lead in formulating and implementing policies with practices that advance social justice.”

Read Princess Osita-Oleribe's commencement speech

Taroon Amin, PhD’15, was one of 25 doctoral graduates—the largest group in a decade—to walk at this year’s ceremony. Amin arrived at Heller with a desire to improve the way we finance and improve health care in America. “Previously, in my professional role at an urban academic medical center I evaluated how routine health care services often and repeatedly resulted in patient harm, injury and avoidable complications often due to poor hand-offs and lack of coordination and communication among health care providers,” he said. “I came to Heller in 2009 to learn how to translate my passion for health care transformation into tangible action informed by solid research. Not only did I get that, but a rich and diverse community that examined a range of social issues—all that sought to advance equality and justice.”

Read Taroon Amin's commencement speech

Taroon Amin, PhD'15, speaks at the podium
Taroon Amin, PhD'15

Temitope Odunleye, MS’15’s journey to Heller began in “a cultural setting that valued male children more. While others acquired properties, my dad chose to invest in his girls. To many, this was a waste of precious and scarce resources since according to his critics, ‘the girls would end up in the kitchen,’” she said. Continuing along this culinary line, she described her skills at Heller as having been “steamed, cooked, grilled, roasted, fried and even dried, ready to be served to the potential beneficiaries of this life-time investment…Today I am proud to be a daughter who has not ended up in the household kitchen, but is being launched from the Heller kitchen!”

Read Temitope Odunleye's commencement speech

Kathleen Dowcett, MPP’15, grew up a bit closer to the Brandeis campus—in Waltham, Massachusetts. She talked about the resistance she faced from some in the local community when, as a member of the Waltham School Committee, she promoted a dual language program for the public schools that would develop Spanish/English bilingualism. “These interactions have been a sober reminder that the concepts we sometimes take for granted here are not always widely understood or agreed upon beyond the Heller walls,” she said. “I’ve realized that it’s not about widening knowledge, but about seeking a shared understanding…The true gift of our Heller education is not that we have acquired the knowledge to advance social justice, but that we have begun to develop the skills necessary for this difficult work.”

Read Kathleen Dowcett's commencement speech

In considering what’s ahead, the final graduate speaker, Lisette Anzoategui, MA-COEX/SID’15, talked about the decades of Heller graduates who came before. “I am very grateful to the Heller School for this celebration, because in joining you, I have been able to realize that what for me was a treasured two years at Brandeis, is in fact but a brushstroke in a masterpiece that has been created over the past 56 years of its existence,” she said. “My experience was one of thousands by people from all over the world. Just imagine the impact those leaders and scholars have had in their countries of origin, or the impact they made in the hearts and minds of the other citizens who taught them, or worked with them, or hosted them, or simply shared a meal with them. The waves rippling out from this room are impossible to quantify or measure. But we know they are there. We know, just as the graduates before us, we are changing the world.”

Read Lisette Anzoategui's commencement speech

Allysha Roth, MPP'15, was chosen to deliver the graduate student address at the main Brandeis University Commencement. Read her speech

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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