CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El-Mohandes’ Statement on 2017 Commencement Presenters

April 21, 2017 | Press Releases & Announcements

The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, which is committed to a mission of promoting health and social justice in New York City, is pleased to announce its program for honorees and speakers at this year’s spring commencement, to be held on June 1, 2017 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. To mark its first commencement, as an independent, CUNY- and NYC-wide graduate school, the School’s leadership and advisory board have planned a ceremony that reflects the School’s commitment to healthy cities and its place in a University that is dedicated to access and excellence in higher education and has trained generations of public servants.

An Honorary Doctor of Science will be given to Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City, in recognition of her leadership of ThriveNYC, the most comprehensive mental health plan of any city or state in the nation. In addition, Mary Bassett, Commissioner of the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will receive the Champion of Public Health award for her transformational work addressing population health in New York City.

This year’s commencement speaker will be Linda Sarsour, an advocate of social justice who attended two of The City University of New York’s colleges, Kingsborough Community College and Brooklyn College. Achieving social justice through improved public health and health policy is part of our mission at The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. Numerous studies have affirmed the importance of addressing issues such as societal discrimination, trauma, and stigma in improving health outcomes. We selected a speaker qualified to address these issues from the vantage point of an advocate and community organizer.

Ms. Sarsour was a co-organizer of the National Women’s March and former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. In 2012, she was designated a Champion of Change by President Barack Obama.  As noted on the White House website, “Linda’s strengths are in the areas of community development, youth empowerment, community organizing, civic engagement and immigrants’ rights advocacy,” all important determinants of the health of our nation.

Time magazine recently named Ms. Sarsour as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2017 because of her work in organizing the National Women’s March in January.  The supporting essay, written by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, said, “It was a joyful day of clarity and a lightning bolt of awakening for so many women and men who demanded to be heard … and it happened because four extraordinary women—Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour—had the courage to take on something big, important and urgent, and never gave up… The images of Jan. 21, 2017, show a diverse, dynamic America—striving for equality for all. ”

Fortune Magazine also included Ms. Sarsour and her National Women’s March co-organizers on their list of the 2017’s 50 “World’s Greatest Leaders.”

More recently, Ms. Sarsour supported an effort by a Muslim group to raise funds to repair a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, that was vandalized in February, 2017, in an apparent anti-Semitic attack.

There are currently about 500 students studying at the school of public health and there will be 154 students in our graduating class.