Commencement Ceremony Celebrates Class of 2022

May 17, 2022

More than 700 members of the Class of 2022 came together for the first in-person Columbia Mailman Class Day Commencement in three years. They were joined by faculty, staff, family, and friends who cheered the graduating class at the Armory building. (Watch a video of the ceremony below.)

Most of the graduating class began their studies in 2020 when the pandemic forced classes online and completed their studies in person during the School’s Centennial Year.

“And if we have learned nothing else from the last two years, it’s both that you have the resilience and dedication to learn in a pandemic, and that you are needed today like no other time in our collective memories,” said Dean Linda P. Fried, in opening remarks.

“When I think about our graduating class, I’m really hopeful,” Dean Fried continued. “Despite the undeniable challenges that exist in the world today, this is a group of individuals who have not backed down from the problems that confront us, and now bring the knowledge our world needs. You will build from what has been made so visible in this pandemic, and we will join together to create the next generation of solutions.”

commencement speaker

Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Advisor, was the 2022 Columbia Mailman School Commencement speaker and recipient of the School’s Visionary Leadership Award. Previously, she served as the 13th Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appointed by President Obama, then as President and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In her address, Advisor McCarthy echoed Dean Fried’s vision of the graduating class, praising their tech savvy and commitment to social justice and equity. “Be hopeful and impatient,” she said. “Frankly, we need your new ideas if we hope to build a more meaningful and lasting public health system, in this country and beyond.”

McCarthy said she has worked on climate change since before many of the graduates were born. While there are fewer climate deniers today, the devastating impacts of climate change are ever more visible. She acknowledged that much work is needed but found cause for optimism in the rapid deployment of renewable energy sources, saying the solutions “are within our grasp.” She praised the pioneering work of the Climate and Health Program, Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, and the Department of Environmental Health Sciences.

“We need experts like you who people can depend on again—scientists and public health professionals who are mission-driven, not special interest-driven. Scientists who are accountable not just for the research that you deliver—but for the transparent, fair and unbiased process that you follow. We need people with compassion who speak with passion and clarity,” she said.

The Ceremony

The May 17 ceremony began with a procession of graduates in Columbia blue cap and gown, followed by commencement speeches, the announcement of awards, the conferral of masters and doctoral degrees, and a recitation of the Public Health Oath.

Vice Dean for Education Michael Joseph announced teaching awards for Nicole Cushman, MPH ‘11, Christine Mauro, Darby Jack, and Sharon Schwartz. At a separate awards ceremony earlier in the day, Dean Joseph celebrated student achievements, including those recognized with awards for excellence in scholarship and service. On May 16, Robert Fullilove, who gave the Commencement Invocation, presided over an event that inducted 55 graduates into the Delta Omega honors society. 

Earlier in the week, a Lavender Celebration and Multicultural Graduation Celebration recognized the accomplishments of LGBTQIA+ and graduates of color. Academic departments also organized their own events for graduates.

The larger Columbia University community celebrates commencement together on May 18. On May 19, members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 are invited to participate in their own joint in-person commencement. The same day, Columbia Mailman is hosting an Alumni Centennial Celebration.

Katrina Armstrong

In remarks to the Columbia Mailman graduating class, Katrina Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, pointed to lessons from the pandemic, which she said revealed deep health inequities while also underscoring the power of public health.

“You all chose well. You picked a field that has received more recognition, more attention, more support at a time when it is critically needed,” she said. “You now have work to do. You have made it to this moment. Your skills, your talent, your dedication could not be more important for the future.”

Annette Wu, MPH '08

Annette Wu, MPH ’08, Alumni Board President, welcomed students to the alumni community, encouraging them to stay connected. She said, “From now on, every day you will symbolically wear your Columbia Mailman cap and gown—evidenced by what you do as alumni of the Mailman School of Public Health, as public health professionals, and as leaders in your chosen field. You are the future of public health, with your talent, skills, expertise, and your leadership, dedication, and passion for public health. You will help our field grow and impact the health care world.”

Jae Yoon Bae, MPH '22

In remarks on behalf of the Class of 2022, Jae Yoon Bae, an MPH graduate in Population and Family Health, started by remarking on the unique experience of being a student during a pandemic.

“We’ve had the remarkable opportunity to learn both remotely and, in the classroom,” he said. “We formed such strong connections even from across the globe that we felt as if we knew each other for years once we eventually arrived on campus.”

He pointed to the many traumas and injustices of the current moment, from the losses of COVID to police violence, anti-Asian hate crimes, and attacks on abortion rights. In the face of these challenges, he called on his classmates to stay the course: “Take your anger and turn it into action. Draw upon your grief to find a resolve. Operationalize your passion to make an impact. It is with kindness in our hearts, equity in our intent, and a preparation for the battles that lie ahead, instead of pretending they don’t exist, that this change is within reach.”


Watch the Ceremony Video