Dean's Message - September 2017

University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences Dean Marjorie Aelion

Dean Marjorie Aelion

September 27, 2017

Inspiration from great students and the feeling that there is so much more to do... That is how two separate events hosted by the School of Public Health and Health Sciences this week leave me. 

On Saturday September 23, 2017, the SPHHS held its 8th Annual Fall Celebration to honor the recipient of the 2017 SPHHS Award for Significant Contributions to Public Health and Health Sciences, and the inaugural Distinguished Young Alumnus Award. At that event we have traditionally selected a few current students of the 2400 undergraduate majors and 600 graduate students to speak about what is important to them. It reconnects alumni to current students and allows us all to reflect on our role as academics. It is a big ask of the students and a little daunting. The audience is large and the content personal. Each year the students speak about their own challenges and families, their opportunities and appreciation of others, and their plans to contribute to the greater good. It is without doubt one of the most inspiring events hosted by the SPHHS, and this year was no different. The students’ enthusiasm and motivation to improve life for individuals, families and populations are infectious, and there are so many opportunities in the U.S. and world to make that impact. 

Just four days after the Fall Celebration, on September 27th the SPHHS hosted “Women Behind Bars: Public Health and Criminal Justice Reform” with keynote speaker Andrea James, the Founder and Executive Director of Families for Justice as Healing. Andrea uses her experience to raise awareness of the effect of incarceration of women on themselves, their children and communities, and to raise awareness of the need to shift from a criminal legal system to a system focused on human justice.

By exposing students to these areas of great need, who knows who will be inspired to do more than they thought possible and make that significant contribution? Perhaps we will find out when she or he is recognized for significant contributions at the Annual SPHHS Fall Celebration many years in the future.