Celebrating the 2024 Graduating Class

May 14, 2024


By Kelly Jordan

“Health is a human right,” Dean M. Daniele Fallin told graduating Rollins School of Public Health students and their friends and family at a packed ceremony celebrating the class of 2024.   

In a departure from previous commencements, this year’s ceremony took place at Gas South Convention Center in Duluth to enhance the safety for all graduates and guests. This decision was made in reaction to heightened tensions on university campuses across the country—including Emory’s.

Watch the full commencement ceremony

Fallin acknowledged the “challenging time” facing the world and the strong emotions and perspectives shared among members of the Rollins community.  

“Violence across the globe, and here in Atlanta, against individuals, groups, or communities jeopardizes that right and can impact those involved, those exposed, and even those in the future. Peace is a tool for public health.”

Fallin reminded guests that peaceful forms of protest were allowed and protected during the event—this was also noted in an insert included in the commencement program.

She closed by saying, “I believe in each of you. I believe in your passion for public health, your future impact on public health, your care for each other and your eagerness to celebrate your accomplishments together in this space today.”

 Encouraging Leadership, Bravery

Jason Carter, chairman of the Carter Center Board of Trustees and grandson of President Jimmy Carter, delivered an inspiring commencement address speaking to the wisdom of grandparents—that of his own, and of a grandmother in South Africa he met during his time in the Peace Corps—and how their small-town upbringings and community focus led to impactful lives. “Their greatest lesson in power is seeing it in everyone. And recognizing that the power of a small-town person or single human person to change their own community is just as important as other types of power.”

Peppering his speech with personal anecdotes, humor, and heart, Carter encouraged graduates to recognize the possibilities ahead are endless. “I hope you won’t be consumed by this quest for wealth and power... because the question is not how do you get it, but what do you do with it.”

Student speaker Edediong Ekarika, MD, followed Carter with a speech that implored graduates to find guidance through their personal mission. “Together, we cultivated a legacy at Rollins,” she said. “One defined by compassion, empathy, and commitment to driving equity and justice in public health.  Let your mission and individual purpose be your guide. Show up. Move with compassion. And be the change you desire.”

Recognizing Excellence 

Carmen Marsit, PhD, executive associate dean for faculty affairs and research strategy, recognized a number of award-winners—including several honored during this year’s RSPH Annual Awards Ceremony. Major awards announced for the first time during commencement were: the Charles Shepard Award winner, Sophia Garbarino; Provost’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education winner, Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist, PhD, assistant teaching professor; and Vulcan Materials Company Teaching Excellence Award winner, Yang Liu, PhD, Chair and Gangarosa Distinguished Professor in the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health. The department capstone award winners, Rollins LEAD award recipients, and student organization officers were also asked to rise to receive recognition.

Each department chair gave brief remarks before students from the department crossed the stage to receive their diploma from Fallin. Commencement celebrations proceeded peacefully, while giving students the space for quiet dissent. Approximately 56 students handed Fallin small Palestinian flags as they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, and others wore Palestinian flags, messages, or keffiyeh scarves on their regalia.

Of 577 MPH and MSPH graduates, approximately 477 celebrated in person. The graduating class was 80% women, and represented 41 different states and 27 countries. The youngest graduate was 21 and the oldest was 64. Rollins alumni now number more than 12,000 and work in settings around the world.