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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Reverend to BU Grads: ‘There is Only Us’

Speaking to the 330 Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) graduates at the school’s Convocation at the Boston University Track and Tennis Center on Saturday, May 20, the Reverend Liz Walker urged the audience to “practice grace.”


“There are voices out there that seem to insist the world is divided between us and them,” she told the graduates and guests. “I have been to many places in the world, and I am here to tell you: There is only us.”

Rev. Walker is the minister at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, home to the Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing. Locally she is best known for her career in TV news, with an Emmy Award already under her belt before joining WBZ-TV as Boston’s first African American news anchor. She also spent more than a decade working on humanitarian projects in South Sudan, including the creation of a girls’ school and an organization helping Sudanese and South Sudanese women bridge regional, racial, and religious divides.

She focused her convocation address on “an idea that I think will ultimately save the world,” she said: the concept of grace. “Grace is thought of in the church as divine forgiveness, but I would argue that grace is much more than that,” she said.

Rev. Walker said she came to the idea of grace in 2001, when she traveled to South Sudan for a news story, investigating allegations of slavery in the midst of the Second Sudanese Civil War.

“This is a part of the world that seems always caught in conflict,” she said. “There are always wars, there are always droughts and famines both natural and man-made. People are killed by the thousands and by the hundreds of thousands, and in the midst of chaos I was exposed to the kind of grace that I’ve never seen before.”

Student speaker Ms. Cassandra Osei, an MPH recipient committed to tackling structural inequities, stressed the importance of recognizing individual stories within vulnerable populations. Ms. Osei, a spoken-word poet, performed her own story as an example of how determinants of health intersect in individuals. The daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, “I was raised in Chicago, and I lived the results of structural injustice,” she said. She described how immigration, racism, sexism, and trauma have all had their affects on her life.

During Saturday’s ceremony, two BUSPH faculty members were honored for teaching and scholarship. Dr. Howard Cabral, professor of biostatistics at BUSPH and co-director of the Biostatistics Graduate Program at the school, received the Norman A. Scotch Award for Excellence in Teaching, awarded annually for outstanding and sustained contribution to the education program. Dr. Judith Bernstein, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, received the Faculty Career Award in Research and Scholarship.

Dr. Sandro Galea, dean and Robert A. Knox Professor, also congratulated Dr. Sophie Godley, clinical assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, winner of the University’s highest teaching honor, the Metcalf Cup and Prize, which Dr. Galea presented at the main Commencement ceremony on May 21.

To read more about the BUSPH Convocation, go to: