Professor Sue J. Goldie, Faculty Director of the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator, and Roger Irving Lee Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, delivered commencement remarks to the graduating class of her alma mater, Union College, on June 13th, 2021. Professor Goldie began her address by acknowledging the unprecedented moment for public health that the nation is currently facing, and the intense disruption to higher education over the previous year. Following this, she shared four lessons learned from unprecedented moments and turning points in her own career to aid the graduates in navigating their future paths.
These four lessons, weaving in personal anecdotes, called on graduates to face life’s inevitable challenges with creativity, boldness, and integrity. The first lesson? The critical role of relationships. Describing how she met her husband, Professor Goldie underscored the importance of cherishing and prioritizing loved ones, emphasizing that "there will be nothing as important to your journey, and to your life, as the people that you love." Her second lesson arose from residency, where a key person in her medical training equated her decision not to pursue a specific path with a lack of drive and ambition. This imposed destination from her mentor did not correlate with the journey Professor Goldie had in mind. To that end, the second lesson encouraged students to fearlessly deviate from an expected path, to wrestle with the inconsistencies between what society expects and what happens, and to accept changes as a chance to grow.
Lesson three materialized out of an opportunity that fundamentally changed her career path: After completing a month-long course in medical decision making at Stanford, Professor Goldie embarked on a new career in decision science. Today, Goldie is also the Faculty Director of the Center Health Decision Science at the Harvard Chan School. From this experience, she encouraged the class of 2021 to pursue their destination "without restraint, be bold, take risks, and to use every creative bone in [their] body to plow through logistical constraints." Her final pieces of advice culminated around useful tips for success, encouraging the graduates to build mentorship teams; to find a balance between tracking success through metrics and meaningful work; and to never compromise integrity, honesty, kindness, and empathy.
In her closing message, Professor Goldie affirmed that the graduates "will need to lean forward, seek the truth, speak up, and fight for what [they] believe in, but [they] will also need to find ways to listen – and even to empathize with - those who [they] really disagree with." The graduates will need to be leaders and will need to face their challenges with "courage and conviction." While contemporary times have been disruptive, Professor Goldie stated that her most significant source of optimism comes from the promise and potential of Union College’s Class of 2021.