ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA AAAS CEO Alan Leshner spoke at the NHS graduation ceremony.
AAAS CEO Alan Leshner spoke at the NHS graduation ceremony.

American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Alan Leshner advised School of Nursing and Health Studies graduates to follow a non-linear career path and pursue what they love in his commencement address Saturday afternoon.

The ceremony, which began at 12 p.m., honored graduating seniors in the NHS as well as students who have earned master’s degrees in health systems administration and nursing. NHS Dean’s Medal recipient Caroline Cotto (NHS ’14) received the first degree.

“Your career path doesn’t have to be that straightforward, and it might be more interesting and gratifying if you don’t make a lifelong decision today,” Leshner said.

In his own career, Leshner has worked in academia and for the government, serving as director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and working at the National Institute of Mental Health and National Science Foundation, before joining AAAS in 2001.

University President John J. DeGioia presented Leshner with an honory Doctor of Science.

“Georgetown honors someone St. Ignatius of Loyola would have called a positive doctor,” Executive Vice President for Health Sciences and Executive Dean of the School of Medicine Howard Federoff read from Leshner’s degree citation. “We are particularly delighted to recognize him today because he has championed causes that are also core values for Georgetown.”

In his speech, Leshner discussed his own career and experience in health fields as an example of a nontraditional path.

“Receive all the advice you’re offered, do acquire mentors along the way, but always decide for yourself which advice resonates with you,” Leshner said. “When you do make a change, don’t feel you need to apologize for not taking that linear path.”

After addressing the question of what graduates want to do, Leshner moved on to discuss who each NHS graduate wants to be.

“You all entered health fields at least in part because you want to serve. That’s a great start to the question of who you want to be,” Leshner said. “The question of how well you’ve done at being who you are is much more difficult to measure, and more personal — only you can make that judgment.”

Leshner closed his lecture by addressing the “rights and responsibilities” of a Georgetown graduate.
“To me, the responsibility means use this education well for the betterment of others and yourself,” Leshner said. “I urge you to take this responsibility seriously,  to answer the question will be asked on the golf course in your ultimate retirement community — ‘So who did you use to be?’”

Attendees enjoyed Leshner’s address.

“It was an unexpectedly non-traditional speech to a seemingly traditional audience,” said Brent Nosé, whose sister graduated today.

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