Humanitarian Joan Rosenhauer emphasized the importance of holding true to personal values and morals when pursuing a career serving others when addressing the Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies graduates at the school’s commencement Saturday.

Rosenhauer is the first female executive director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, a humanitarian organization dedicated to supporting and advocating on behalf of refugees and displaced individuals around the globe. Rosenhauer spoke about how her lifelong dedication to promoting the dignity and well-being of marginalized people has shaped some of the most rewarding experiences throughout her career.

CATRIONA KENDALL/THE HOYA | Humanitarian Joan Rosenhauer received an honorary doctorate of humane letters and spoke at the School of Nursing and Health Studies’ commencement Saturday.

Many individuals in today’s society have forgotten their basic commitments to serving others and to help the people in greatest need, according to Rosenhauer.

“Today the values of helping those who are suffering and being kind to those you meet are not always prioritized in our culture,” Rosenhauer said. “The idea of servant leadership, that is seeing our resources and skills and power as opportunities to serve others, has been lost.”

The NHS graduated 112 students who earned bachelor’s degrees in global health, health care management and policy, human science and nursing from its undergraduate school at the commencement Saturday, according to the Georgetown website; Saturday’s ceremony also saw the graduation of 343 students receiving master’s degrees in health systems administration and nursing, as well as seven students who graduated as doctors of nursing practice. Rosenhauer received an honorary doctor of humane letters at the ceremony.

Rosenhauer said the NHS’ highest achievement is its clear commitment to Jesuit values which have fallen in line with service work that have informed students’ experiences. Going forward in their various career paths, graduates should continue to abide by these values, according to Rosenhauer.

“You have been formed in a school committed to caring for the whole person, to promoting diversity, to striving for excellence, to respecting all people and to advancing social justice,” Rosenhauer said. “These values have shaped what is now your past and they can also and they should also shape your future.”

After receiving her master’s degree in public management from the University of Maryland, Rosenhauer spent nearly nine years as executive vice president for U.S. operations at Catholic Relief Services, an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and to assisting those affected by humanitarian crises in the spirit of Catholic social teaching.

Rosenhauer worked with the CRS in Rwanda, where she met two survivors of the Rwandan genocide, one of whom had lost her husband and parents during the genocide and the other was the man who had killed them. The two met through a reconciliation program which allowed the woman to forgive the man who had harmed her family.

This experience reaffirmed her conviction that small acts working towards peace can aid even those people who have suffered and been wronged the most, Rosenhauer said in her address.

“In a world of constant cruelty and violence, building peace is possible,” Rosenhauer said. “Global challenges do not have to be overwhelming, and promoting loving one’s neighbor can work.”

A week before she came to Georgetown for the NHS commencement, Rosenhauer was working in a refugee camp in eastern Chad, where she met Sudanese nursing students. The drive she saw in the Sudanese refugees she met mirrored the one that can be found within many NHS students, which is a commitment to serving others, according to Rosenhauer.

“When I asked them what motivated them to work so hard to become nurses and lab technicians and other health professionals, one of them immediately answered, ‘Because the need is so great among my people and I want to be a person who helps and saves lives.’”

Graduates must always examine how their values shape their actions and attitudes toward others in their career paths in service, according to Rosenhauer.

“Always remember the values that motivated you to be here today and please never be the kind of person who doesn’t know how your values shape who you are and what you do,” Rosenhauer said. “I hope and pray that you will find great joy in a life always committed to serving others.”

This article was updated on May 24 to include information on NHS graduate students.

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