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The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology celebrated more than 200 graduates of its bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs on May 10, 2024, once again setting a record for the school’s largest graduating class.

In his remarks, Dean Pinchas Cohen told the new graduates that they represent “the future of a field that is full of promise” and are prepared to contribute to better health and well-being for all.

“Whether you earned your bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, in choosing the USC Leonard Davis School, you invested in more than a degree,” Cohen said. “You invested in making life better for people of all ages, and I know you will continue our school’s tradition of service, innovation and success.”

Aaliyah Thomas, bachelor of science in human development and aging graduate and Student Gerontology Association president, praised her fellow students’ resilience and adaptability and encouraged them to continue to embrace challenges.

“Do not let the fear of failure or of the unknown hold you back from pursuing your dreams and aspirations. You’ve already conquered the difficult parts: you’ve taken responsibility for yourselves, made the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goals, and dedicated countless late nights to studying,” she said. “Now, the world awaits your greatness. Go forth and make a difference.”

Orli Belman, master of arts in gerontology graduate and chief communications officer for the USC Leonard Davis School, compared the ideals of the school to the iconic arches that line the exterior of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center. USC Leonard Davis graduates, like the arches, provide support to others, are well rounded, and have an openness to new ideas and perspectives, she noted in her remarks.

“And let us not forget that arches are also passageways. That our school is surrounded by them illustrates the many directions we can choose to go,” she said. “As we transition from being students to practitioners, our arches are a gateway to new beginnings and endless possibilities. Let’s make the most of them.”

PhD in gerontology graduate Gillian Fennell noted that while many students have had the experience of needing to define gerontology to someone unfamiliar with the term, the field is anything but “niche.” The immense variety of research being conducted here at the school all fits within the unified mission of understanding and improving the experience of aging, a process that affects everyone, she said.

“It is a privilege to grow older, and we have the power, as card-carrying gerontologists, to make that sentiment truer for more people,” Fennell said. “So, my fellow graduates, I hope you take as much pride as I do in introducing the field of gerontology to the world, one stranger at a time. Indulge their curiosity, help them try on the lenses through which we gerontologists view the world – our collective futures will be brighter for it.”


USC Student Recognition Awards

Order of Areté

Ali Elmashat
Riley Gould
Richard Lee
Hanna Makkai
Maria Oorloff
Crystal Thai
Aaliyah Thomas

Order of Troy

Nadia Khan
Kevin Lee

USC Leonard Davis School Honors

Undergraduate Student Award

Maria Oorloff

Master’s Student Award

Regina Taefi

Doctoral Student Award

Cassandra McGill

Heinz Osterburg Prize

Mekiayla Singleton

Teaching Assistant Award

Gillian Fennell

Faculty Teaching Award

Tara Mastro

Dean’s Affiliated Doctoral Student Award

Jungwon Min

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