Linfield alumna delivers 2015 Convocation address

Elizabeth Stoeger, News editor

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A new school year officially began on Friday, Aug. 28, with the opening Convocation of the 158 academic year at Linfield.

Dr. Theresa Betancourt, a 1991 Linfield graduate, gave the Convocation keynote address.
Betancourt reminisced about her time at Linfield, “I can recall this same moment many years ago when just like you I was carrying and unpacking boxes … It can be very intimidating, it’s important to remember to take your time to realize that you don’t have to figure it out all at once.”

Betancourt received her doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health in maternal and child health, and is currently the director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard.

Betancourt recounted an important milestone in her educational journey as finding a way to “build a trust in my own skills and to refine them in their application.”

She is the principal investigator in the longitudinal study of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, and has studied mental health issues amongst HIV/AIDS affected youth.

She joked, “Today I’m a professor at a little university we call the Linfield of the East: Harvard University.”

She spoke about her work, studying former child soldiers and the mental issues of HIV/AIDS patients.

“In all that I’ve learned about resilience in the lives of children and families affected by HIV or former child soldiers … is that resilience is tied to relationships and to the vast network from early family attachment relationships, to the friendships and mentors we meet along the way. I had tremendous mentoring at Linfield and the connections I made here lasted a lifetime.”

Betancourt’s research was horrifically interrupted by the Ebola outbreak. “We felt our hands tied to contribute. I was unable to go to the field and supervise my projects.”

By conducting a study on “knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to risky and health promoting behaviors in the context of Ebola,” Betancourt was able to continue her research in Sierra Leone during the apex of the epidemic.

“In this case, and in many opportunities that life will present to you as well, both during your time at Linfield and beyond, chance will favor the prepared mind.”

“As you embark on this amazing opportunity before you and this new academic year, reflect on what it means to you to be a prepared mind. Think of the toolkit that you want to build, the foundation that you want to lay for yourself here. It is open to you to make of it what you will … enjoy the journey.”