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Alisha Moreland-Capuia selected as commencement speaker

By Bella Omar 

Editorial Staff


Alisha Moreland-Capuia will deliver the Commencement Address to the Framingham State University Class of 2024 at the DCU Center in Worcester on May 19.


Moreland-Capuia (Dr. AMC) is the founder and director of McLean Hospital’s Institute for Trauma-Informed Systems Change. 


She is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and advocates for trauma-informed training.


She is the author of multiple books, including “Training for Change: Transforming Systems to be Trauma-Informed, Culturally Responsive, and Neuroscientifically Focused” (2019) as well as “The Trauma of Racism: Exploring the People and Systems Fear Built” (2021), according to an email sent by President Nancy Niemi to the community on March 12.


In the email, Niemi stated, “Dr. Moreland-Capuia’s research seeks to reduce unnecessary human suffering. She also contributes to an increased understanding of the impact of trauma on brain development and the overall risk for mental illness and how trauma shows up in systems.”


Moreland-Capuia received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Stanford University and her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.


In her statement, Niemi said, “I’m grateful to the students, faculty, and staff who served on the Commencement Speaker Task Force and recommended Dr. AMC as this year’s speaker. I’m certain her work and personal story will inspire our graduates.”


In an email interview with The Gatepost, Niemi said, “I think that our selection of Dr. AMC speaks to the importance we place on our community’s well-being: our faculty, staff, and particularly our students’ health.” 


She added, “Dr. AMC, given her expertise in the field and familiarity with our Commonwealth communities, will offer us an expert and hopeful message about the power of education, mental well-being, and Framingham’s role in supporting our community.”


Niemi said, “I think that because her research and professional background is so diverse, she will offer valuable insights to everyone in our graduating class, regardless of their programs of study. Her expertise in systemic change is applicable to everyone, not only on a professional level, but also as we enter adulthood and navigate the world we live in.”


Dan Magazu, FSU’s director of communications and the chair of the Commencement Committee, said, “We got feedback from a broader group of seniors, who also expressed interest in that theme, so she really fits in well, from everything I've heard. She's an incredible speaker. She does a lot of talks. So I'm really excited to have her.”


The Commencement Committee is comprised of students, staff, and faculty as well as an alumni representative. The student members are usually class officers. Ryanna Coelho and Rafaat Elkoury were two of the students on the committee, according to Magazu. 


“It was actually Ryanna who knew about Dr. AMC and recommended her, so that was exciting because I always like the students to lead the process since it's their class. It's their speaker,” he said.


According to Magazu, the faculty members were Kelly Matthews from the English Department, Kelly Kolodny from the Education Department, Peter Chisholm in Government Relations, Deb Clevland an Alumni Representative and Meg Larkin in Student Experience.


The selection process typically begins early in the fall semester, said Magazu.


He said he provides a list of past proposed Commencement speakers and asks members of the committee to bring ideas of their own to the initial meeting.


Then they create a Google doc, “where we put in potential speakers with videos of them speaking and then we'll come back and meet again. Usually, I'll ask EXP to send out a survey to the senior class. 


“We add any ideas that come in through that to our list. And then basically, it's just a narrow down process. We try to narrow our list down to 10 names, and then we vote as a committee,” Magazu said.


This ranked list is then presented to the president to be approved - with Magazu reaching out to the speaker to extend the proposal.


Moreland-Capuia said her “one-woman mission is to educate the masses on what they can do from where they sit, to prevent needless suffering.”


She added, “I believe that everybody can play a role in healing and creating healing conditions. There's a role for the community member. There's a role for the doctor. There's a role for the parent. There's a role for a student. There's a role for administrators. There's a role for professionals.


“Everybody has a role that they can play when they feel equipped with the tools and the knowledge and they know how they can contribute.”


Moreland-Capuia said, “In the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.’ That means that as human beings, we should be able to tap into the hearts of other human beings and to be of optimal service to others. That is the highest call. That's what inspires the work that I do.”


She said she is “very appreciative of the opportunity to be among the future and current leaders” at Framingham State.


She said she hopes to inspire the next generation of graduates. 


“Knowing that you have the opportunity to forge a new path and that that new path is full of possibility and hope, which is the one thing that we can't afford to abandon. I'm just excited to come to remind some, and maybe introduce others, to not just the intellectual fortitude, but to the emotional capacity that will be required to continue to do this meaningful work,” she said.


Moreland-Capuia added, “More importantly, everything that you need, you actually already have.”


She said she does not take the invitation to speak at the commencement ceremony “for granted.”


“I want to leave the community uplifted and with a gentle challenge,” she added. 


Liv Copeland, a senior English major, said, “I was excited when I got the email about Dr. AMC being the commencement speaker because my godmother works at McLean and told me a bit about her work!”


Madison Herries, a senior child and family studies major, said, “After learning some background information about this year's commencement speaker, Dr. Alisha Moreland-Capuia, I am looking forward to commencement. I had never heard of Dr. AMC before she was announced as this year's special speaker at graduation and I look forward to hearing what advice she has to give to the class of 2024 as we close one chapter of our life story and open the next one.”


Mandy Taylor, a senior elementary education major, said, "I think this year's commencement speaker is an excellent choice. As an educator who feels strongly about culturally responsive practices, I'm looking forward to hearing about her work in relation to that topic."


Patrick McGonagle, a senior psychology major, said, "I think that this person certainly has status, does interesting research, and is likely a strong communicator. … I just hope that she takes a positive approach to her speech and really focuses on the future success of graduates, rather than solely focusing on resilience in the face of trauma, systemic or otherwise."


Ryan Mikelis, a senior, said, “I am looking forward to graduating and hearing Dr. AMC’s speech.”


He said, “I am hoping she will speak on the experiences that will resonate with our entire class!”

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