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Meet 2024 Commencement Speaker, Maryam Jernigan-Noesi, PhD

Meet 2024 Commencement Speaker, Maryam Jernigan-Noesi, PhD


Palo Alto University (PAU) is proud to announce that Maryam Jernigan-Noesi, PhD, will deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2024 on Saturday, June 15.

When asked how she feels about being invited to speak to our graduates, Dr. Jernigan-Noesi said, “You never know who’s paying attention to you! The fact that PAU felt that my work as a psychologist has been so impactful on a large scale is humbling. I have really enjoyed consulting with faculty and staff at PAU over the last year to help create a more inclusive educational environment and being invited to speak at Commencement is a great honor.”

Dr. Jernigan-Noesi is a trailblazing psychologist, educator, and consultant whose pioneering work promotes racial justice, culturally responsive practices, and equitable systems change. With an illustrious career spanning over two decades as a mental health provider and tenured professor, Dr. Jernigan-Noesi brings a wealth of expertise and passion to the podium.

She completed her advanced clinical training at The Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine. She also held prestigious fellowships at Harvard Medical School and Yale University School of Medicine. These educational experiences allowed Dr. Jernigan-Noesi to specialize in integrated healthcare, translational research, and intervention science.

As an esteemed educator, she served as a faculty member and tenure-track professor in higher education for over 15 years. She taught a diverse array of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Counseling Skills and Techniques, Psychology of Women: Race, Class, and Gender, and Critical Perspectives in Multicultural Psychology. Her academic influence extended beyond the classroom as she assisted in developing three inaugural Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master's Programs in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia.

Dr. Jernigan-Noesi's clinical expertise is vast, having provided inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services in community, medical, forensic, academic, and private practice settings. As Founder and CEO of Jernigan & Associates Consulting, she has provided valuable consulting to over 30,000 professionals working in government, healthcare, education, and the private sector on assessment evaluation, strategic planning, and professional development —all through a lens of racial equity and cultural responsiveness.   

“I was raised in a very racially, conscious family. I had personal experiences with racism in academic settings so in graduate school, I sought to understand how racism impacts the mental well-being and overall health of people of color. The advocacy and education I was able to provide through my clinical work with school systems and youth eventually led me to start my consulting practice where I have been able to offer workshops and professional development opportunities for thousands of teachers, principals, superintendents, and other educators. This lens of racial equity and cultural responsiveness has informed so much of my work and has allowed me to highlight the unique experiences of marginalized students.”

The Ford and Mellon Foundations and the American Psychological Association have honored her groundbreaking contributions to advancing racial equity in behavioral healthcare and psychology. Most notably, Dr. Jernigan-Noesi served as a research consultant for the APA's historic 2021 apology and current Racial Equity Action Plan, which acknowledged and aimed to rectify the organization's role in perpetuating racism and racial discrimination.

Beyond her professional roles, Dr. Jernigan-Noesi actively works to create a more just world through community leadership and service. She is an advisor for the Sesame Street racial justice initiative and board member for organizations supporting children and families affected by homelessness and domestic violence. Additionally, she founded the non-profit Psychologists for Racial Justice, Inc. to dismantle systemic racism and promote social equity.  

In the midst of her impactful work, Dr. Jernigan-Noesi finds balance as a devoted mother to her 8-year-old son, Carter, and wife to her husband, Mariano, in their Atlanta home. Her hobbies include cooking, gardening, and drawing wisdom from her favorite author, the revered James Baldwin.

When asked what message she wants to give to our graduating class, Dr. Jernigan-Noesi offered us this a preview of her Commencement address with a quote from Heather McGhee, “I’m fundamentally a hopeful person, because I know that decisions made the world as it is and that better decisions can change it…”

As our graduates embark on their next chapters, they will undoubtedly be inspired by Dr. Jernigan-Noesi's tireless advocacy, remarkable accomplishments, and enduring commitment to creating a more equitable and just society for all.