Marjorie Opuni-Akuamoa to present Luther Opening Convocation Lecture

Aug. 16, 2012

Luther alumna to receive Distinguished Service Award at Aug. 30 ceremony

Marjorie Opuni-Akuamoa, Luther College class of 1992 and senior advisor of Evidence, Strategy and Results at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), will present the college's 2012 Opening Convocation Lecture Thursday, Aug. 30.

Convocation begins at 9:40 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall on the Luther campus. The service is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Opuni-Akuamoa will discuss how her Luther education is helping her in her work with UNAIDS to overcome global healthcare inequities in the treatment of AIDS patients.

Opuni-Akuamoa will receive the Luther College Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the college. The award is given in recognition of success and achievements in professional fields, service to society, contributions to community and loyalty and service to Luther.

Luther invites the community to attend and take part in opening convocation, to celebrate the beginning of the academic year and welcome the class of 2016 and new transfer students.

Convocation will include the installation of Angela Kueny, Luther assistant professor of nursing, to the Nena Amundson Distinguished Professorship. The Amundson Professorship provides funding for a selected research project, with particular focus on health and wellness issues for women.

Luther will also install Greg Jesson, Luther assistant professor of philosophy, in the position of director of the Center for Ethics and Public Life. The Center encourages students to reflect about ethical matters and responsible citizenship. The director of the center, appointed from the Luther faculty for a five-year term, guides both on-campus and external initiatives in keeping with its purpose.

Luther President Richard Torgerson will present the Spirit of Luther Award to Kent Finanger in honor of his dedication, service and support to Luther. Finanger, a 1954 Luther graduate, served the college as both a coach and professor for more than 40 years.

Established in 2001, the Spirit of Luther Award recognizes and honors individuals who provide significant, sustained service to the college. Award recipients are chosen among nominees who demonstrate a personal commitment to Luther's character, quality and mission.  

Opuni-Akuamoa's lecture marks the opening of the 2012-13 academic year at Luther and is the major lecture for the first year interdisciplinary core course, Paideia, where students engage in reflection, dialogue and scholarship throughout the academic year.

"After two decades of working in a field where many become jaded and cynical regarding the possibility of improving the lives of the poor, Opuni-Akuamoa remains upbeat and dedicated," said Jackie Wilkie, Luther professor of history. "Despite her exhausting schedule, she remains cheerful and positive that what we do can make a difference in a world that seems to be increasingly burdened by disease and violence."

Convocation speaker Opuni-Akuamoa holds the bachelor's degree from Luther, the master's degree in political science from The Johns Hopkins University-Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and the master's degree in international economics and African studies from The Johns Hopkins University-Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. She also holds the doctoral degree in health economics from The Johns Hopkins University-Bloomberg School of Public Health.

With 15 years of experience in global health, she specializes in health and population economics, health equity and systems, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and child survival.

She has designed and managed public health research in resource-poor settings, and has experience working in multilateral and research institutions in Africa, Europe, and North and South America.

She is the author of numerous publications, including most recently co-authoring "Towards an improved investment approach for an effective response to HIV/AIDS," "Voluntary medical male circumcision: Modeling the impact and cost of expanding male circumcision for HIV prevention in eastern and southern Africa," and "Inequality in prime-age adult deaths in a high AIDS mortality setting: Does the measure of economic status matter?"

UNAIDS combines the resources of the UNAIDS Secretariat and 10 UN system organizations for coordinated and accountable efforts to unite the world against AIDS. UNAIDS is broken into two branches, the Management and External Relations branch and the Programme branch.

In her role with the Programme branch Opuni-Akuamoa's department, Evidence, Strategy and Results, leads the UNAIDS technical and programmatic approach to the HIV epidemic and enhances understanding of the global response. By engaging stakeholders at all levels, the ESR attempts to expand knowledge and maximize the use of resources by developing evidence, strategies and tools to improve decision-making and analyze trends.

Opuni-Akuamoa is the winner of a 2006 Dissertation Fellowship in Population, Reproductive Health and Economic Development, given annually by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Population Reference Bureau. Opuni-Akuamoa's dissertation topic was "Young Adult Mortality and the Well-Being of Older Persons: Evidence from Kwa-Zulu-Natal."

Marjorie Opuni-Akuamoa