When the Yale School of Nursing (YSN) celebrated its 93rd Commencement on May 20, graduates waited until just the right moment to launch their party poppers and colorful silly string. The confetti celebration during the Old Campus ceremony has become a student trademark, and the festive results reached so high into the air that guests all the way in the back next to Connecticut Hall could be impressed.
Faculty marshal Judy Kunisch MBA, BSN, RN carried the YSN mace during the procession. The impressive ceremonial accessory is designed to resemble Florence Nightingale’s candle.
Later at the diploma ceremony in the Shubert Theatre, Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges EDD, RN, FAAN saluted the Class of 2019. “Congratulations for choosing a profession where you touch people’s lives in such a positive way,” she said. Dr. Georges is the national volunteer president of AARP, professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College of the City University of New York, and volunteer president of the National Black Nurses Foundation.
Dr. Georges hailed nurses as skilled listeners and leaders and urged students to use their voices and seek out opportunities to contribute. “Seize the chance to stretch your mind, explore new paths, gain greater confidence, and speak up,” Dr. Georges said. “Your patients need you. As we seek to create a culture of health, your community needs you and your country needs you.”
“What a hopeful sign it is that you have chosen a career of healing, a field where you will apply your head and your heart to make life better for all the people who will depend on you,” she concluded.
The student address is selected by a committee of faculty and students through an essay contest, and acute care specialist Elizabeth Hocking Barrera ’19 MSN earned the prestigious honor this year.
In her speech “Redefining Ourselves, Redefining Nursing” Barrera shared how she and her classmates climbed the steps to the graduation stage. “Wherever you were in your lives three or more years ago, you also made the decision to redefine yourselves,” she said. “Together, we sacrificed three years of our lives. We moved across the country. We missed time with our families. We worked late nights…and sometimes all-nights. We woke up absurdly early. We studied…and we struggled. We pushed ourselves, and before we knew it, we were no longer the people who had first been accepted into this program.”
Barrera sounded a call to action to address obesity rates, cardiovascular mortality, maternal mortality, and life expectancy. “We can eliminate health disparities by providing care to underserved areas, by serving in our roles as educators, by striving for justice everywhere, and by fighting for the truth that quality healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”
A total of 112 students graduated with a Master of Science in nursing, two earned post-graduate APRN certificates in nursing, and 16 were awarded a Doctor of Nursing practice degree. Two students also graduated with a PHD, a degree awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.