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UM President Urges Class of 2011 to Help Break Society's 'Cycle of Incivility'

As an institution that prides itself on cross-disciplinary learning, the University of Maryland in Baltimore experienced its biggest collaborative day of the year on May 20 with its annual commencement ceremony.

Carrying banners and wearing academic regalia, students from all six professional schools and the Graduate School engaged in an academic processional to 1st Mariner Arena. It was the third year that students and faculty marched together through downtown Baltimore.

For President Jay A. Perman, MD, this was the first opportunity to address a graduating class after assuming leadership of the University last July 1. He delivered the keynote address to impress upon the 2011 graduates and their guests the importance of civility - a trait that he holds dear but that society has devalued.

"Regrettably, the coarseness of our society has crept too much into our professions," he said. "I fear we are collectively losing our grip on 'nice' in preparing students for their professions."

He urged graduates to alter society's course. "Help break the cycle of incivility by carrying yourself appropriately in your professions," Perman said.

Indifference and rudeness toward colleagues, clients, and patients leads to errors, lawsuits, and other costly and harmful outcomes, he said, drawing upon data from several fields. "Nice can frequently be a risk reducer," he said.

Perman cautioned the Class of 2011 to avoid being impatient, choosing instead to be respectful and willing to listen. One study of health care visits showed that fewer than one in three patients were able to complete their statements of concerns before being interrupted or redirected, in this case, by their physicians, in as little as 23 seconds. He suggested the future health care providers listen "for just one minute," perhaps more.

"Seek out the simple ways to be nice," he said.

In planning for commencement, Perman said he wanted to speak so that he could make some meaningful points to graduates, continuing a commencement tradition that he started as dean at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. "There are some values that we can't stress enough," he said, such as the importance of civility and teamwork.

UM Commencement 2011 from UM news on Vimeo.

Approximately 1,900 graduates were eligible for degrees during the University's commencement ceremony. Like the previous two years, hooding ceremonies for the individual schools were held within walking distance of 1st Mariner Arena.

Dignitaries who attended the afternoon commencement included William E. Kirwan, PhD, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and Barry P. Gossett, assistant treasurer of the Board of Regents.

Linda Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, RN, the Claire M. Fagin leadership professor in nursing, professor of sociology, and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania, received an honorary doctor of science degree. A groundbreaking researcher in the U.S. and abroad, Aiken is co-director of RN4CAST, a study of the nurse work force and quality of hospital care in 14 European countries and in China, South Africa, and Botswana.

Clinton Bamberger, JD, professor emeritus at the School of Law, received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Bamberger came to the School in the 1980s as director of the Clinical Law Program, which quickly became-and remains today-among the six top-ranked clinical law programs in the nation. Bamberger's career also has included service as an attorney in public and private practice, a law school dean, a public administrator, and the first director of the federal program to provide legal assistance for the poor.

Robert Keller, LLB, a retiring tax policy professor who joined the School of Law faculty in 1972, was the honorary student marshal and led the graduates into the arena.

The student remarker was Doug Rubin, president of the University Student Government Association and a juris doctor graduate. He urged fellow members of the Class of 2011 to "ignore stereotypes" and to leverage the diversity that is a strength of the schools at the University.

For more information about the 2011 commencement, go here.

Posting Date: 05/20/2011
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu