May 2024

School of Nursing Grads, ‘You Got This’

May 17, 2024    |  

Perseverance — through support and lessons learned from mentors, faculty, families, and friends — was the overarching theme May 14 as the 2024 class of University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) students celebrated their graduation.

“Graduates, I’d like you to please remain standing. While you most assuredly deserve the awards we bestow upon you today, you must also acknowledge that you did not reach this moment alone,” Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD ’11, MS ’05, BSN ’04, NNP, FNAP, FAAN, the Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, said during her welcome. “Throughout this journey, you relied on the support, encouragement, and sacrifices of your family, friends, and classmates who gave you the confidence to persevere, especially when you were sleep deprived, juggling many responsibilities, and didn’t think you would make it.”

This year’s ceremony — which was split into two events — resulted in nearly 250 new nurses entering the workforce and a total of 479 graduates. The day began with the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Ceremony and was followed by the Master’s and Doctoral Ceremony.

During the ceremonies, 225 BSN degrees, 96 master’s degrees (including entry-into-nursing CNL), 152 Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees, three Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and three certificates were conferred.

(See photo gallery below.)

During the first ceremony, Evelyn Agbaje, BSN graduate, and Emma Ward, CNL graduate, received the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nursing Students. DAISY awards are given each fall and spring to two graduating entry-into-nursing students who demonstrate outstanding compassion and care to patients and their families.

Student speaker Diana Hernandez Caballero, a graduate of the BSN program, focused her address on just how important nurses are. She urged family and friends in the audience to support and be kind to their nurses, jokingly adding it is also important to keep them caffeinated.

“As I stand before you today, I wanted to start off by pointing out some interesting truths. In 2023 alone, our country saw 6 million car accidents, 350,000 house fires, and 40,000 injuries by gunfire. However, we also celebrated 3.6 million births, increased access to care through the use of AI, and an increased cancer survival rate,” Hernandez Caballero said. “My goal in pointing out these truths is to emphasize the pivotal role of nurses. Whether it was to provide comfort, hold a hand in need, advocate, or make evidence-based clinical decisions, nurses have stood at the forefront of health care.

“Because this is where you will find us: at the heart of all of the joy, the grief, the love, and the chaos that is found within the sacred spaces that are life and death,” she added. “There is no doubt as to why we remain the most trusted profession.”

Very few professions allow students the privilege of having as significant an impact on lives as does nursing, Ogbolu said during the first ceremony.

“To those of you receiving your first degree in nursing, we offer very sincere congratulations. You begin your careers at a time when nursing presents unparalleled possibilities — no other profession offers such a diverse range of career paths and opportunities for professional advancement. To the registered nurses who returned to complete your baccalaureate degree — thank you for your commitment to continue your educational journey,” she said.

During the second ceremony, Therese S. Richmond, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, received an Honorary Doctor of Public Service. This degree is conferred by the president of the University on behalf of the chancellor of the University System of Maryland upon the approval of the system’s Board of Regents.

At this year’s graduation, Angela Barron McBride, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAANP, distinguished professor and university dean emerita at the Indiana University School of Nursing, was presented with the 2024 Dean’s Medal for Distinguished Service in recognition of her decades-long efforts to advance the nursing profession. In 2017, Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, then the UMSON dean, established the Dean’s Medal for Distinguished Service to recognize individuals, external to the institution, who have demonstrated “an exceptional commitment to advancing the University of Maryland School of Nursing and its mission.”

McBride is recognized for her seminal contributions to women’s health — particularly the psychology of parenthood — and to psychiatric nursing. Her first book, “The Growth and Development of Mothers,” was recognized as one of the best books of 1973 by The New York Times and the American Journal of Nursing.

McBride, who spoke at both ceremonies, quoted Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” though instead of referencing the well-known children’s author, she focused on his wife, Audrey Geisel. Many may not know, McBride said, that Geisel was a nurse, having graduated from the Indiana University School of Nursing in 1944.

“If she were here, I think she would invoke ‘The Places You'll Go’ for her theme for what’s ahead of you at this point in your career,” she said. “She herself went from working in various clinical settings to promoting literacy and overseeing a broad array of philanthropic and entrepreneurial activities. Long after she finished work and traditional nursing roles, she continued to renew her RN license, in part because she saw a nontraditional role she played as flowing from her RN identity. So, I invoke her spirit and say to you, ‘Congratulations, today is your day, you’re off to great places, you’re off and away.’ ”

During the second ceremony, Ogbolu reminded graduates just how rapidly the nursing profession continues to change while encouraging them to embrace the opportunities presented and to be change agents throughout their careers.

“Approach your journey with the unwavering commitment that fuels your passion for nursing, knowing that you can make a profound difference in the lives of families, organizations, and communities,” she added.

Shaneisha McMillan, a graduate of the DNP program and student speaker at the second ceremony, echoed those sentiments, reminding graduates to keep going no matter what.

In her speech, McMillan shared a motto that helped her to keep going over the last three years: “You got this.”

“This phrase has been my guiding light, reminding me of my inner strength and capacity to overcome any obstacle that stands in my way,” McMillan said. “Throughout our educational journeys, we have faced many challenges. From balancing the demands of family and work to navigating the complexities of academic coursework and clinical experiences, we have faced moments of doubt and uncertainty. Yet, in the face of adversity, we have persevered.”