Friday, May 20, 2022

A flurry of excitement enveloped the College of Nursing in early May as classes wound down, exams were taken, and the annual commencement rituals began.

First, on May 9, came the senior plunge. In this unique Iowa tradition, Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates donned their scrubs and jumped together into the pool at the Campus Wellness and Recreation Center to celebrate completion of their last final.

On May 13, after the conclusion of the university-wide doctoral commencement ceremonies, a celebration was held for the 59 Doctor of Nursing Practice, nine Master of Science in Nursing, and four PhD nursing graduates. Coming from all over the country, graduates were able to meet each other, the deans, and faculty in person, some for the first time.

Later that evening, surrounded by family and friends, the 80 BSN graduates participated in a pinning ceremony at the Iowa Memorial Union.

Explaining the significance of the pin to the graduates, Executive Associate Dean Sandra Daack-Hirsch said, “The pin you will receive this evening is a part of the tradition of the ‘Iowa Nurse.’  [Originating in] the late 1800’s, the pin continues to maintain its symbolism today.” There are three important elements of the Iowa nursing pin, Daack-Hirsch explained: “the circle, which symbolizes the cycle of life; the laurel, which represents triumph and virtue; and the cross, which denotes compassion and understanding.”

Then on Saturday, May 14, it was time for undergraduate commencement. The 80 BSN and 37 RN-BSN graduates and their loved ones gathered in Hancher auditorium for the ceremony.

Distinguished Alumni Award winner Colonel Aaron Gopp, MSN, CRNA, a 2003 graduate of the College of Nursing Anesthesia Nursing program, was the commencement speaker. He challenged the graduates to say yes, while also taking care of themselves.

“When someone asks, ‘Can you do this?’  Say yes,” Col. Gopp said to the class of 2022. “Those asking the question know that you may stumble and fall. They are not asking you to be perfect... They are asking for your willingness to grow, excel and learn. The world is desperately in need of those who say yes. Yes to caring; yes to building, and repairing relationships; yes to compromise and understanding; yes to every opportunity. The Iowa Nursing program has given you the tools and education to succeed at literally everything you set your mind to.  All it takes is the simple mindset: ‘Yes, I can do that.’”

Gopp advised the graduates that to be present in a patient’s time of need takes physical and emotional self-care. “In your nursing career, you will see the best and worst of humanity. Take special care of YOU,” he said. “Do not let the darkness of mankind’s woes creep into your soul… Be the smile, the calm, the love, the touch, and the light in a world full of suffering.”

Molly Sullivan, a student from Littleton, Colorado, who spoke on behalf of the BSN graduates, talked of the fellowship and community her class created, the challenges they faced together, and the brightness of the future. “We learned how to grow up, how to be nurses, and how to exist in the real world, all during a global pandemic,” she said. “If you can handle that, you can handle anything.”

To the graduates as we step into the real world, never stop being the loving and compassionate people that I have seen you be over the past four years,” Sullivan continued. “And to the patients needing a shoulder to cry on, to the babies needing to be held, to the families that just want to be heard, and to the countless people who will undoubtedly be impacted by an Iowa nurse – we are on our way.” 

Congratulations to the 189 University of Iowa College of Nursing spring 2022 graduates!