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Dean of the College of Professional Studies Ali Eskandarian told graduates to take risks during the graduation ceremony. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Dean of the College of Professional Studies Ali Eskandarian told graduates to take risks during the graduation ceremony. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Speakers at the College of Professional Studies graduation ceremony Saturday evening told graduates of the College of Professional Studies and the Graduate School of Political Management to face their fears as they leave GW and take leaps toward their dream careers.

Dean of CPS Ali Eskandarian, guest speakers and student speakers all inspired the graduates to have courage in the new phases of their lives that begin after graduation.

Here are some of the most inspiring moments from the evening:

1. The courage to move on

Marybeth Davies, a manager of the paralegal program at Dupont Paralegals, delivered an address to the graduates and admitted she was hesitant to even accept the offer to give a speech. But because she found the most success after facing her fears, she challenged graduates to face their fears.

She congratulated graduates on their courage to go back to school and reach the next level of their educations, which will allow them to aspire to greater goals in their careers.

“Courage is not just limited to heroism or commencement speeches, it means to do something or take on a task that was difficult. You displayed a type of courage to sacrifice your personal freedom, your time, your money to educate yourself and to never stop believing in yourself,” Davies said.

Davies told graduates to have courage to use their training to continue working hard, even after setbacks and challenges.

“Sometimes you will hit a brick wall. Your training and education will help you decide whether to knock it down, go around it or go under it,” Davies said.

2. Fear: An inspiring acronym

Erika Negrin, a graduate of the law firm management program, said her decision to return to school was the scariest decision she has ever faced.

“I was terrified, but what was even worse was I was comfortable,” Negrin said. “I knew I had more inside me.”

Negrin said she overcame her doubts by thinking of “fear” as an acronym, and told her fellow graduates to use fear as a motivator.

“Fear could stand for forget everything and run, or it can mean face everything and rise,” Negrin said.

3. Use knowledge to take risks

Eskandarian closed the program by charging the graduates with one final piece of advise: Take risks.

“Use the skills and knowledge you have learned from us to explore and learn all you can from uncertainty and risk. Shed your fear so you can utilize that uncertainty and risk,” Eskandarian said.

He reminded them to see failure as opportunities to learn and grow, because resiliency can allow them to achieve their “elusive dreams.”

“When we let the fear of failure dictate our decisions, we deprive ourselves of taking educated risks,” Eskandarian said.

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Jeffrey Chase Farnsworth received a doctoral degree in physical therapy at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Graduation Celebration on Saturday. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Jeffrey Chase Farnsworth received a doctoral degree in physical therapy at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Graduation Celebration on Saturday. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Shepherded into Lisner Auditorium by a lone bagpiper, graduates of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences received their diplomas at the school’s annual graduation celebration Saturday afternoon.

Three Outstanding Student Awards and one Alumni Association Prize were also handed out, before the graduates recited the School of Medicine and Health Sciences pledge and received a charge from Senior Associate Dean Joseph Bocchino.

1. Role of community service

Mary Corcoran, an associate dean, delivered opening remarks about the important connection between academic achievement and community service in the health care field. She applauded the thousands of service hours students had performed in places like free clinics and health fairs.

“Academic achievement and service are two sides of the same coin of excellence,” Corcoran said. “Academic excellence is a form of service. It’s a form of service to our patients, clients, our co-workers and our society.”

2. Outstanding students

Later, the Outstanding Undergraduate Award was given to Cassandra Robertson, who has maintained a “nearly perfect” academic record in her time at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmacogenomics, Robertson thanked her parents and teachers for getting her where she is today.

Master’s degree recipients Elizabeth Prevou and Angela Vince both received Outstanding Graduate Student Awards. Prevou has been a medical assistant and health educator and developed a music-based health education program in Nairobi, Kenya to increase community knowledge about HIV and AIDS.

Vince, a 54-year-old clinical research professional and yoga instructor living outside Detroit, also received a master’s degree in clinical research administration through online classes, graduating with a cumulative 4.0 GPA. She thanked her family and classmates for giving her the support she needed throughout her academic career.

“Distance education and online learning takes an enormous amount of dedication and discipline,” she said. “It was our conversations, our feedback on group projects and our beloved discussion board that allowed us to interact as peers and learn together.”

Associate Dean Mary A. Corcoran lead the 2015 Graduation Celebration of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Associate Dean Mary A. Corcoran lead the 2015 Graduation Celebration of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

3. A final charge

Following the distribution of diplomas to the hundreds of graduates in attendance, Bocchino called upon the Class of 2015 to keep with them the sense of service that goes along with being a health care professional, and to ensure that underserved populations have access to the same type of care they have been afforded.

“We each have a moral obligation to work toward equalizing this basic fundamental right to health care,” Bocchino said. “Community service is one conduit each of you has available on a daily basis in which you can affect change in this regard.”

Bocchino also left the graduates with one final charge to keep themselves in the forefront of innovation in their new professions.

“Respectfully question years of practice and ask whether what you do still makes sense in this emerging health care environment. Avail yourself to learn and continuously stay abreast with new technology and ideas that can inform a healthier world,” he said. “Establish yourself as a leader in listening and adapting to an emergent world.”

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Saturday, May 16, 2015 7:38 p.m.

CCAS graduates: Be groovy and say hello

CCAS Dean Ben Vinson snaps a selfie with the Class of 2015. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

CCAS Dean Ben Vinson snaps a selfie with the Class of 2015. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Has John Kopriva said hello to you lately?

In his speech, the senior, who won the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, suggested that instead of saying goodbye to one another, his fellow graduates should look up from their phones and say hello.

During the second Columbian College commencement ceremony on Saturday afternoon, Elizabeth Nicole Settoducato, a classical studies and women’s studies major, won the GW Alumni Association Prize, and school marshal Michael King recognized every graduate, from Phi Beta Kappa inductees to anybody who had finished an exam, by asking them to stand before they walked.

1. ‘Out of a rut and into a new groove’

Faculty speaker Alexander Dent, an associate professor of anthropology and international affairs, told the audience the story of the night after his own college graduation. An “unruly” friend, he said, burst into his room at 3 a.m. and declared: “There’s a fine line between a rut and a groove.”

The line, Dent said, comes from a 1977 Ram Jam song, “Keep Your Hands On the Wheel.”

“My wish for all of you,” he said, “is that you keep your hands on the wheel in a groovy fashion.”

2. The power of ‘hello’

Kopriva, a chemistry major and men’s basketball player, recalled the day he arrived in D.C. for Colonial Inauguration. He said he did what any “wide-eyed Midwesterner” would do and said hi to everyone.

Over the years, Kopriva said he had lost the urge to say “heartfelt hellos” to acquaintances at GW, but recently, he’s begun to do so again, because he recognized that the small act could brighten someone’s day.

Kopriva, who graduated “in an arena that has been such a big part of my GW experience,” will begin applying to medical school next year, as well as teach and coach at Marquette University High School, his alma mater, in Milwaukee, Wis.

3. But first, let me take a selfie

As in the first CCAS graduation, Columbian College dean Ben Vinson told graduates to “make history” by examining the seemingly meaningless parts of their days. He said the graduates “astonished” him with the range of their accomplishments and the breath of their knowledge as artists, scientists, visionaries, romantics and thinkers.

Once again, Vinson used a selfie stick to “freeze time” and capture the Class of 2015 on his iPhone.

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The students at the first ceremony for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences await their degrees in the Smith Center. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The students at the first ceremony for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences await their degrees in the Smith Center. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Speakers at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences ceremony on Saturday urged the graduating seniors to take risks in their future endeavors and learn from past mistakes.

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Daniel Ullman awarded economics professor Tara Sinclair for her enthusiasm in teaching and said students say Sinclair taught them to think differently, which he called the “ultimate compliment.”

1. Don’t be good. Do good.

Political science professor Corrine McConnaughy spoke at the ceremony, citing an activity she uses in her classes called Prisoner’s Dilemma, where students can choose to either better their grades at the expense of their classmates’ grades or risk their grade with a chance of bettering everyone’s grade. She encouraged the graduates to break the rules in order to change them into something better, instead of choosing from options presented.

“Being good is just downright limiting. It means making safe choices, ones you know will please other people,” McConnaughy said.

2. College is priceless

The student speaker at the ceremony was Matt Zahn, who majored in economics and political science and was the college’s distinguished scholar. He said he considered himself a “sucker” because he could have gone to the University of Vermont for free and instead chose GW, which is “definitely not free.”

“The true value of a college education is more than the cost,” Zahn said. “It is ultimately determined by you, by what you put in and the impact you make on the lives of others.”

3. Live through trial and error

CCAS Dean Ben Vinson told the graduates at the ceremony to realize that learning is a life-long process and that they should make informed decisions, but live by trial and error.

“Each of you through failure have arrived at your success,” Vinson said.

Vinson used a selfie stick to take a picture with each of the graduates as they crossed the stage. He finished his remarks by telling them to “make history,” the slogan of the University’s $1 billion campaign.

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Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health Lynn Goldman celebrates the school's and the graduates' successes during a ceremony. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health Lynn Goldman celebrates the school’s and the graduates’ successes during a ceremony. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

At the Milken Institute School of Public Health graduation ceremony Saturday, Dean Lynn Goldman and other speakers charged graduates to go forward with their passion for public health to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Before the 465 graduates left Lisner Auditorium with their new degrees, they heard advice on believing in the work they were meant to do and encouraging them to lead with their hearts.

Here are the ceremony’s takeaways:

1. Celebrating successes and setting goals

Goldman opened the ceremony by highlighting some of the school’s accomplishments from the year, including new opportunities for research and a rise in the rankings for both the school’s master’s and undergraduate programs.

She recognized their growing online master’s of public health and master’s of health administration programs, which now have more than 700 students around the world. Some of the first graduates of these online programs came to D.C. and attended the ceremony.

Goldman said she knows all of the graduates understand the importance of public health, and she reminded them to work to achieve the goals of the field.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to live longer and healthier lives,” Goldman said. “Public health is about taking care of all people, and it is our duty as public health professionals to reduce disparities that disproportionately affect the poor and underserved.”

2. Sweatpants and statistics

Patrick Zornow, a master’s of public health graduate, delivered a speech that helped graduates and audience members answer the question, “Where do I go from here?”

Zornow said embracing change has helped him answer this question, which is how he found himself studying public health at GW.

He said he embraced changes in his life while pursuing his degree when he no longer cared about wearing the same pair of sweatpants three days in a row during finals and when he realized he had an “unhealthy” interest in statistics, a field he never imagined enjoying.

Zornow told graduates it is imperative to embrace change and keep an open mind, especially when working in the public health field.

“Other times the changes we make can be a little more difficult,” Zornow said. “It’s not enough for us to stand in an ivory tower shouting down science and statistics saying someone is wrong, because when we do that, we fail to meet people where they are and we limit our ability to understand them.”

3. Nonlinear lives

Keynote speaker Michael Botticelli, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, told stories of his own and others’ substance abuse to remind graduates that it is the people who they will help who make their work matter.

“If we choose to put ourselves in the center of our work, we lose the ability to help the beauty in the people we help shine,” Botticelli said. “Beautiful people do not just happen, and every one of us in this room today not only has the great privilege of helping make beautiful people happen, but we’ve proven that through our hard work we do make beautiful people happen.”

Botticelli began working in public health during his own recovery from a substance abuse disorder. He said he “never believed” he would advise the president of the United States on national drug policies, which has taught him to listen to and understand the power of people’s stories.

“The drive to succeed isn’t only found in people with pristine resumes. Sometimes that drive is even stronger for people who have gone through tough times and come out on the other side,” Botticelli said. “Seek out the people who do not present a linear narrative, who have holes in their resumes. People who have experienced setback, suffering and recovery.”

4. Pledging to improve lives

Every year, a group of public health graduates work together to write a graduation oath that encompasses what they learned during their years as students and that serves as a reminder of the work they are setting out to do.

The ceremony closed after all graduates read the oath aloud and pledged to promote wellness in their public health professions.

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International students and their families gathered at the International Student Graduation Luncheon Saturday. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

International students and their families gathered at the International Student Graduation Luncheon Saturday. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A portion of the more than 1,000 international students who are graduating this weekend gathered in Alumni House Saturday afternoon for a lunch reception honoring their passage into the community of GW international alumni.

1. A plea for a postcard

After the group had a chance to sample foods with some international flavor, including stuffed grape leaves and hummus, interim Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development Karen White spoke to the crowd, congratulating students and parents alike.

She devoted most of her time at the podium to sharing the resources available to students after graduation, noting the 60 individual alumni networks both in the U.S. and abroad, and asking almost-graduates to update their contact information so her office could stay in touch.

“This is your University and we want to hear from you, and we want you to be a part of our continuing globalization as well as moving the University forward. One of the first and most important pieces of that is staying in contact so that we know how to find you,” White said.

2. A story ‘of resilience and passion’

White then turned over the microphone to Omayra Chuquihuara, a member of the Class of 2015 from Lima, Peru and the Student Association’s director of international students as well as the founder and first director of the GW International Students Community.

Chuquihuara shared a story from her sophomore year, when she had to return home from GW due to personal reasons and was unsure if she would be able to return as a junior. But she said the international student community was what drove her to do everything she could to return, and gave her the support she needed when she came back.

“I am sure you each have a story of your own, stories of resilience and passion and perseverance and endless support from your family and friends at home and at GW. These are the stories that make us want to work harder, stay involved, give back and be a part of that amazing international student community that we’ve created here at GW,” she said.

3. A local guest

Chuquihuara finished her speech, then broke out in a knowing grin. She chuckled and began ad-libbing congratulations to the audience, eyes frequently glancing to the side at a hallway entering the reception room in the back of Alumni House.

Suddenly, she cut herself off mid-sentence to exclaim, “Here’s George!” as the GW George mascot sauntered into the room to the delight of families and slight embarrassment of students.

Before the international students embarked to graduation ceremonies and perhaps back to their home countries, they got to take a photo with GW’s hometown hero.

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The Commencement Weekend Interfaith Baccalaureate service was held at Western Presbyterian Church. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Commencement Weekend Interfaith Baccalaureate service was held at Western Presbyterian Church. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduates and their families gathered for the 15th annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service at the Western Presbyterian Church Saturday morning to share prayer and celebrate the Class of 2015.

Five graduating seniors from a variety of religious backgrounds shared their reflections on how their religion and the Interfaith community has impacted their time at GW.

The ceremony also included multiple musical performances by the University Singers and graduates and brief remarks from University President Steven Knapp.

1. Turning to faith in times of change

Reverend Adam Park, the chaplain of the Newman Center, opened the morning with remarks on the close connection between education and religion, and offered a prayer for the graduating class in this new period of their lives.

Quoting the namesake of the organization, Cardinal John Henry Newman, Park said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

“[Lord,] may you instill within them a spirit of excitement and joy for this momentous occasion in their lives,” Park said. “May they look forward to the future and with confident hope that in the midst of these changes in their lives, it may lead them to perfection.”

Chaplain Meraj Allahrakha, community adviser of the GW Muslim Student Association, also recited a brief prayer for the Class of 2015 and talked about the many ways God is present in their lives, especially during college.

He said God can come in many forms and go by many names, but said in his tradition it is the person you call upon when you are on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean. He got a laugh from the crowd by following with, “Many of us know this feeling: It was just finals week.”

2. Breaking barriers, building friendships

All five students stressed their personal religious evolution throughout college, but more importantly the growth of the Interfaith community as a whole.

“While I cannot overstate how integral Judaism is to my identity, and how important it has been to me throughout my time at GW, I also must note how critical it has been to be part of an interfaith community,” Kiana Davis said. “We were able to look past labels and prejudices. We supported each other, advised one another and became friends.”

Davis, along with Floyd Jones, a Protestant, Nicolas Pedreira, a Catholic, Farah Albani, a Muslim, and Ross Rattanasena, a Buddhist, elaborated on the close bonds they had formed both with God and each other throughout the year and the progress the Interfaith community has made at GW.

“While the core of our relationship is an exclusive relationship between ourselves and God, we often forget that that relationship can be strengthened by coming together,” Albani said. “We met often over coffee or a meal to discuss the various struggles that come with being a faith leader, to plan events that we could put on together that would redefine interfaith and somewhere along the line we became friends.”

University President Steven Knapp spoke at the Interfaith Baccalaureate service on Saturday. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

University President Steven Knapp spoke at the Interfaith Baccalaureate on Saturday service. Sarah Mann | Hatchet Staff Photographer

3. Universal value of compassion

After a brief introduction by Student Association President Andie Dowd, Knapp took the podium to express his pride in the Interfaith community and the graduating class.

He discussed the work of Karen Armstrong, a historian of religion, who sought to answer what all world religions could agree on.

“Her striking answer was a single word. Compassion,” Knapp said.

He explained how impressed he has been with the compassion the Interfaith community and University community has shown throughout the year, especially in times of sorrow.

Knapp also mentioned the deadly Amtrak train derailment and said two current students were on the train and that he had exchanged emails with both of them. He explained Linnea Magsuci, a rising junior, had something she wanted to share with the graduating class. A 1990 alumna also died in that accident.

“’Tell the Class of 2015 to remember that life is the most precious gift, and we sometimes forget how lucky we are to be alive and healthy,’” she told Knapp in an email. “’Use that gift to make a difference. Stay kind and stay generous.’”

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Micheal Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, spoke at the 2015 graduation celebration. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Micheal Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, spoke at the 2015 graduation celebration. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Though the Graduate School of Education and Human Development Dean Michael Feuer joked he had asked Lady Gaga to speak at Saturday morning’s graduation ceremony, the school’s faculty and student speakers still managed to entertain graduates without her help.

The ceremony in the Smith Center featured both faculty and student speakers who asked the graduates to pay attention to their futures and the changes in communication and education.

1. Living out their relatives’ dreams

The event started with opening remarks from the school’s Senior Associate Dean Carol Kochhar-Bryant, who segued into speaker Brianna Rodriguez, a student receiving her master’s in school counseling.

Rodriguez told the story of her grandmother who had to leave school in eighth grade to support her family, despite her desire to continue her education.

“What was once [my grandmother's] fantasy has become my reality,” she said. “I know that achievement is hers, too.”

2. ‘Luck really does matter’

Feuer’s speech highlighted the challenges students may face after they throw their caps on the National Mall on Sunday.

He said students are ready to tackle problems like income inequality and the achievement gap between rich and poor. He said the graduates are ready to find solutions to those challenges, but that it’s OK if they fail a couple times.

“You could imagine how relieved I was to hear from my psychologist friends that failure is the key to success,” Feuer said.

A member of the graduating class from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development wears a cap that reads "Keep Calm and Counsel on!" Katie Causey | Photo Editor

A member of the graduating class from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development wears a cap that reads “Keep Calm and Counsel on!” Katie Causey | Photo Editor

But he said that in times of success, like graduation, it’s important to remember that luck plays a role in those accomplishments.

“You should take credit for your accomplishments, to be sure,” he said. “But leave a little room for humility, will you?”

But before leaving the podium, Feuer introduced the next speaker, education and international affairs professor emeritus Dorothy Moore.

“The fact of the matter is when I approached Dr. Moore to be our commencement speaker, she said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want Lady Gaga?’” he said. “I thought about that, and I called Lady Gaga, and what do you think Lady Gaga said? ‘Oh, is Dr. Moore not available?’”

3. Good communication takes out roadblocks

Moore focused on two points in her speech – communication is one of the most important parts of society, and the digital age causes rapid change in how people interact.

She recalled living in Tokyo when she hired a local woman to help her with housekeeping. Moore said the woman didn’t stop working on her first day of the job — and bad communication is all to blame.

“On her first day, I thought I was being kind and calling her by name,” Moore said. “I found out later, that I thought I was being very kind and calling her by her name. [But] since I was mispronouncing it, it translated to ‘hurry up.’ So all day long I was telling her, ‘Hurry up. Hurry up.’”

And then she turned her focus to how words like “selfie” haven’t even existed for as long as the act of taking a self portrait. She said technology and social media have changed and continue to change the way people communicate day to day, and added that the students will need to learn how to adapt to those rapid changes.

4. From a $5 per week to doctoral degree

Armando Justo, a doctoral graduate in human and organizational learning, addressed his fellow graduates and the audience in a speech about overcoming an imperfect family situation through education.

Justo’s mother died when he was still a young child, which put a strain on his father and siblings to provide basic needs like food for their family. He said he went hungry many nights and used to sell glass to his local grocery store in Mexico.

“Well-designed education is the key to renewal,” he said. “It fosters intellectual freedom, social consciousness and the creation of a more democratic and inclusive society.”

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Faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences congratulated the new graduates Friday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences congratulated the new graduates Friday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Speakers at the commencement ceremony for the School of Engineering and Applied Science Friday suggested the new graduates use their degree to make changes in the world and become leaders.

After David Dolling, the dean of SEAS, had everyone in the Smith Center applaud the parents, spouses and guests of the graduates for supporting the students on their journey to graduation, selected students were presented with awards before other speakers shared their stories from their time as SEAS students.

1. Never be tempted by shortcuts.

Dolling said the engineering school aims to provide students with an in-depth education of the technical components of the sciences, but students should also consider the big picture of the topics and have a broad view of their surroundings. He told them they should never stop learning and make ethical decisions in their personal and professional lives.

“Your reputation and your credibility are your most valuable yet your most fragile assets,” Dolling said. “Both are earned over time, yet both can be destroyed overnight. Never be tempted by shortcuts.”

2. Step outside your comfort zone.

Student speaker Eric Prokop, who studied civil and environmental engineering and received three awards for his academic achievements, said he was most impressed by his classmates’ unwillingness to stay in their comfort zones or conform to the engineering and computer scientist stereotypes.

“It’s the remarkable diversity of interests and talents and personality that the student body possesses that left the greatest impact on me,” he said.

3. Give a little extra.

Kristy McDonnell Ortiz, a double SEAS alumna and vice president and managing director for Pace Global, an energy consulting and management firm, said that although she went to Harvard after GW, her “heart has always been with GW and SEAS.”

She encouraged students to take advantage of the analytical thinking skills they developed in SEAS and use them to both find opportunities to make a difference in the world and to challenge themselves. She recited a quote that hung on the wall of her first manager’s office as advice for the graduates.

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra,” Ortiz said. “Give a little extra.”

4. Be a leader.

Ortiz instructed the new graduates to always be on the lookout for professional opportunities and take them.

“Today, you should celebrate,” she said. “Tomorrow, be an engineer. Solve the challenges. Be a leader.”

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Interim Dean Mary Jane Schumann welcomed the 2015 Graduating Class of the George Washington School of Nursing. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Interim Dean Mary Jane Schumann welcomed the 2015 Graduating Class of the George Washington School of Nursing. Katie Causey | Photo Editor


Speakers at the School of Nursing’s commencement ceremony urged about 300 graduates to balance nurturing attitudes with professionalism in Lisner Auditorium Thursday night.

Mary Jean Schumann, interim dean of the nursing school, told graduates that they would be part of the most personal moments in their patients’ lives – from births to deaths.

1. Thanking support systems

Schumann led a round of applause for the audience members who supported the graduates as they juggled school with jobs and responsibilities at home.

She said spouses, family members and friends helped graduates with everything from doing laundry to picking up kids from school.

“This was a family event, so if you hear a child in the background, please note that that child was a part of the support system,” she said.

2. Changing perceptions of nursing

Student speaker Danielle Melican, who said she never imagined she would be addressing the crowd after becoming a mother and high school dropout at age 16, said she came across stereotypes about nursing while researching for her speech on the Internet.

“While looking through seemingly unending memes and quotes about nursing, I noticed that three words appeared much more frequently than others,” she said. “Those words were caring, calling and compassionate.”

She encouraged graduates to be examples of how nurses could handle a rigorous education and be professional while still maintaining those qualities.

“You are proof that nurses are more,” she said.

3. Making “CHOICES”

Diane Okonsy, a graduate in the doctor of nursing practice program, said she and her fellow students have embodied the acronym “CHOICES,” which stands for choices, hard work, opportunity, initiative, charity, energy and passion and shooting for the stars.

She emphasized the “charity” aspect of the acronym before presenting a check for $2,500 to the doctor of nursing practice program on behalf of her fellow graduates.

4. Launching a new career

After serving as dean of the nursing school for 10 days, keynote speaker Pamela Jeffries said she and the graduates were in similar situations as they embarked on new career paths.

“I’m very much empathizing with each of you every step of the way,” she said. “There are many similarities with our journeys as we forge into new directions.”

She left the graduates with four pieces of advice for the future: set goals, find a mentor, build a network and be a leader.

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