“I hope you will feel inspiration knowing that YOU are a part of the most trusted profession in America and that YOU will have the opportunity to improve the health of individuals, communities, and populations throughout your career.”Linda D. Scott, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FNAP, FAAN, Dean and Professor, UW–Madison School of Nursing
Congratulations Class of 2021 Award Recipients!
“Receiving this pin validates the hard work and perseverance it has taken me to get where I am. I’m honored to join other UW-Madison nursing alumni and celebrate all our accomplishments together!”Mariah Larson TBSN'21
“Nursing is like no other field. It is an art, a science, a practice, and, for some, a calling. We have seen what has come, what might come, and I have no doubt that we, as Badger nurses, will rise to meet what's next.”Noor Bontz BSN@Home '21
Read the BSN Class of 2021 Speeches
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Susan Maloney, Traditional BSN
Good afternoon and a huge congratulations to the UW-Madison School of Nursing Class of 2021!! I think it is fair to say that the chapters of our lives that we have written these past two years, along with our instructors, preceptors, mentors, and families, will remain imprinted in our hearts and minds for decades to come. This being said, I truly cannot think of another group of humans with whom I would rather have survived a pandemic, let alone the first steps in our journeys as nurses.
I believe that nursing exists at the intersection of healthcare and storytelling. I remember my grandmother sharing with me her experiences as an emergency room nurse for over forty years. When I was so young, the stories that she told seemed to come from a separate world from my own, where the most intimate, extraordinary, and terrifying experiences of an individual’s life were laid out on an exam table for my grandmother to assess and treat. I remember wondering what kind of person is qualified to interact with humanity exposed as such, in some of its most raw forms.
Earlier this semester, one of our classmates shared with me that she witnessed her first patient death, then many many more, last spring, when she worked extra shifts as a nursing assistant on a COVID-19 unit to help support patients and healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic.
This conversation, as well as countless other conversations with classmates, preceptors, instructors, and healthcare workers helped me to realize how truly storied the class of 2021’s nursing career has been since the very beginning. We are entering this profession at a time when nurses have been lifted up in our society as “heros.” Yet we are, perhaps, more wise than prior graduating classes to the personal sacrifice and emotional investment that come with this career.
When I was a child, my grandmother’s world as a nurse seemed as foreign a concept to me as joining a pirate ship or living deep in the woods in a house made of candy. Now, we all have our own set of nursing stories to share. I am honored and proud to have had the opportunity to grow and learn with each one of you. I am inspired by your resilience, passion, kindness, and intelligence. I hope that we, as a class, can look at the next, fresh page of our lives with optimism and enthusiasm and have the courage to write our own stories in pursuit of a better world for our loved ones, our patients, and our communities.
I want to close with an infinite amount of thanks for the UW-Madison School of Nursing instructors, faculty, and staff, as well as all of the preceptors and mentors who have made this experience not only possible, but a space for us all to thrive. Additionally, to the loved ones who have supported and encouraged us, you made this day possible. From all of us, the deepest of thanks. Happy graduation everyone! I believe in you all and I can’t wait to see you change the world.
Amanda Husk, Accelerated BSN
Here we are after our one short, but intense, year together. When we applied for this program, we knew we were signing up for a rigorous and challenging experience. Little did we know that we would meet those challenges during a year marked by a global pandemic, unresolved social justice crises, and an insurrection on the US capitol.
But meet them we did.
It may have looked different than any of us had imagined – starting our classes online from all corners of the globe, and finally meeting each other in person only to get much more familiar in assessment lab the very same day.
And yet, we became nurses. We are prepared to inform our practice with evidence, to advocate for our patients, and to provide leadership as we work for social justice. This cohort is so tremendously talented, compassionate, and able to think critically and deeply about the problems we will be called upon to solve.
I was talking with my sons recently about the importance of helping people. My youngest said, “Mom, but you REALLY help people. You’re going to be a nurse!” Even a 6-year-old knows that, as nurses, we help people in their moments of need.
Many of us felt some loss about not being able to be together in-person much. But from that arose an intense sense of gratitude for small moments of connection with one another. Let’s take this into our practice, these small moments of connection that may mean more to our patients and families than we will ever know.
This year we showed up.
And we will continue to show up – for our patients, our co-workers, and our organizations. But please, let’s all make sure to show up for ourselves, too. Whether it’s exercise, some tai chi, or brunch and bloodies with a friend, show up for yourself.
Thank you to our communities who have showed up to support us through this journey. Thank you to the significant others, families, parents, and friends who have been there through it all, and to our faculty, staff, preceptors, and mentors who have guided us.
I am so incredibly proud of our achievements and confident in our abilities to make a difference in the world. Dr. Snedden taught us to “celebrate everything,” but today, we celebrate something momentous. Congratulations, nurses!
Noor Bontz, BSN@Home
Hello and congratulations, 2021 graduates. Thank you, friends, and family, for logging in from home.
Like any good nurse, I’ll start with an introduction. Hi, my name is Noor and I’ve been in nursing for the last 8 years in various roles. I am a mother to 2 daughters and an aspiring fiber artist in my off hours. Thank you for the honor of being your BSN@Home speaker.
Last year, the American Nurses’ Association declared 2020 to be the Year of the Nurse, especially of nurse innovators. While our roles were in the spotlight, I’m pretty sure that’s not what they had in mind.
I’d like to first acknowledge the mixed feelings many of us have about the last year. All of us, in some way, saw the good and bad in our field. We mourn for the patients and nurses we’ve lost to the pandemic. Our anger about issues such as staffing ratios and supply chains were magnified. Many of us felt fear about what would happen to our families and ourselves. We still carry many of these emotions, regardless of where you were.
We also innovated the living heck out of the pandemic. The Merriam Webster definitions for innovation are “a new idea, method, or device” and “the introduction of something new.” From developing Pronocols and tracking treatment options to openly sharing our successes and failures in creative oxygenation, we managed to ADPIE our brains out – ADPIE, of course, being assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate for those who haven’t thrown a nursing book across the room in frustration.
Whether you’re a new grad or an experienced nurse, this last year taught us that it is okay to say, “I don’t know.” It is vital that we share our education and nurture each other because we are only as strong as our newest nurse. I remember starting in a procedural department after years of bedside nursing and feeling like I was brand new to the field. My mentor told me, “none of us know it all! That’s the beauty of the profession!” I carry her words, and teach it to my mentees, every day.
Nursing is like no other field. It is an art, a science, a practice, and, for some, a calling. We have seen what has come, what might come, and I have no doubt that we, as Badger nurses, will rise to meet what’s next. On Wisconsin. Thank you.
Read the PhD & DNP Class of 2021 Speeches
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Jennifer Kowalkowski, PhD
Congratulations to the graduates of 2021 and sincere thanks to all who have come to celebrate with us.
I came to the Nursing PhD program to become a scientist – to become an innovator and leader in nursing. I leave, as so much more.
The beauty and joy of life is in the unexpected and the imperfect; in the spaces between moments where we least expect it to be.
We have all encountered them, experienced them…felt the freedom of those spaces where we are fully present.
And it is there, if we allow ourselves the grace to be still and to indulge our creativity, our minds are free to discover.
It is there, that I discovered that strength is rooted in vulnerability. That some of the most powerful words are, “I don’t know,” “I was wrong,” “I can’t go at this alone,” “Will you help me?”
I want to thank the faculty, staff, and administration of the School of Nursing for creating an environment where my colleagues and I could celebrate the spaces between moments. Where we could discover our passions and nourish our minds while charting our paths toward the future.
I also thank the friends and family members who have supported us on this journey – for without you, we could not accomplish all that we have.
To my classmates, those who have already left as well as those who remain, my companions on this journey – “Thank you” could never suffice. You have walked beside me through some of the most difficult and enlightening moments of my life, and I am eternally grateful. I didn’t go at this alone, I did it with you.
I would like to leave you with a few words from Brené Brown, an inspiring researcher in Social Work who has helped me to fill my life with the beauty and the joy of the unexpected and imperfect, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.”
Elisha Smith, DNP
It is my honor today to deliver one of the graduate student convocation speeches before this incredible student body. Thank you to the Dean of the School of Nursing, Dean Linda Scott, the DNP Program Director, Dr. Pam McGranahan, the entire SoN faculty, staff, my fellow graduates and our support systems who have made these years everything that they were. Graduation is obviously a time of celebration! And it should be because we have accomplished so much. Whether you are graduating from the PhD or DNP program, we dedicated ourselves to earning our doctorate degree in nursing to advance health care through nursing innovation, leadership, and evidence-based practice Yet, graduation is also a time to reflect. Reflect on our experience because today is an amalgamation of every hard won battle, every loss, every long lecture day, OSCE exam, every simulation, every quiz, every initial discussion post and response, every scholarly project meeting and every clinical rotation we have ever done. Today is also the culmination of the challenges we collectively faced – COVID-19, social unrest, and a turbulent socio-political atmosphere. These highs and lows are what got us to where we are today. But the history of these past three, four, or even five years is not the past. It’s the present because we carry every experience, even the experiences before we matriculated into our programs to this very day.
Each of our journeys is a contribution to the mission and values of the UW-Madison, School of Nursing. My journey is one of feeling inadequate. I grew up a poor dark-skinned Black child on the west side of Chicago. Although surrounded by loving parents, siblings, and our community, I often felt like I did not measure up. I never felt I was the smartest, the most attractive, most masculine, and definitely not athletic at all at that time. I prayed to live in a better neighborhood with a nicer home, have lighter skin, and be a “normal” boy who subscribed to heteronormative, hyper-masculine behaviors that were palatable to my peers and community. I prayed for the return of my twin brother who died unexpectedly from an asthma attack at the age of 10. But despite my fervent prayers, each time I opened my eyes, none of those things changed. My Creator left me right there. And throughout my time in the doctorate program, I realized why. It was so that when I gained vision, strength, self-love, self-acceptance, confidence, and purpose that I could remember my experiences and mobilize them to support and uplift others. You may have felt the same way too, whether you faced or perpetuated any form of sexism, racism, microaggression, transphobia, xenophobia, any sort of trauma, or just simply not feeling like you were enough. We often may feel like we want to ignore those struggles and erase them – but doing so is a dead end. Own all of it, even if it was traumatic. Because it is once we reconcile and heal, that we are able to empathize, connect, transform the struggle into a passion for people and advocacy. All of our stories are diverse – just as the individuals we will encounter at the bedside or in academia. After owning our stories and experience, it enlightens us to empathize and use what we have learned in our doctoral program to continue to validate, amplify, and mobilize everyone’s stories, even those that may differ from our own to enact effective change. That is the profession we have dedicated ourselves to. Nursing has a long history of leading the way in advocacy and elevating vulnerable communities that have historically been marginalized and abandoned.
So, as we go forward as doctors in the nursing profession, let us celebrate, reflect, and then be purposeful in enlarging our understanding of ourselves and everyone that we may encounter so that their voices–their stories –are heard and valued. Because that is the true manifestation of advocacy.