Rutgers School of Nursing holds in-person Convocation for its Class of 2022

May 23, 2022

In its first in-person Convocation since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Rutgers School of Nursing saluted its Class of 2022 at a ceremony held May 18 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. More than 2,500 individuals—graduates, faculty, family, and friends—attended the event honoring the 511 new alumni who received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the School of Nursing.  

In her welcome, Dean Linda Flynn (PhD, RN, FAAN) addressed the Class of 2022 saying, “The message I share with you today comes with no surprise to many of you. Nursing covers so many areas. Nurses are practitioners, nurses are scholars, nurses step in when so many would step out—and nurses are resilient. Graduates, today we welcome some of you as new members of the nursing profession – for others, we welcome you to new heights within the profession..” 

Brian L. Strom (MD, MPH), chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) presented remarks. He said, “as we celebrate you and recognize the years of hard work and preparation that have brought you here, I am confident that we can count on each of you to continue this work with your own patients, to strive for equity, to create meaningful policy changes, and to champion public health interventions for a healthier and better-prepared future.” He added, “What you do will impact lives in the most direct and meaningful ways and that is the greatest joy.” 

The Convocation speaker, Denise Rodgers (MD, FAAFP), urged the graduates to “be caring, compassionate, competent, and courageous in your professional roles, in your personal lives, and as members of the larger society.” Rodgers, who serves as vice chancellor for interprofessional education within RBHS and RBHS Chair in Interprofessional Education at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said “I know you will go forth and make us proud.” 

U.S. Army Major Melinda Moyer (DNP, FNP-BC, RN, CCRN, FN-CSA), the first nurse practitioner to serve in the New Jersey National Guard, received the 2022 Stanley S. Bergen, Jr., MD, Medal of Excellence, the highest student honor presented to graduating students at RBHS schools. Moyer also represented the Class of 2022 as its student speaker for advanced degree programs. She said, “Humility and kindness bring out the best in all of us. You will encounter all extremes of people in this profession. The kindness you show on a continued basis could provide that one person with more strength than you can ever imagine.” 

Alexa Asperilla (BS), president at large of the School of Nursing Student Senate, was the undergraduate student speaker. She said, “the people in our class are some of the bravest and most resilient people I know.” She urged the Class of 2022 to “remember the people who inspired you to choose nursing. Those who have sparked your purpose and inspire you to make a difference in people’s lives.” 

View Convocation highlights.

Members of the Rutgers School of Nursing Alumni Association also took part in the event. Association treasurer, Dominque Flores (BS, RN), and Lois Greene (DHA, MBA, BSN, RN NEA-BC CPPS), presented nursing pins to the new graduates. Vice-President Cheryl Pantini (MST, BA, BSN, RN), welcomed the new graduates as members of the alumni association and led them in reciting the Professional Pledge for Nursing.  

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2022, the event recognized faculty for their role in helping students to reach their academic goals. Two faculty received excellence awards from the New Jersey Health Foundation. Professor Jeffrey Kwong (DNP, MPH, AGPCNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN) received the 2022 Excellence in Teaching Award. John Nelson (PhD, CNS, CPNP), director of national training at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center within the School of Nursing, received the 2022 Excellence in Research Award.

Faculty honors presented at graduation time also include the Grand Marshal position, awarded each year by a vote of faculty peers. The 2022 Grand Marshal, who led the faculty procession and recession at the event, was Barbara Caldwell (PhD, APN-BC). 

Dean Flynn concluded the ceremony by acknowledging the work of the staff who served on the Convocation team led by Mehtap Ferrazzano (MSW), assistant dean for Student Engagement and Planning, and Michael Varano (MBA), assistant director of student engagement student services. “After months of preparation, we’re here today at this phenomenal event, due to the efforts of our dedicated staff,” Flynn said. “They are examples of our school’s commitment to Excellence in Action.”