The all schools event was spread over two ceremonies on May 15, where more than 2,300 graduates celebrated earning their degrees. They were cheered on by thousands of their friends and family as they watched their loved ones cross the stage on the giant Crown Vision screen. The School of Nursing and Health Studies had 193 graduates taking the next steps in their careers.

New this year for the Nursing and Health graduates was the addition of the Academic Professional Achievement Ceremony. Held on May 14 at Pierson Auditorium in the UMKC Atterbury Student Success Center, the event celebrated the soon-to-be-alumni joining the nursing field or embracing the next level of their nursing careers.

“This represents, not only an opportunity to recognize our graduates, but it also provides our faculty a more personal opportunity to send off our students,” said Sally Ellis Fletcher, associate dean for students. “We’ve seen how much these students have grown and we’ve seen first-hand the hard work it’s taken to get to this celebration.”

Among the important milestones recognized at the event was the pinning of students, a professional nursing symbol that marks the transition from lay person to healer, from student to nurse. In recent years, the school has given students the option to choose the person that will be pinning them. Students have chosen parents, grandparents, children or friends and even fellow classmates.

Many of the chosen pinners are amongst a group the school has termed, Very Important Support People or VISPs. The ceremony makes a point to recognize each VISP in attendance, those integral individuals who have helped the graduates achieve this important milestone.

“Together you’re making a difference in the life of our community, and ultimately, in the life of someone you may never know – a patient or a community who will receive nursing care from one of today’s graduates,” Ellis-Fletcher said.

The event also recognized those completing doctoral level degrees, the highest academic degrees awarded by the school. It recognized their culminating projects by presenting the titles of their dissertations and final projects. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, approximately “30,000 of the nation’s more than 3 million nurses have doctoral degrees in nursing.”

Ellis-Fletcher sent all the graduates off with words of wisdom and a challenge of life-long learning.

“Graduates, you are walking in the footsteps of nurses who have shaped and reshaped health care,” she said. “You are standing on the shoulders of nurses who have stood proudly for those whose voices were silent. Your work of studying, learning and growing has become your professional responsibility. We are so excited and welcome in your new role. Congratulations!”