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ASU nursing and health graduates ready to make a difference in health care

People seated in an auditorium with graduates on the right side in their caps and gowns.

The Edson College welcomed graduates along with their families and friends to celebrate convocation. Photo by Mitchell Tay

December 20, 2021

Living, learning and, in many cases, working in health care through a pandemic is no small feat. But that is exactly what Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s newest group of graduates has been doing over the past 20 months.

On Dec. 15, their perseverance, resilience and commitment to helping others were recognized during seven intimate, in-person convocation ceremonies in the ASU Health Futures Center.

“You rose with the need for change. Learning remotely, providing COVID-19 testing, administering COVID-19 vaccines, delivering care through telehealth, wearing personal protective equipment in health care settings, wearing face coverings on campus, social distancing, and demonstrating compassion and care for yourself and others in ways we never could have predicted. This is your legacy,” Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Katherine Kenny told the graduates.

Like the rest of the university, this was also the first time since fall 2019 that Edson College was able to welcome graduates and their families together in person to celebrate receiving their degrees.

“It’s wonderful to have these ceremonies in person and that families and friends could be here to celebrate and join us as we recognize our graduates’ accomplishments,” Dean Judith Karshmer said.

Just more than 600 Edson College students applied to graduate this fall. Nearly half were in undergraduate nursing-related programs. In fact, five of the seven convocation ceremonies were dedicated specifically to this group.

Between the national nursing shortage and multiple COVID-19 surges, these new-to-the-workforce nurses are in high demand and ready for the challenge ahead.

The other two ceremonies were for graduate students, and for students in baccalaureate health programs like health entrepreneurship and innovation and community health.

Each ceremony also had its own student speaker. Daniel Kenney, who earned a Bachelor of Science in health care coordination, was chosen as the speaker for the health programs ceremony. 

Kenney shared with the crowd that his path to the podium actually started about 12 years ago when he was nearly killed in a car accident.

The crash left him in a coma with a severe traumatic brain injury. His outlook was grim and he said that most people in that situation never recover.

“I had to relearn how to walk, talk and swallow. I used to choke on water; it was not fun,” he told the attendees.

He spent a lot of time in the hospital, and it was that life-altering experience that sparked his interest in health care. 

“I was inspired by the various nurses and therapists who worked tirelessly with me during my hospitalization. It was there and then I decided I wanted to work in the medical field to give back a little of what I was given,” he said.

Kenney put in a lot of hard work and long hours to earn his degree but he also credited the resources of ASU’s Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services and the flexibility and support of Edson College instructors for helping him get to this point.

Kenney concluded his speech by sharing this advice with his fellow graduates: “As we embark into our professions, let us take core concepts such as cultural competence, interprofessional collaboration and patient-centered care, and let it spread like wildfire throughout the medical field.”

He was met with a standing ovation from the visibly moved audience and his fellow graduates.

In addition to the in-person ceremonies, each one was also livestreamed. Replays, including Kenney's speechare available on the Edson College YouTube channel.

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