Everything in nature is awake with bright hues!
The grass is green, the sky brilliant blues!
The birds sing to us a joyful song.
The nights are warm and the days are long.
The warm breeze is alive with flowers’ perfume.
These are the joys and delights of June!
Heather Bahnmaier, 2010
On May 9th the Institute celebrated 524 students who received their degrees or certificates and were awarded their diplomas. This 36th Commencement was especially noteworthy as the first two graduates of our PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program received the highest degree awarded by the Institute. As always, this year’s Commencement was an exciting, uplifting, and celebratory event – for the graduates, their loved ones, and the Institute’s trustees, faculty, and staff.
Speaking to the graduates, I observed that one definition suggests that commencement is “the act of changing into something different in essential characteristics.” They had reached this milestone after completing a journey of changing from who they were when they arrived at the Institute one, two, or three years previously, to someone “different in essential characteristics” – in the knowledge they now possess, the unique professional skills they developed, the new professional identity they acquired, and the values and personal qualities that will carry them through a lifetime commitment to do their personal and professional best to improve health and health care for all. They each had achieved the goal they had embarked on, and commencement itself marked the culmination of that achievement and the commencing of their career as a health professional.
The departure of this year’s graduating class to join the ranks of more than 6,000 fellow alumni was quickly followed by the start of the summer academic term. In May, we welcomed a new class of 98 students to the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and our second cohort (50 students) to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. This month we will welcome a new class of 69 Doctor of Physical Therapy students along with the third cohort of 39 Doctor of Occupational Therapy students. WELCOME!!!
An open letter to our newest students
We now begin a new cycle of preparing you, our newest students, to become “something different in essential characteristics.” While your personal characteristics, values, and prior life experiences will remain core to your being, you also are commencing a journey to acquire and develop additional, and quite essential, characteristics that will prepare you for your chosen career path. And upon graduation, you will leave the Institute with a new set of knowledge, skills, and professional values, some unique to your respective discipline and some in common with the other health professions, that identify you as recognized and well prepared members of the health care team.
As with every new class of students in each of our academic programs, we have great expectations for your success. As you journey along your chosen paths, you will be joined, supported, and inspired by our stellar faculty and staff and our many clinical partners. You will have the great privilege of learning in some of the best health care facilities in the world and with exemplary practitioners. You will gain experience working in interprofessional teams in our unique IMPACT Practice® model, learning about each other’s important contributions to care delivery. You will have opportunities to engage with people of all ages and walks of life in our communities – many of which are global in nature even though they are in our own back yard – to learn with and from them as you help them and their families improve their health and quality of life. You will become not only competent practitioners but also leaders, in advocating for fair and just allocation of health care resources, in addressing health disparities, in working as members of the health care team, and in being change agents in shaping the health care system of the future.
I wish you well as you embark on your learning journey, and know you will benefit greatly from having chosen and placed your trust in the Institute. We are here to help you realize your goals, to support you along the way, and to celebrate each milestone as you move closer to your own day of commencement, by which time you will indeed have changed into “something different in essential characteristics.” You are on a journey to a destination. However, I urge you to not let the goal of the destination obscure the journey. Instead, savor the journey while you are here, be challenged and inspired by it. Meet and learn from and with and about others – especially those who come from different backgrounds with different life experiences, as they will enrich yours. Embrace the opportunities before you. Your day of commencing as a new graduate will be here sooner than you can imagine.