Tears, Joy and Everlasting Ties: Reflections from Chamberlain’s Graduation
MeLissa Mei, BSN, graduated summa cum laude from Chamberlain’s Chicago campus as the campus valedictorian.
Addison, Chicago, and online RN-BSN and MSN students shared the stage at UIC Forum in Chicago earlier this month. The event was life-changing for all involved. There were so many happy and excited people in one place. For the Chicago campus graduates, it was even more exhilarating because we had our pinning ceremony at the same venue on the same day.
The Chicago campus had 48 BSN graduates. Our class was very diverse to say the least. Nursing is a second career choice to some, others are parents with children from infants to teenagers. Regardless of where we came from, it is how we finished together that mattered.
Of the 48, Phillip Nguyen is the most dedicated person to the pursuit of education, the hardest worker in overcoming life’s obstacles, and is always compassionate and giving to all he meets. I have had the honor and joy of knowing him for the last three and a half years and he has become family not only to me, but to many students on the Chicago and Addison campuses. Phillip is also currently battling cancer. Both Chicago and Addison students have rallied behind him with fundraisers named, “Phil the Love,” “The Phillip Nguyen Cause” and “Operation Phil.” At the pinning ceremony, he received the “Shining Star” award for exemplary student nurses, including his work on the International Nursing Service Trip to Kenya last September.
After pinning, we waited to enter the main stage in our commencement regalia. It was the first time we saw the online RN-BSN, MSN and Addison graduates in full force. It was heartwarming to be in their presence. Our class is a strong force, but smaller than the Addison campus by more than half. We made up for the difference in noise level. Our exhilaration overflowed out of our bodies and probably out of the room itself. Pictures were taken every minute and we wore our bedazzled hats proudly. When we were left the preparation room for the main stage, high fives were given to staff and faculty and to each other as we proudly walked to our seats.
When President Janet Snow of the Addison campus began to speak, reality of our situation set in. The faculty and staff emphasized the hard work it took for every graduate to get here and it hit us how we would be forever changed once we left the room. When my turn as the student speaker from Chicago campus came, I realized the next 5 minutes would be the longest of my life. After my speech, our diplomas were conferred by our respective campus presidents and we stated the Nurse’s Pledge solemnly.
When the commencement ceremony finished, there were tearful smiles, hugs, and laughter. I hoped no one said goodbye. That meant they were not listening to my speech well.
Excerpts from the Student Commencement Speech
President Susan King, distinguished faculty and staff, honored guests, and fellow graduates, it is a privilege to speak as the student representative from Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Chicago campus. On behalf of the graduates, I want to thank everyone for celebrating tonight’s commencement ceremony with us.
During our time at Chamberlain, we have built strong, unbreakable relationships. It was a blessing to know I could count on every single one of my classmates to make things easier. There were times we saw more of each other than our loved ones, especially when exams and care plans were required of us every other week.
The road was filled with many obstacles: the loss of loved ones, hospitalizations, and HESI examinations to name a few. But there were many joyous occasions we shared together as well: engagements, weddings and the start of a family. We made it to the end without losing our gentle yet fierce spirits, our courage to advocate for our patients’ needs, and our intense willpower to study during those gorgeous summer days.
Graduates, we are moving forward to start a new era in our lives after today. I want you to take these next words to heart. It is not the time to be passive after we conclude our studies at Chamberlain. We cannot stop here because we will be swiftly left behind. Our noble profession is constantly evolving with research and technology advances. I know for a fact we are capable of achieving much more. Never set a limit on yourselves in regards to education.
We are the new generation of nurse leaders in health care. It is very important to tell yourselves this every day, because it is an undeniable truth. Our efforts at Chamberlain have built a solid foundation for additional successful endeavors. So be bold in your words and actions. Be the change you wish to see in the world of nursing.
Tonight’s commencement marks the end of an academic journey but I am not saying farewell to anyone. I refuse to think we will separate forever. Therefore, I will say this instead: “See you at the Chamberlain family reunion!” There we will talk about the student nurses we are precepting, the new graduate nurses we are hiring, the nursing research we are conducting, and the lives we have touched and have been touched by throughout the years as registered nurses. That is a day I am anticipating, the day I will see your smiling faces again.