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School of Nursing Celebrates Class of 2024

  By Gianluca D'Elia
  Monday, May 20, 2024

Pediatric NP graduate Amy Miller receives her diploma from Dean Lisa Kitko.

The University of Rochester School of Nursing celebrated more than 250 graduates during the University’s 174th Commencement Weekend.

The spring nursing graduation ceremony celebrated the newest alumni of the School’s bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and advanced certificate programs.

“Nurses are the backbone of our health care system, recognized as the most trusted profession and now more indispensable than ever as we face unprecedented health challenges in our community,” said David Linehan, MD, chief executive officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Sara Bird '24N, a former lawyer from West Virginia, was selected by her classmates as the accelerated bachelor’s student speaker, and spoke of nurses’ duty not only to provide high-quality care, but to advocate for inclusion, equity, and collaborative relationships.

“Here at the School of Nursing, we didn’t just learn how to listen to lung and heart sounds, take a manual blood pressure, interpret labs… we also learned how to be kinder, compassionate people to others because you cannot be a safe or effective nurse without upholding these principles,” said Bird, who is joining Strong Memorial Hospital’s med-surg flex team after graduation.

Samantha Loper '24N (MS), an alumna of the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program, was the graduate speaker. Having started her program during the COVID-19 pandemic, Loper shared a personal story about her experience with a severe case of COVID that led to several months of physical limitations.

“When you come face-to-face with the wall, you have two choices,” she told fellow graduates. “One, you can give into it. Your second choice is to find that voice in the back of your heart and mind that says, ‘you can do this,’ and you dig deep and block out all distractions.”

“This program played a significant role in motivating me, reminding me that the option to give-up, or to give-in to the wall does not exist,” she said.

Loper will go on to work as a nurse practitioner on Strong’s cardiac surgery team, following several years as a cardiac ICU and Mercy Flight nurse.

During the graduation ceremony, Instructor of Clinical Nursing Kaleigh Sullivan ’22N (MS), RN, was named the 2024 recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Sullivan, who teaches psychiatric and mental health nursing courses for bachelor’s students, was praised for her approachable demeanor, genuine care for students, and teaching philosophy of being a “guide on the side.”

Outgoing Chief Nurse Executive Karen Keady, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, the School of Nursing’s assistant dean of clinical practice, delivered the 2024 keynote speech – her last address to nursing students before taking on a new role as system chief nursing officer for Vanderbilt Health in Nashville, Tennessee.

"We have learned that the most significant growth happens outside of our comfort zones," Keady said. "It's about saying ‘yes’ to opportunities that scare us, that challenge us, and that ultimately shape us into the leaders we aspire to be."

View photos from the 2024 graduation ceremony here. Students can sign up to access their individual photos by uploading a selfie here. The site will use facial recognition to share all photos in the gallery that you are featured in.

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