MAY 18, 2019 - The first woman to lead Jesuit Refugee Service/USA told the newest graduates of the School of Nursing & Health Studies to keep the values that they have learned front and center.
“What impressed me most about the description of the School of Nursing & Health Studies – and what always impresses me about Georgetown University – is the clear commitment to values that shape their mission and therefore your experience as students here,” said speaker Joan Rosenhauer (H’19).
“These values have shaped what is now your past and they can also – and they should also – shape your future,” she said to the new graduates.
Rosenhauer received the honorary doctor of humane letters degree at today’s ceremony, which celebrated the graduation of 112 students who earned bachelor’s degrees in global health, health care management & policy, human science, and nursing; 343 students who received master’s degrees in health systems administration and nursing; and 7 students who received the doctor of nursing practice degree.
‘Living Your Values’
“So I want to speak to you about living your values throughout your life because this is what has been most rewarding in my career and in my life as a whole,” Rosenhauer said, spotlighting the importance of becoming servant leaders.
“. . . Today the value of helping those who are suffering and being kind to all you meet are not prioritized always in our culture,” she said. “Being powerful, being wealthy, putting others down to advance one’s standing, promoting and protecting one’s self at the expense of the vulnerable, and criticizing the ‘other’ have become the norm. The idea of servant leadership – that is seeing our resources and skills and power as opportunities to serve others – has been lost.”
‘Other People’s Lives’
Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, the school’s dean, welcomed the students and echoed a similar theme, reminding them to apply their knowledge and grounding in the university’s mission and values in their careers and lives.
“What an incredible sense of accomplishment you must be feeling at this moment, along with great anticipation for the beginning of the next chapter of your lives,” Cloonan said. “But it’s something else that you have likely been thinking of during your time in our school that resonates particularly with the . . . university’s Jesuit tradition. And that is other people’s lives.”
She added: “Indeed you, as individuals and as a community of new Georgetown graduates, are engaged global citizens whose hard work, commitment, and dedication to serving the public inspire me and my colleagues on this stage each and every day.”
The Individual in Health Care
As a part of Commencement weekend, the school recognized student achievement at several events. A Tropaia Ceremony honored accomplishments of the undergraduate class. (Download the Tropaia print program.)
Robert Longyear (NHS’19), who earned a bachelor’s degree in health care management & policy, delivered the Tropaia student address. In it, Longyear shared the personal story of his late mother’s fight against chronic myeloid leukemia. (Download Longyear’s remarks.)
Through the lens of that experience, Longyear stressed for his fellow classmates, from the four undergraduate NHS majors, how crucial they would be in the future of health care and in bettering people’s lives. For instance, he recounted a story about how one of his mother’s nurses quietly comforted him.
“. . . No matter how small the gesture, your patients and their families will never forget your compassion,” Longyear said to his classmates about to enter the nursing field. “Just as I will never forget the power of that simple moment.”
Other messages he imparted included keeping patients and their families at the center of care, tackling the challenges of the health care system, and remembering that the health of the global community is everyone’s responsibility.
“Our health care stories, combined with our education, have the power to bring about substantial and meaningful change to the system – not only in new technologies, lower costs, and improved outcomes, but in how we treat the people who look to the system for help,” he said. “How we design the system and act within it can always be improved to make the patient experience so much better.”
To his classmates: “As the future leaders of health care, it is our responsibility to advocate for the patient, to be relentless in our pursuit of better systems, and to speak out against the shameful inequity.”
Soon-to-be nursing graduates received their unique Georgetown University nursing pin at the annual Pinning Ceremony.
Grace Wenzel (NHS’18), a BSN alumna, was invited back to describe the significance of the Georgetown pin. “It may be a little bittersweet to think of leaving the Hilltop,” she said. “However, this pin represents a piece of Georgetown that you can carry with you into the future. This pin unites all of us.”
Virginia Bruns (NHS’19), of the BSN Program, and Amy Chinanzvavana (G’19), of the Clinical Nurse Leader Program, delivered student addresses at the ceremony.
“. . . All 26 of us in the CNL class are striding forward, men and women for others,” Chinanzvavana said. “We are going to seek ways to provide excellence, justice, and community for all we encounter and care for – and amongst ourselves.”
“All of us will bear witness to sorrow and suffering which will be trying, but will keep us in touch, always, with our humanity,” Bruns said. “We didn’t choose nursing because it was easy. We chose it because it was hard and therefore meaningful.”
A Blessing of the Hands Ceremony was hosted for the graduating nurse-midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner students, and Georgetown’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau also inducted new members and gave awards.
Life of Service
Before JRS, Rosenhauer held an executive vice president position at Catholic Relief Services and also worked for more than 15 years at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in departments focused on human development, justice, and peace, as well as social development and world peace.
“Always remember the values that motivated you to be here today,” Rosenhauer told the graduates on Saturday. “And please never be the kind of person who doesn’t know how your values shape who you are and what you do. I hope and pray that you will find great joy in a life always committed to serving others.”