First Cohort of Nursing Students Graduates from Merrimack College

For the first time in its history, Merrimack College has awarded bachelor of science in nursing degrees.
Photo of the Class of 2023 nursing students and nursing faculty.
Merrimack's nursing students attended a nursing pinning ceremony in addition to receiving their degrees during Commencement Weekend.

Thirty-eight nursing students received their diplomas during the School of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Degree Recognition ceremony on Friday, May 19, at Duane Stadium, marking a significant milestone for the College’s nursing program, which launched in 2019.

“We are putting out wonderfully prepared nursing students who we hope will either go on to graduate education or the workforce, and put our name in the public as a program that develops skilled, empathetic and caring nurses,” said Lynne Sheppard, associate clinical professor and undergraduate nursing program director.

Among some of the specialties Merrimack’s new nurses will be working in include pediatric home health care, a transplant unit and a burn intensive care unit. 

“I’m really proud of us,” said Abigail Genev ’23, who will work in a renal dialysis unit at Rhode Island Hospital. “We have certainly had our challenges learning through the pandemic.  But we came together and it is great to see everyone succeed.”

In addition to the first cohort graduating, the program also had its inaugural pinning ceremony, which holds great significance in the nursing profession. It represents the program’s acknowledgment that the students have completed their studies. Each graduate is given a pin with the seal of the College on it.

During the ceremony, student speaker Jessica Van Heynigen ’23 championed the resilience she saw in her fellow classmates.

“The journey to this point has not been easy,” she said. “It has taken us through a pandemic – from classrooms to Zoom chats, from early morning criticals to late night study sessions, from drug dose calculations to ATI exams, from tears of frustration to tears of joy…To my peers, we have so much to be proud of and I cannot wait to hear about your futures as registered nurses.”

Mary Lynn Davis-Ajami, department chair, closed out the pinning ceremony with some advice to the new nurses. 

“Take care to be caring,” she said. “As your nursing practice evolves over the decades – yes, decades, because you deserve a career – stay the course and remember to center yourself in the art and science of caring.”

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