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‘Covid cohort’ celebrates program completion at Convocation

Onlookers clap for the nursing graduates walking into the ceremony.

Convocation is the School of Nursing’s way to honor its graduating class in a smaller celebration before the Boise State-wide commencement ceremony. It’s a tradition rooted in students’ desire for a more intimate event to share their excitement and achievements with those closest to them.

This December, the school celebrated a total of 310 students from across the on-campus bachelor’s program, the RN-BS program and the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) program.

This cohort of on-campus bachelor’s graduates actually began their program with an unexpected twist; they started off campus in the fall of 2020 due to the pandemic.

Angie Phillips claps for Ashton Bartlett, who stands on stage with her escort.
Ashton Bartlett (second from right) and the other bachelor degree candidates received their apricot-colored stoles during Convocation.

“It was a really intense experience for sure,” said Ashton Barlett, a member of the on-campus cohort. “Everybody I’ve talked to has gone through a lot of struggles with this process, the pandemic and being in school on top of that.”

For graduating senior Camren Blake, nursing school started out very frustrating. As students were able to assemble on campus again, “it got better when you were in class with people,” Blake said.

Bartlett agreed; being in-person made a huge difference for the rest of the program.

“With so many ups and downs, I think that we’re all just excited to be here [at Convocation],” Bartlett said.

Congratulations and a call to action

Stephanie Shawver stands on stage as AGNP professors arrange her hood.
AGNP faculty hood Stephanie Shawver (second from right) during the Convocation ceremony.

Convocation also includes two keynote speakers from the student body.

AGNP graduate Stephanie Shawver spoke about the history of advocacy in nursing from Florence Nightingale up through the last decade.

“I challenge you to continue advocating not only for yourself and your patients, but for nursing practice,” Shawver said.


“We have come so far, but we still have far to go”

Stephanie Shawver
“We worked so hard – and we succeeded – despite the unexpected challenges of a pandemic that left devastation and burnout in its wake,” she said. “Despite our individual and shared challenges, we conquered and overcame, and that is no small feat.”

Amanda Timoney gives address from behind a podium.
Amanda Timoney (left) addresses the graduates as one of the two student speakers.

Amanda Timoney, an RN-BS graduate, followed Shawver’s address with reflections on the graduates’ successes and the early days of the pandemic.

“At that time, I could only dream of an evening like this,” Timoney said. “An evening that is not hindered with the fear of the unknown, but rather filled with the tenacity to meet it head on.”

Reflection, recognition and readiness

The school also awarded its inaugural Daisy Awards during the event. The Daisy Foundation partners with thousands of organizations across the globe to recognize outstanding nurses through this award.

This year’s Daisy Award for Extraordinary Faculty honored the late Rachel Finnell for her incredible influence on students and colleagues.

Yessie Espinoza with student Daisy Award and a bouquet of flowers.
Yessie Espinoza is the first recipient of Boise State’s Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nursing Student.

The Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nursing Student went to Yessie Espinoza. Those who nominated her said that she constantly took opportunities to be motivational and encouraging, building up those around her while setting an amazing example of hard work.

Convocation is a time to reflect on the vital roles of everyone from office staff to financial supporters; the event celebrates the reality that it truly “takes a village” to develop future nurses.

“Starting school during COVID? Totally not ideal,” said Margaret Quatraro, a member of the on-campus bachelor’s cohort. But she’s grateful for all she learned from the experience: flexibility, creativity, problem solving and the tenacity to not give up.

“Layered on top of that would be: keep caring for yourself,” she said.

As the class of December 2022 graduated last week, they crossed the stage ready to bring this spirit of collaboration and resilience into their practice.