College of Nursing

Nontraditional Nursing Students Persevere in Time of COVID, Honored at Ceremony  

Nursing StudentsA celebration brunch honoring the 20 students in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program was held Tuesday, November 9 on the campus of Georgian Court University, Lakewood, N.J.

The ABSN program is a 14-month program which builds on previous learning experiences and provides a way for students with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines to transition into nursing. Seton Hall's College of Nursing offers the program at two locations: on our Georgian Court Campus (Fall start), and on our Interprofessional Health Science Campus in Nutley, N.J. (Spring start).

Kicking off the event, ABSN Assistant Program Director Megan Kushner, J.D., welcomed the crowd of graduating students, nursing faculty and College administrators, noting it was a "very unusual 14 months." She said, "While this experience was different from any other cohort, you all should be proud you made it despite the difficulties the pandemic threw at you. The College is certainly proud of all of you."

Marie Foley, Ph.D., R.N., C.N.L., dean of the College of Nursing, also acknowledged in her opening remarks the unprecedented experience the students had because of COVID. "This was a phenomenal accomplishment. Not only were you able to finish in a very short 14 months – which takes other students 2-4 years to complete – but you did your entire program through a pandemic."

After the presentation of graduates by Accelerated B.S.N. Program Director Linda Ulak, Ed.D., R.N., Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Nursing Munira Wells, Ph.D., R.N. gave remarks on behalf of the faculty. She noted that the students' resiliency during this time is a measure of the future nurse they would become. "Over the past months, you have shown us your physical fortitude," she said, adding that they will need this strength, along with emotional resilience and moral courage, to face the days ahead as nurses.

Germaine Mendonca then spoke on behalf of the graduating class, reflecting on how they are moving on from the classroom setting. "My friends, we now get the honor of calling ourselves nurses. I hope that as we enter the nursing field as colleagues, we continue to learn and grow as nurses each and every day."

She concluded:

As nurses, we get to be with people when they are at their most vulnerable, their most human state. No matter which unit we end up working in, we get to be present with our patients and let them know that they are not alone; that we, the nurses, are there for them – to bring them relief from their pain, to share in their joy, to comfort them in their sadness, to listen, to teach, to advocate for, and most importantly to show them that as a human being, he or she is loved. … We as nurses have the privilege of touching the hearts of all our patients and their loved ones.

Dean Foley then led the students in the recitation of Florence Nightingale Pledge, after which 1987 B.S.N. graduate Carol Lent, D.N.P., CRNA, APN-A, spoke on behalf of the Seton Hall University College of Nursing (SHUCON) Alumni Association. President-elect of the Alumni Association, Lent served 23 years in the United States Army/Army Nurse Corps (1987-2010) on combined Active and Reserve Duty status.

Dr. Ulak gave the closing remarks, recognizing how this cohort's experience was so different from cohorts before – beginning from when they were interviewed for the program virtually and had to attend orientation online. "During that first semester, we told you to trust us – that 17 cohorts before you had made it through. It would be hard, but come the end of October, things would start making sense," she recalled, then recapped how the students learned at an intense level – virtually and in a hybrid format – throughout their time in the program.

"We have witnessed so many changes this year. We ourselves have changed and we are grateful that we are not the same people we were a few months ago. Take the time to celebrate and to acknowledge that you are entering a most incredible profession that directly affects people's lives," concluded Ulak.

Following the graduation ceremony, the SHUCON Alumni Association hosted a virtual alumni panel discussion for the graduates. Nine alumni contributed their time, some of which tuned in from their workplace. Questions raised by the graduates included how to conduct oneself and which questions to ask during an interview, plus how to study for and when to take the NCLEX exam.

"The alumni enjoyed giving back to their fellow graduates and the grads found the words of wisdom from the alumni to be practical and insightful," said current President Mary Ellen Urbanowicz, who noted this was the fourth time the Alumni Association held a panel for College of Nursing graduates.

Here are the Fall 2021 Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Graduates:

  • Gila Becker
  • Taylor Blazis
  • Giuliana Caldarelli
  • Courtney Carillo
  • Alyssa Costa
  • Lacey Demarco
  • Rucha Desai
  • Devon Forte
  • Stacey Hamill
  • Asia Harrington
  • Olivia Lavallee
  • Elizabeth Lefkowich
  • Alexis Liberatore
  • Teresa Locasio
  • Kira Malik
  • Germaine Mendonca
  • Vanessa Myers
  • Brieanna Rothrock
  • Audra Smires
  • Cassandra Yaegel

A slideshow played during the event, showcasing photos and individual quotes from each student. Many of the students expressed the difficulty of the past 14 months due to the pandemic along with gratitude for the College faculty. Here are some of those quotes:

Giuliana Caldarelli
I am so grateful for this experience that I got at Seton Hall. I have met so many amazing people between my classmates and professors. I have grown so much as a person and cannot wait to pursue my dream career. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and every professor who got me through a hard time.

Courtney Carillo
These past 14 months have been a challenge to say the least; academically, mentally and personally. I'm so grateful for the experiences that Seton Hall has given me and the growth I've gone through as well. I'm so proud of my classmates — we did it!

Devon Forte
I am so grateful for this experience at Seton Hall, for it has not only prepared me to become an excellent nurse but helped shape me into the person that I've become. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my peers and professors who have always been there for me to support. I can't wait to be that person for others in this next chapter.

Elizabeth Lefkowich
Everything has changed in 14 months and I've learned so much. It was not easy but having these amazing people (and pets) by my side helped immensely. Thank you to everyone who helped us get here and good luck to my fellow future nurses!

A portion of the event can be viewed in this video.

Categories: Health and Medicine