College of Health Professions Graduates Ready to Provide Care


More than 1,200 family members and friends turned out to support 162 graduates of Pacific University's College of Health Professions on Saturday, Aug. 11 during the university's summer commencement exercises at the Forest Grove Campus.

Sunny skies and a slight breeze provided ideal conditions for the morning ceremony held on the east lawn of Marsh Hall.

"With the season of the Olympic Games upon us, few things are better than winning a gold medal, but one is receiving a college diploma," Rev. Jennifer Yocum said to an enthusiastic crowd as she gave the opening invocation.

Degree candidates from the college's Masters of Healthcare Administration program and schools of Dental Health Science, Physician Assistant Studies and Professional Psychology realized the completion of the rigorous educational journeys they undertook.

Trials and tribulations they willingly endured to be exceptional healthcare providers.

Thirty-one students earned baccalaureate degrees in dental hygiene, 12 graduated with a master's in healthcare administration, 40 earned a master of physician assistant studies degree, 46 graduated with a master of counseling psychology, 39 with a master of clinical psychology; and 40 became doctors of clinical psychology (Psy.D.).

"Commencement is an opportunity to pause, and celebrate and mark our accomplishments and their significance," President Lesley Hallick told the graduates. "And it is important for all of us to share these momentous occasions with our families and friends."

Hallick once again led a burgeoning tradition at Pacific, an "audience participation" phase in which the graduates stand and thank their loved ones.

As each group stood and remained standing at Hallick's request - parents, grandparents, romantic partners, children, other relatives and friends - graduates responded with cheers and shouts of thanks.

"Graduates, I invite you to look around. You are surrounded by those who love and support you. Everyone is here because they believe in you and wish you well."

Hallick expressed admiration for the graduates' commitment to a constantly changing healthcare landscape.

"You now have the opportunity and responsibility to go out into the world and make a difference," she told them. "And I know you will carry forward the spirit and mission of Pacific as you do so. You will be creating the future one step, one thought, one person, one action at a time. I wish you the best, and remind you that you will always be part of the Pacific family."

Outstanding students in each of the programs had an opportunity to address their cohort colleagues and supporters.

In preparing her remarks, dental hygiene graduate Cassie Button took a unique approach.

"We have been blessed to learn at such a high level, but sometimes when you're learning at a high level, you forget those basic lessons of life," she said.

For advice, she turned to those who are the most basic among us: children.

Cameron, Button's four year-old nephew, told her he wanted his aunt to play with him.

"We're getting ready to be concerned with paychecks and student loans, and sometimes it's really easy to forget to take time for ourselves, Button said. "If we go to the park with our family, we're going to be way more rejuvenated."

Eight year-old niece Ava told Button that if she really wanted something, it is important to say 'please.'

"Let's remember what the power of a 'please' and 'thank you' can do in our personal lives and professional careers," Button said.

Nine year-old McKenzie, a friend of Button's sister, told Button to ignore mean people.

"I want to encourage everyone to not be that mean person," Button said. "There's a lot of ugliness in this world and we don't need to add to it. We can really uplift and support people with a spirit of positivity, so keep that in mind."

Laura Motch, a master of healthcare administration graduate who will intern at a veterans' hospital in Utah, was asked by a colleague how graduate school was.

She recalled her response. "It's kind of like putting your head against the wall. It feels much better when it's over."

Hotch expressed tears of emotion in paying homage to her fellow students while reflecting on the cohort's trials and tribulations over the past two years.

"It's a very daunting task to speak on their behalf and give them the honor they so deserve," she said. "Over the past two years, we've grown and become a family. We've had our ups and downs; but working together, we've made it through the challenges."

On behalf of the cohort, Motch thanked the MHA faculty and staff for preparing the group so well for the uncertainty that lies ahead on the nation's healthcare system.

Jennifer McCoy, a master of physician assistant studies graduate, reflected on her opportunities to travel during clinical rotations, including a six-week trip to China where she, her husband and daughter scaled the Great Wall.

"No easy feat, by the way," she said. About halfway up the wall, McCoy sat down on the steps and noticed a quote on the wall that read, "Those who have never known challenge have never experienced life."

"I thought that was really poignant and kind of wraps up our past few years," McCoy said.

As with Motch, tears welled in McCoy when she thanked her husband, daughter and in-laws for their support while she was away for months at a time during clinical rotations.

"Not one day went by when I didn't think about you guys in some way," McCoy said. "I missed you terribly, and I'm home now. I also want to thank my in-laws for your unwavering support and understanding. I can't think of any other people on this planet that I'd rather be here with today than you guys."

Master of counseling psychology graduate Lisa Girasa encouraged her fellow graduates to maintain the strong community the cohort formed.

"We learned how to work together and use each other as sounding boards," she said.

"Going forward, let's not dismantle our not-so-secret Facebook page. Let's keep it up as a means to stay in touch and support each other. Let's include our professors and other professionals to expand our community based on the common goal that we want to do a good job, and in recognition that the lone wolf model of therapy does not fly."

Doctor of clinical psychology graduate Deborah Dwelle, named an outstanding practitioner-scholar within the program, called the day the third-best of her life, second only to the birth of her two children.

She credited her faculty for supporting her decision to take an extra year to complete the program so she could be both the best student and mother possible.

"In the words of Nelson Mandela, 'Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. I have faith individually and collectively that we are going to make the world a better place.' Thank you."

Award Winners

School of Dental Health Science

Director's Award - Alyssa K. Garner
Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals STAR Award - Amanda E. Bolliger
American Association of Public Health Dentistry Recognition Award for Achievement in Community Dentistry & Dental Public Health - Robin W. Ross
Hu-Friedy Golden Scaler Award - Daina A. Coulson
Dr. Gaither Johnson Preventative Oral Health Care Award - Savannah H. Rose
Oregon Dental Hygienists' Association Future Leader Award - Cassandra J. Button
Sigma Phi Alpha National Honor Society - Cassandra J. Button, Alyssa K. Garner, Savannah H. Rose.

Master of Healthcare Administration

Academic Achievement Award - Kathleen M. Romeo
Capstone Achievement Award - Tyler J. Anderson, Joshua D. Dodd, Shawn W. Thompson.
Contribution to the MHA Program Award - Dewey N. Tucker
Contribution to the Professional Community - Laura Motch
Professional Development Award - Jeffrey D. Willis

School of Physician Assistant Studies

Academic Excellence - Jessica K. Albert
Clinical Excellence - Jessica C. Nehring

School of Professional Psychology

MA in Counseling Psychology honors

Outstanding Practitioner-Scholar Award - Lisa M. Girasa
Community Service Award - Torrie W. Blodget, Sophie E. Robertson
Director's Award - Ashwini S. Baitmangalkar, Christopher R. Ferrante

PsyD in Clinical Psychology honors

Outstanding Practitioner-Scholar Award - Deborah G. Dwelle
Community Service Award - Jessica L. Binkley
Dean's Award for Excellence in Dissertation Research - Mark J. Noakes

Faculty Honor

Distinguished University Professor Emeritus and Assistant Dean Emeritus: Jay C. Thomas, Ph.D.

Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012