Pacific Celebrates First PhD Graduate at August Commencement

The Pacific University College of Health Professions held annual commencement exercises for six of its eight schools on Saturday, Aug. 12, on the Marsh Hall East Lawn at the Forest Grove Campus, highlighted by the awarding of the university's first-ever research-focused doctoral degree, a PhD, or doctor of philosophy.

In all, nearly 250 students from the schools of AudiologyDental Hygiene StudiesGraduate PsychologyHealthcare Administration and LeadershipOccupational Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies participated in the ceremony and celebrated with their families and friends.

Among them were 21 future audiologists, 32 dental hygienists, 34 occupational therapists, 51 physician assistants, and 44 clinical psychologists. Eight more graduates have their sights set on executive careers in healthcare administration. Additionally, 14 students received diplomas as the third graduating class of the university's bachelor of health science degree program, the university's first online degree offering.

Dana Colgan of Steamboat Springs, Colo. became Pacific's first PhD graduate when she received her hood and diploma in the research-focused PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Launched in 2013, the PhD in Clinical Psychology is the university’s first PhD program and features a scientist-practitioner model that prepares students to work in research and academic settings. Colgan is the first of what the university expects to be many more PhD graduates through its its newest doctoral degree programs. In addition to the PhD in Clinical Psychology, Pacific also now offers a PhD in Vision Science through the College of Optometry, as well one in Education and Leadership, a joint offering of the colleges of Education and Health Professions.

Long known as a leader in the liberal arts and sciences, teaching, and professional health services like optometry and occupational therapy, Pacific has become a leading research university among private institutions in Oregon, Provost John Miller said.

"Our alumni base includes many doctoral degree recipients who excel as healthcare practitioners," Miller said. "The successful addition of three PhD degree programs demonstrate this university is as committed to research and the critical direction it provides, as much as it is to our degrees that emphasize clinical practice."

Pacific President Lesley Hallick told the graduates the day is an opportunity to pause and reflect on what they have accomplished. 

"The key moving forward is what do you do with this recognition and what it signifies," she added. "You will now join your chosen profession as a peer, and you have the opportunity and responsibility to go out into the professional world you have chosen and make a difference."

In her closing remarks, Hallick challenged the graduates to make that difference in part, by impressing the value their education brought them onto those they serve.

"Try to make higher education accessible in some way, however big or small, for at least one person who might otherwise not have an opportunity," she said. "In doing so, you will help transform the world one step, one thought and one action at a time."

A number of graduating students were recognized within their programs for outstanding achievements. Following is a list of award recipients.

School of Dental Hygiene Studies

Director’s Award
Brittny Taylor Colgate

Oral Pharmaceuticals STAR Award
Maggie Semana 

American Association of Public Health Dentistry Recognition Award for Achievement in Community Dentistry & Dental Public Health
Mónica Pérez

Hu-Friedy Golden Scaler Award
Cara Jensen 

Dr. Gaither Johnson Preventive Oral Health Care Award
Zachery Young

Oregon Dental Hygienists’ Association Future Leader Award
Cori Pacanins Brasseler

USA Restorative Dentistry Award
Rachel Thompson

Sigma Phi Alpha National Honor Society Membership Award
Kelsey Lopez, Mónica Pérez, Brittny Taylor, Katelyn Thomson

Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Logan LaFontaine

School of Healthcare Administration and Leadership

Bachelor of Health Science

Contribution to the Program
James Spalding Jr.

Capstone Achievement Award
Igor Balchos, Rebecca Carlyle, Edgar Dominguez, Natalie Raphael

Professional Development
Chelsea Humphrey, Shawna Jensen

Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Pamela Rayworth

Master of Healthcare Administration and Leadership

Contribution to the Program
Kyle Farley

Contribution to the Profession
Lauren Heard, Heidi Mahoney

Professional Development
Shawn Nemati

Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Quanita Anwar

School of Occupational Therapy

Director’s Award
Raissa Graves-Highsmith

Special Recognition for Diversity and Student Advocacy
Savel Sabol

Special Recognition for Service to the Program
Lillian Tran

Valedictorians
Katherine Breithaupt, Raissa Graves-Highsmith

Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Katherine Breithaupt

School of Physician Assistant Studies

Academic Excellence Award
Radha Solai

Clinical Excellence Award
Nicole Ankenbrandt, Chase Beal

Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Alissa Smouse

School of Graduate Psychology

Master of Arts or Science in Applied Psychological Science

Outstanding Local Clinical Scientist Award
Evan Egener, Michelle Lee

Community Service Award
Tatiana Pinkley Director’s Award - Kayla Birkeland

Doctor of Psychology

Community Service Award
Jillian Freitas

Outstanding Practitioner-Scholar Award
Cindy Marino

Alumni Association Outstanding Graduates

Master’s
James Gaither

Doctorate
Del Rapier

Aug. 15, 2017