Celebrating UConn School of Nursing’s 2024 Graduates

UConn Nursing celebrates over 200 graduates during the 2024 commencement ceremony

Students and faculty of the School of Nursing process along Glenbrook Road toward their Commencement ceremony at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on May 4, 2024. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

With the end of the academic year comes the time to say goodbye to our seniors. The School of Nursing’s Commencement, Graduate Recognition, and Awards Ceremony took place on May 4th, honoring those students taking the next step in their careers. Friends and families gathered from all over to celebrate their loved ones.

This year the Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient was Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba. Chief Malerba assumed the lifetime position as the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe, also becoming the first female Chief in the tribe’s history. She previously served as Chairwoman of the Tribal Council, and as Executive Director of Health and Human Services in Tribal Government.

Lynn Malerba stands on stage while receiving her honorary degree.
Lynn Malerba ’08 MPA, chief of the Mohegan tribal nation and treasurer of the United States, stands to receive an honorary degree during the School of Nursing Commencement ceremony at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on May 4, 2024. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Prior to her current role, Chief Malerba had a career as a registered nurse, who became the Director of Cardiology and Pulmonary Services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in science from Eastern Connecticut State University and an honorary doctoral degree in humane letters from the University of St. Joseph. Additionally, she received a Doctor of Nursing Practice at Yale University, along with being named a Jonas Scholar, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the College of St. Joseph.

Chief Malerba is Chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Service (IHS), a member of the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health, a member of the Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council, and a member of the Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee.

Chief Malerba currently holds the position of U.S. Treasurer, appointed by President Biden, making history by becoming the first Indigenous person to do so. Locally she served as a Trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, Board Chair for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and on the Provost’s Advisory Committee Member for the Harvard University Native American Program.

Chief Lynn Malerba is a visionary leader who has spent her entire career redefining what it means to dedicate one’s life to helping the community.” stated Dean Victoria Vaughan Dickson. “For her steadfast commitment to service as a nurse, scholar and leader and advancing health equity for Tribal communities, Chief Malerba received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa at the UConn Nursing commencement.”

A Bachelor of Science was given to 131 students this year and there were three valedictorians: Taylor Ashby, Melissa Lowry, and Annmaria Murphy. The Regina M. Cusson Healthcare Innovations Award went to Amy Setesak (BS). The Carolyn Ladd Widmer Undergraduate Leadership Award was presented to Senior Class President, Zaheer Turtem. The Clara Williams Holistic Nurse Award went to Shivanie Harbaran, and the Sigma Theta Tau honor was presented to Travis Lee Engle.

Four students graduated with a Doctor in Philosophy degree (PhD). Among them, Yuxuan Yang received the Carolyn Ladd Widmer Award for Outstanding Research and Sigma Theta Tau honor.

There were 16 Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) recipients. The Josephine Dolan Award for the Scholarship of Application went to Patricia Simonowicz. The Sigma Theta Tau honor went to Krystal Myers. And the Eleanor K. Gill Award for Excellence in Clinical Practice was presented to Nadejda Maseto.

The master’s degrees were divided into seven categories: Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (18), Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (3), Family Nurse Practitioner (9), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (23), Post-Graduate Certificate NNP (2), Nurse Leader (3), and Nurse Educator (9).

Preparing for the School of Nursing Commencement procession on May 4, 2024. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Eleanor K. Gill Award for Excellence in Clinical Practice was presented to five master’s students: Danielle Rosenberg (Primary Care), Arianna Burkard (FNP), Christopher Smith (NNP), Desiree Mahone (Nurse Leader), and Colleen Bradley (Nurse Educator). Emily Coyne received the Sigma Theta Tau honor.

Among the alumni, three rewards were presented. Dr. Desiree A. Díaz (PhD, FNP-BC, CNE, CHSE-A, ANEF, FSSH, FAAN), Professor and Director of Hispanic Serving Healthcare Professional Graduate Certificate and the Undergraduate Simulation Coordinator at the University of Central Florida, was awarded the Beverly Koerner Outstanding Alumni Award for Education in Nursing. Evelyn Gonzalez (BSN, MSN), Director of Clinical Workforce Development at Memorial Healthcare System in South Florida, received the Carolyn Ladd Widmer Outstanding Alumni Award for Leadership in Nursing. Dr. Olga F. Jarrin Montaner (PhD, RN, FAAN), Hunterdon Professor of Nursing Research at Rutgers University, was given the Marlene Kramer Outstanding Alumni Award for Research in Nursing.

Dr. Juliette Shellman (PhD, RN) serves as the Director for three departments: the International Center for Life Story Innovations and Practice, the Online Graduate Certificate in Life Story Practice and Research, and the Long-Term Healthcare Management Certificate Program. She was awarded the E. Carol Polifroni Scholarship of Praxis Award for her dedicated work at UConn’s School of Nursing.

Lastly, four faculty members were presented with the Pellegrina (Peggy) Lacovella Stolfi Clinical Teaching Award: Kate O’Brien (MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CCRN), Naomi Yates (MSN, BSN, RNC-OB, efm-C), Anna Riley (MSN, BSN, RN, RNC-OB, RNC-IAP, C-EFM, C-ONQS), and Amanda Darcey (MSN, RN, CWCN).

A big congratulations to all award recipients, and an even bigger congratulations to the School of Nursing’s Class of 2024. You may not be students any longer, but you are and always will be huskies forever!