UAMS Graduate School Celebrates at Brunch

By Nathan Tidwell

The brunch, attended by faculty, family, staff, and students, preceded UAMS’ commencement later in the day and celebrated the Class of 2023.

Stephanie Gardner

Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., addressed the gathering.Image by Nathan Tidwell

Graduate School Dean Robert E. McGehee, Jr., Ph.D., welcomed the attendees in his final Graduate School event prior to his retirement at the end of the month.

“This is like Christmas Day for me,” said McGehee. “About five weeks ago we had our Spring Reception where we recognized students and their accomplishments. That kicked off what I call commencement season, and it culminates today.”

McGehee noted that this was the 30th year of the Commencement Brunch.

This year’s graduates include students who received Doctor of Philosophy degrees, Master of Science degrees and graduate certificates.

Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., UAMS provost, chief academic officer and chief strategy officer, praised the graduates for their dedication to advancing science and health care.

“It is indeed fitting for the program to include the iconic poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost,” Gardner said. “Just as Frost’s traveler stood at a crossroads, so too did you when embarking on this academic journey. You chose the path of knowledge, exploration and innovation — the road less traveled.”

“Armed with the tools of research, critical thinking and innovation, you are poised to make a profound impact,” Gardner added. “Your expertise in your respective fields will enable you to address the most pressing challenges in health care, to develop groundbreaking treatments and interventions, and to shape policies that will improve and enhance the lives of countless individuals in Arkansas and beyond.”

Ashley Pike

Ashley Pike talked about the road to graduation.Image by Nathan Tidwell

Graduate student Ashley Pike spoke about the road she and her colleagues have taken towards graduation.

“I’ve met a lot of people in my years here, and everyone I’ve met I’ve considered a mentor,” said Pike. “It all starts with Dr. McGehee. Being the Graduate Student Association president, I would talk to him all of the time. I always felt it was my part to look out for everybody and help students stand up for themselves.”

“Ashley is just an amazing trooper,” McGehee said. “She did a lot to keep GSA active in a virtual manner during COVID.”

“I’m excited that I get to continue my postdoctoral career at UAMS in the fall,” Pike added.

Gardner had warm words for the retiring McGehee.

“As dean, he has continually demonstrated commitment to the success of our graduate students, our basic science programs and our research enterprise,” said Gardner. “In addition to his research in areas of cancer treatment, Type 2 diabetes and obesity, another focus of his scholarly work has been maximizing student diversity — specifically seeking to increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in the basic sciences and health professions. UAMS is grateful for his leadership.”

“I’ve had an amazing and blessed career,” said McGehee.

Graduate School students.

Graduate students enjoyed the brunch.Image by Nathan Tidwell