College of Health Professions Students, Families Celebrate with Brunch, Hooding Ceremonies

By Ben Boulden

While a guitarist performed for celebrants outside, the lobby-atrium area inside the Administration West building on the Little Rock campus was crowded. Faculty, staff, students and their families socialized, dined from a brunch buffet and listened to brief, public remarks from UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, and College of Health Professions Dean Susan Long, Ed.D.

On May 18, 583 students graduated from the college.

A guitarist performs at the College of Health Professions brunch on the Friday before the 2024 commencement ceremony.

A guitarist performs at the College of Health Professions brunch on the Friday before the 2024 commencement ceremony.Evan Lewis

Patterson stopped by the brunch and thanked the families for everything they contributed to the success of the students.

“You have supported these students through all kinds of difficult moments,” he said. “I know it has been hard, but without your support, it would have been so much more difficult for our students to be here today. I want to remind our students that it is the end of one journey and the beginning of another.”

Hours later, hundreds of friends and family members sat in the audience in the CHARTS Theater on the North Little Rock campus of University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College to watch as each of the 118 graduate students on stage was hooded.

Long provided some historical background for the rituals and traditions of hooding. She said the ceremony is rooted in a long academic tradition dating back to the medieval period, although the colors used were not established and standardized in the United States until 1895.

The hood has a satin lining and a velvet border. The satin displays the colors of the university, and at UAMS, these are deep red and white. The border indicates the academic discipline. At the college’s hooding ceremony, gold and yellow stood for the Master of Science degrees, Kelly green for the physician assistant’s program, teal for physical therapy and sage green for the Doctor of Audiology degree.

“The hood is placed or invested when the requirements for the master’s or doctoral degree are completed,” Long said. “Faculty consider it a great honor to be selected to place the hood. It’s a symbol of academic achievement over the shoulders of their graduates.”

Students graduating with Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Doctor of Audiology, Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, Master of Science in Dietetics, Master of Science in Genetic Counseling, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Physician Assistant Studies degrees were invested with hoods.

Before the hooding, Long introduced UAMS Provost Stephanie Gardner, Ed., Pharm.D., to the audience and invited her to speak.

Gardner said, “My husband would tell you, ‘This is Stephanie’s favorite day of the year.’ This is my 32nd UAMS commencement. I love it and what today celebrates, too. Ceremonies like this are special because they represent an academic journey.”

The colors don’t just signify a specialization, she said. They also display a level of knowledge and expertise that took hard work to attain.

Because on stage several professions were represented, the event also brought to mind the importance of interprofessional education. Together, different health professions working together can draw on their knowledge and combine their varying skills to produce the best health outcomes for patients.

“Together we can leverage each profession with other health professions to provide the best patient care, advance research and have a greater impact on population health,” Gardner said. “You have been a part of the educational mission of UAMS, and now, you’re ready to go be a part of the missions for health care and health improvement.”

To read the names of each graduate as they were invested by members of the college faculty representing each program, Long invited to the podium Tina Maddox, Ph.D., the college’s associate dean for academic affairs.

After the hooding, Garret Lee Jackson, a dietetics student and member of the Class of 2024, spoke on behalf of the graduates. Jackson received his Master of Science degree the next day.

“I have been asked too many times to count: Are you ready? I struggle to answer because I am not certain what I am supposed to be ready for,” Jackson said. “I’ve been asking myself similar questions for many years: Are you ready for the test? Are you ready for clinical? Are you ready for rounds? And, are you ready to drop your hood on stage?”

The last question elicited a laugh from the audience because earlier in the ceremony, Jackson had done just that minutes before.

“What will be the foundation of your next journey? If you question whether you are ready, think of the times you weren’t ready and persevered. Remember the patients you saw and the presentations you made in class,” Jackson said. “I will leave you with a quote from the most famous philosopher of our time: ‘I am ready. I am ready. I am ready’ – Spongebob Squarepants. Congratulations Class of 2024.”

College of Health Professions graduating students and their families gather May 17 in the atrium of the Administration West building for a brunch celebration.

College of Health Professions graduating students and their families gather May 17 in the atrium of the Administration West building for a brunch celebration.