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Health Sciences Colleges Create New Ways to Celebrate Graduates

The five Health Sciences colleges plan special ways to mark the rite-of-passage of earning a degree, despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
Gilberto Vega shows medical student Cazandra Zaragoza how to simulate walking across a stage on graduation day. College of Medicine – Tucson student photos and videos will be used in the college’s virtual convocation event.

Health Sciences Colleges Create New Ways to Celebrate Graduates

The coronavirus pandemic has changed much of life as we know it, and one of the traditions undergoing a significant shift this year is the end of the academic career: college convocations and university commencement ceremonies.

The colleges within the University of Arizona Health Sciences have teams dedicated to finding a way to create unique events that honor their graduates’ accomplishments, respect the tradition of the occasion, and make this year’s alternative celebrations unique.

Each college has approached the changes differently, incorporating student ideas, keeping or adapting traditions, and being creative.

The Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health have opted to have ceremonies this month by going fully virtual. The College of Nursing has opted to hold an opportunity for its graduates to attend an in-person convocation in the fall, and the College of Pharmacy is offering both online and fall 2020 in-person options.

All five colleges will host unforgettable events to send students off with their degrees during the pandemic, working to make each one special.


Chris Tisch, assistant dean of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and college employee Gisela Ochoa take a moment to celebrate during the college’s virtual ceremony filming.

The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health will host a virtual ceremony in advance of the university-wide commencement. The event will be hosted on the MarchingOrder platform, and will include prerecorded elements including recognition of awards, academic distinction and ambassadors; individual recognition of graduates, featuring graduate-designed slides; and a congratulatory video from the Office of Student Services and Alumni Affairs.

This year, three students will earn their Doctorate in Public Health degree, eight will earn a Doctor of Philosophy and two will earn a Master of Science. Across the Tucson and Phoenix campuses and online, 145 students will earn a Master of Public Health, including 16 students receiving dual degrees (MD/MPH), and 158 students will earn a Bachelor of Science.

COLLEGE OF MEDICINE – PHOENIX: virtual ceremony, Monday, May 11, 3:30 p.m.

The College of Medicine – Phoenix will host a ceremony including live and prerecorded segments. Proceedings include a commencement address from the Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Cara M. Christ, MD, hooding of the graduates and the recitation of the class oath.

This year, 93 students will receive Medical Doctor degrees, 16 of whom will also receive a dual Master of Public Health degree. Faculty and staff were invited to participate in a celebratory video or contribute written messages for the Class of 2020. The video will be played at the end of the ceremony, and the collection of messages will be shared on social media.

The commencement ceremony will be livestreamed on Facebook and posted to the college YouTube channel after the event, and a condensed version will be available on the college’s website.

The College of Medicine – Phoenix will host a separate virtual convocation ceremony for its 14 Pathway Scholars on May 13 at 5:30 p.m. These students have earned a master’s degree in medical studies from UArizona and automatically are accepted into the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

COLLEGE OF MEDICINE – TUCSON: virtual ceremony, Thursday, May 14, 4 p.m.

The College of Medicine – Tucson has gifted the Class of 2020 with its regalia, which was shipped to all graduates in late April.

Medical student Bethany Boczar wears her regalia for a studio shoot in the Health Sciences Innovation Building as Biocommunications photographer Mitchell Masilun and videographer Gilberto Vega film for the College of Medicine – Tucson’s virtual convocation ceremony.

To personalize the virtual ceremony, the college offered to take portraits of those who were in Tucson, and will incorporate submitted photos from those who were not able to have them taken. The college also asked students to participate in short video shoots that will be edited to appear as though they are walking to receive their diploma. When each student’s name is called during the ceremony, either the video of them walking or their photo will appear on screen.

The class includes 117 students receiving Medical Doctor degrees, two who will also receive a dual Master’s in Public Health degree. Nine students are graduates of the Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway (P-MAP) program, which means they’ve earned a master’s degree in cellular and molecular medicine from UArizona and are automatically accepted into the College of Medicine – Tucson.

The video will be available on the college’s Facebook page.

COLLEGE OF PHARMACY: virtual ceremony, Friday, May 15, 9 a.m.

Based on the results of a student survey, the College of Pharmacy is offering its class two options for celebrating their new degrees. They can attend a virtual event this month, or attend an in-person convocation at Homecoming in the fall.

College of Pharmacy Dean Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, records his convocation address in the Health Sciences Innovation Building. The video will be used in this year’s virtual ceremony.

Normally, the college’s convocation ceremony would include hooding the students with the regalia signifying the degree they’ve earned. The college mailed all students their regalia and is encouraging them to have a family member or friend hood them when their name is called. Simultaneously, the student’s photo and brief information about them will appear on screen, so all students will have a moment of personal recognition during the prerecorded ceremony.

This year, 106 students will earn their Doctor of Pharmacy degree, five will earn the Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmaceutical Sciences, one will earn a Master’s in Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and 16 students will be in the first graduating class with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The video will be available on the college YouTube channel, its homepage, and all of its social media channels at 9 a.m. May 15.

COLLEGE OF NURSING, in-person convocation in fall

May graduates of the College of Nursing will be invited to take part in one of the graduation ceremonies being scheduled this fall, allowing them to celebrate in person with their families and classmates. More information is available on the college's convocation webpage.

Gift packages for College of Nursing graduates include pens, buttons, stickers, temporary tattoos, and an invitation to a fall ceremony.

To recognize graduates this month, the college will send a gift package filled with Wildcat and college-themed items along with a formal invitation to the fall ceremony. On May 14, graduates will also receive an emailed congratulatory video message from Dean Ki Moore, PhD, RN, FAAN.

This year, three students will earn their Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degree, 25 will earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice, 26 will earn a Master of Science in Nursing Clinical Systems Leadership and 54 students will earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Graduates will be invited to share celebratory selfies, pictures and videos with the college on May 14, which will be compiled into an album and highlighted on social media.

The University of Arizona will host a virtual commencement ceremony May 15 at 6 p.m. More information is available on the University’s commencement website. It is also offering an in-person ceremony Oct. 30.