January 9, 2022
Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) celebrated 64 graduates from the class of 2023 nursing program January 4 in Theatre One at 199 Chambers Street. For the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, family, friends and significant others were invited into the theatre to share the joy of the in-person celebration that included the traditional lighting of the nursing lamp.
As Pomp & Circumstance played over the theatre’s sound system, graduates dressed in crisp white uniforms adorned with bright red roses, proceeded to their seats in the middle of the auditorium, opening a ceremony that was both inspiring and elegant. The event also included a moving tribute to beloved nursing Professor Edna Asknes, who passed away in September 2022.
President Munroe, whose mother was a nurse, told the graduates that as nurses, they will be the light that gives patients hope in their darkest moment.
“The field of nursing continually evolves and is reflected in the cutting-edge labs at BMCC where students practice life-saving skills on highly sophisticated human patient simulators,” said President Munroe. “They also hone their skills in clinical settings at public and private hospitals — but the skills of a nurse go far beyond the technical. A nurse is an important communicator in the health care setting, an essential patient advocate, and a compassionate listener.”
Provost and Senior Vice President Erwin Wong and Vice President for Student Affairs Marva Craig also congratulated the graduates and offered words of encouragement.
Borough President Levine encourages graduates to spend time working in NYC
Manhattan Borough President (BP) Mark Levine also spoke at the ceremony, calling the BMCC nursing program one of the “crown jewels of New York City.”
“You completed this program during the midst of a pandemic,” said BP Levine who implored the graduates to stay and work in New York City. “We need you so desperately right now. New York City is facing extremely difficult times in healthcare in New York City as the pandemic continues and nurses really are the pillar of our healthcare system,” he said.
There is no successful healthcare system without nurses, the Borough President said. Citing the ongoing labor negotiations between the New York State Nurses Association and some of the city’s major hospitals, Levine reiterated his support of nurses.
“We’ve got to get the pay, the condition, the patient and staff ratios that nurses need,” said Levine. “My own son is in nursing school, and with any luck, he’ll be joining your ranks soon.”
The BMCC nursing program is highly competitive and equally demanding. Depending on the year, more than 200 applicants may vie for between 80 and 90 spots. After completing the BMCC program, graduates take the National Council Licensure (NCLEX) for Registered Nurses. Upon successful passing of the exam, the graduates will find themselves in a high demand job pool as New York continues to cope with a shortage of well-trained nurses.
The state’s Department of Health estimated that New York will have a shortage of more than 39,000 nurses by 2030, according to a 2020 report.
BMCC Alumnus, now Assistant Director of Nursing at Bellevue, delivers keynote speech
During his keynote address, BMCC nursing program alumnus Todd Schultz, who is now Assistant Director of Nursing at Bellevue Hospital, encouraged the graduates to continue to engage in professional development, get involved politically and advocate for nurses.
“We all need to be in politicians’ voice mails, emails and offices, just as often as the hospital associations and insurance companies are,” Schultz said. “Will you be the next great nursing professor or educator? Will you be the ICU nurse who studies and works with a team that literally saves lives every day? Will you be the next head nurse or director of nursing inspiring their staff to provide amazing care, will you be a union leader fighting the good fight and rallying for change at City Hall? I hope so, because we need you to be. You’re entering a career that will be grueling, demanding and exhausting, but if you can maintain your compassion, patience and your professionalism, you will be the most important person in the world to your patients.”
Remembering Professor Edna Asknes
Maternal and Newborn Professor Edna Asknes, who passed away unexpectedly in the Fall 2022 semester, was remembered in a moving tribute led by Chair Eng and Nursing Club President Antonio Leonardo Lacerda Rosa Silva, a member of the graduating class.
“We had Professor Asknes in our second semester as our maternity and newborn professor in Fall 2021, “ said Rosa Silva. “We were still going through Covid-19 and Professor Asknes, with her soft voice, started the semester by going through the breakdown of how the semester would go, which is so vivid in my mind up to this day. It’s like a movie you can play, and rewind anytime, to relive that moment again. This is how most of us have been coping with Professor Asknes death, replaying the memories, repeatedly.”
Professor Asknes taught with passion and stressed the importance of critical thinking skills in healthcare, said Rosa Silva.
“Many of us struggled, but Professor Asknes knew we would succeed, we just needed to put the work in, and here we are today, a few semesters later, graduating with confidence,” said Rosa Silva. “She deeply cared for her students and advocated for them throughout her time at BMCC. Today she would have been in this room with us, but instead, she is watching over us. Her death is a significant loss for her loved ones, the healthcare field, BMCC, and for us as students. May she rest in peace.”
Student Reflections on their time at BMCC
As part of the ceremony, the graduates saw a slideshow of photographed memories of the graduates that captured the bonds the graduates built while completing the program. Representatives from the three different class sections—Johnny Martinez (morning), Marie Clarie Boniaio (afternoon) and the Briana McGhee (evening) class sections also shared reflections of their own.
McGhee said underneath their blue uniforms, are professionals, parents, spouses, first generation college graduates, heads of households, immigrants and caretakers.
“And too add to all those many identities today, we now call ourselves nurses,” said McGhee. “I walk in the shoes of the 6.7% of registered black nurses that make up the workforce in this country, I hold up a mirror and see my reflection represented in the community I intend to serve, I see the barriers in healthcare I intend to break down, the culturally competent care I will provide, the voices of black and brown and other marginalized groups that will not go unheard because I will hear them, I will show people who look like me that they too can be nurses and beyond.”
Chair Eng also presented special awards to several of the graduates.
Nursing Award for Academic Excellence: Olga Boistean, Randa Wangmo and Lindsey Burton-Thomas
Professional Development Award: Diana Celina Seymour, Mwewa A. Kashimbo, Briana C McGhee.
Nursing Humanity Award: Karina Venger, Nessa Finucane, Neeraj Wadhwani.
Best All-Around Student: Inutu S. Kasote-Barr, Jinmee Dillman, Carrie Watters
Aubrey T. Robinson Award for Leadership, Intelligence, Compassion & Humor: Felipe Lendorf
Silvia Vincent Corliss Award for Intelligence, Caring, and Humor: Yu Lin
Leadership Award: President of the Nursing Club: Antonio Leonardo Lacerda Rosa Silva,
Congratulations to the Class of 2023!
Anna Roza Aradi, Olga Boistean, Alecsey Boldeskul, Marie Claire Domen Boniao, Ashley Bramble, Stephen A Brno, Lindsey Burton-Thomas, Shet Gung Chang, Tamta Chkhaidze, Jane Clayton, Jinmee Dillman, Zachary A Edminster, Danae Edwards, Velda Feng, Nessa Finucane, Angel Kaye Gador, Claudia Gaillard, Laticia K Gillis, Arly Brigeth Giron, Rozah Gluck, Marsha Latoya Grant, Zoe Gu, Julia Guerriera, Alex C. Guo, Veranika Haliankova, Kai L. Hazard, Raul Hernandez, Esther Hsu, Inutu W. Kasote-Barr, Carolina J.Iturralde, Cynthia M Johnson, Mwewa A Kashimbo, Sonam Khangsam, Darya Kulakovich, Antonio Leonardo Lacerda Rosa Silva , Prince Lasdoce, Felipe Lendorf, Yu Lin, Zaynura Mahmadamonova, Johnny Martinez, David Massa, Briana C. McGhee, Demi R. Muller, Linda Park, Alice J. Rabkin, Katelyn Andrea S. Sagad, Genesis Schwartz, Diana Celina Seymour, Madalena Grace Soler, Chana Steinberg, Vladimir Strelinikov, Anna Swann, Helen Grace Umbao, Karina Venger, Neeraj Wadhwani, Anne Wang, Rada Wangmo, Carrie Watters, Jane Yang, Baoju Ye, Kishan S. Yonzan, Anna Yudina and Weihua Zheng,
BMCC’s nursing program relates to BMCC’s Strategic Plan, including but not limited to Strategic Goal 6: Strengthening BMCC’s role in a thriving New York City and as a leading community college nationally.
- Family and friends attend in-person ceremony in Theatre 1 at 199 Chambers
- Professor Edna Asknes, who passed away in Fall 2022, honored in moving tribute
- BMCC Borough President Mark Levine encourages graduates to spend time working in NYC