MILLEDGEVILLE — Along with more than 370 Georgia College students receiving their undergraduate and graduate degrees this weekend, the winter commencement also marks the inaugural graduation of the first class of doctorate students in the university’s history.
Earning their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees are Carol Boyer, Kay Brooks, Sandra Copeland, Chioma Okereke and Laurie Parkman.
“As the oldest in the group, this has been a lifelong goal of mine. I’m excited Georgia College gave me the opportunity to achieve that goal. This is an exciting program for Georgia College, and when I was accepted I was truly honored,” said Boyer, 56, who has worked as a nurse for Central State Hospital for the past 33 years. She received her master’s in nursing from Georgia College in 1996. “I have loved nursing all of these years because it’s such a rewarding career. I plan to continue at Central State Hospital and start a new career next year as I retire from the state of Georgia.”
The School of Nursing celebrated its graduates with a ceremony Friday in the Arts and Sciences Auditorium. The DNP students were distinguished with certificates and congratulated by faculty, staff, fellow graduates, family and friends.
“I’ve been a nurse anesthetist for 14 years and I decided I wanted to teach anesthesia. With the conversion of advanced nursing practice at the doctorate level, I decided to enroll here,” said Parkman, 42, a McIntyre native who earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree from Georgia College in 1994. She continued her studies to earn a master’s from the Medical College of Georgia in 1999. “The classes are online and the faculty are very easy to work with. I plan to continue working at the Medical Center of Central Georgia and teach students from the Georgia Regents University in Augusta. My family is excited for me to finally be finished.”
The Georgia College DNP program is a 37-credit hour post-master’s program. It’s offered in an online, executive-style format designed for busy working professionals. The program can be completed in five semesters of full-time study.
“The purpose of the program is for graduates to make a difference in their practice areas. With a DNP degree, those students take what’s been done and figure out how to adapt it in their organization,” said Judy Malachowski, director of the School of Nursing. “For their translational project, these students do not generate original research. They take research that has already been done and translate their findings into their practice areas.”
The Georgia College DNP program was the third public university in Georgia to offer the program, following Georgia Regents University and Georgia Southern University, respectively.
“A nurse who has that desire to be a leader in changing health care is the person who really needs to be interested in this program. The leadership component is such a big part of it and as nurses, we tend to be doers and not leaders sometimes. We want to help find ways to help nurses gain that skill in being that leader to make change,” said Dr. Deborah MacMillan, assistant director of graduate programs in the School of Nursing. “These students are so patient and did such a great job. They have been trailblazers in helping get us where we want to be.”
Next year’s DNP cohort anticipates graduating nine students.
“The program is challenging program and all of us in the inaugural cohort come from different backgrounds,” Boyer said. “It’s really tailored for us working professionals.”
Georgia College’s commencement ceremony will kick off with a processional at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 in the Centennial Center followed by the ceremony at 1 p.m. The keynote speaker is William “Dink” H. NeSmith Jr., chairman of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents.