University Park, IL,
10:28 AM

Doctoral Hooding Celebrates Future Leaders

As Dr. David Golland, professor of History in the College of Arts and Sciences, led the processional at the 2017 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on Thursday, May 18 at Governors State University, 59 GSU students filled the stage of the university’s Center for Performing Arts. This year’s candidates, arranged by college and degree, took their seats and kept contemplative countenances—the solemnity of the ceremony reflected in their faces—but the joy of the night was palpable in the room.

The “ritual” of hooding, as GSU President Elaine P. Maimon termed it in her address, although part and parcel to graduation, is not a commencement itself but “an act of investiture.” The placing of the hood upon doctoral candidates’ shoulders is a preparation and a welcoming, a moment when those who have taught and guided recognize their students’ readiness to stand on the shared platform as scholars and experts in their chosen fields.

“The key to the ceremony today is the placing of the hood on your shoulders,” Dr. Maimon said. “We as holders of advanced degrees invest in you the academic authority that we hold. By doing so, we celebrate the tradition of mentors passing on to students the authority of knowledge.”

Sheree Sanderson, Assistant Dean of Students in Student Life at GSU, earned her Doctor of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership this year. It is the second degree she will receive from the university, having graduated with her Masters in Communication and Training nearly twenty years ago.

“When people come to Governors State to get an education, they often find a whole different outlook on life,” she said. “Now I am able to say I fulfilled my dream.”

Across the stage, Tina Decker awaited her hood. She was one of three nursing students honored in 2017 by the College of Health and Human Services. Already a working professional — Decker serves as a department chair at Trinity Christian College — she plans to use her doctoral degree to continue in her commitment to sharing new approaches for medication math with her undergraduate students.

Provost Deborah Bordelon recognized the importance of the work that the night’s students would continue doing upon commencement.

“These are impressive chosen professions,” Bordelon said. “Doctors of physical therapy and occupational therapy who will help people heal, cope, and succeed. Doctors of nursing practice who will manage healthcare treatment practices and education programs.

Doctors of counselor education and supervision who will work to better lives though improved mental health management and treatment. And graduates of the Interdisciplinary Leadership doctorate program who are now prepared to better serve education and nonprofit agencies.”

Matt Gentry, a two-time Olympic wrestler who attended Stanford University prior to attending GSU, was also seated on the stage. Earning his doctoral degree in Physical Therapy, Gentry not only tended to his family and career during his studies, but he took time to advocate for Governors State when the ongoing Illinois budget stalemate was relatively new.

Speaking then of the importance of GSU graduates in the community, he said, “Our stories collectively make up the Southland fabric.”

Gentry credits the physical therapists who worked on him as an amateur wrestler on the Canadian National Team with inspiring his professional aspirations, and he calls GSU “a good fit” for his goals.

Near Gentry, Othman O’Malley also awaited the hood that would signify his completion of the Physical Therapy program at GSU. O’Malley’s first love was law, but his time in South Korea, where he taught English to native children, is where he discovered his passion for helping people.

“GSU has given me the chance to pursue a career that I think is one of the most rewarding ones there is,” he said. “The program has prepared me for all aspects of the profession. I feel ready to enter the field and succeed. That’s my dream come true.”

Over 50 other students, no story alike, transitioned together with O’Malley, Gentry, Decker, and Sanderson on May 18. Chair Patrick Ormsby, of the Governors State University Board of Trustees, addressed them all, saying, “As a student at GSU, you learned skills that you will always use. You forged relationships with classmates, professors, and supervisors. You have created your own bright future. After you leave GSU, your doctoral degree will allow you to become leaders in your fields.”

Victor Hugo once called perseverance “the secret of all triumphs,” and GSU’s graduating class — and the university itself — stood Thursday night as proof of that definition. Congratulations to all of this year’s doctoral candidates, and best of luck on your future paths.