Dean Stephen Cavanagh speaks at the 2022 commencement ceremonSchool of Nursing Dean Stephen Cavanagh addresses the graduates at the 2022 commencement ceremony June 9.

Thanks to the perseverance of students, the commitment of faculty and staff along with unwavering support from supporters, 135 aspiring change agents are ready to make a real difference in our world.

When I joined the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis in July 2019, I’d just missed the school’s first official commencement. I looked forward to 2020, when I’d have the privilege of celebrating our graduates and a decade since the first classes entered. But with the pandemic, that was not to happen.

Fast forward two years, more than 300 graduates and one pandemic later, and finally, I had the privilege of presiding over the next 135 School of Nursing graduates as they marked a milestone they fought so hard to accomplish.

Our doctoral candidates entered the School of Nursing in 2018, never knowing what was around the corner. Our nursing, physician assistant and family nurse practitioner students chose to embark upon their graduate educations in the middle of the pandemic.

I’m sure there were doubts. Doubts about when it might end. Misgivings about how remote study might impact their education. Skepticisms about the world of health care they enter after graduation. They weren’t the only ones with reservations. I, as the leader of this school, thought deeply how we’d adapt and map out a path forward. I’m proud of everyone and how we persevered and planned for success.

Our faculty quickly adapted and innovated in online instruction. Our UC Davis Health colleagues accommodated our students so they could stay in their clinical experiences to finish on time. Our students leaned into their internal passions to persevere despite external turmoil.

Now, just as our graduates look ahead to how they will make their mark in the world, we look to the future with optimism and a roadmap. We created a blueprint for our future, refined our research program’s focus, identified areas in which we can make global impact and enhanced our contributions to become an indispensable partner with UC Davis Health.

Michelle Obama once said: “You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all the world's problems at once. But don't ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”

The way our School of Nursing graduates navigated their graduate education is proof that courage is contagious. Our School of Nursing faculty and staff hope for future growth in our education, research and clinical programs. Whether providing clinical care or preparing future nurses, P.A.s, physicians and researchers, together, all of us at UC Davis Health are creating a future of optimal health and health equity.