Convocation, White Coat Ceremony Set Tone for School of Nursing’s Spring Semester
As a senior at Mississippi College and a fourth-semester student in the School of Nursing, Zharia Harris is very familiar with the traditions that mark each class’s progression through the Christian University.
Among her favorites are a pair of early-semester ceremonies that set the tone for a successful academic campaign: the School of Nursing’s Convocation and its White Coat Ceremony.
“Convocation is such a beloved moment in time because it allows students, faculty, and staff to get together all at once,” the Water Valley resident said. “First- through fourth-semester students, as well as Public Health students, attend the ceremony. Hearing from a former nursing student at MC who has ventured off into the big world of nursing provides current nursing students a vision that may one day become a reality for them.
“The White Coat Ceremony symbolizes a rite of passage of Christian caring, professionalism, and leadership. It is significant for the fourth-semester students, who are nearing the end of their student nurse careers, to coat the first-semester students, who are jump-starting theirs. It feels as if I am passing my seat down to the next student with a feeling of hope that they will show up and do what God has called them to do.”
The School of Nursing’s Convocation took place Jan. 16 in the Aven Fine Arts Building. The White Coat Ceremony was on Jan. 22 in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.
According to Nicole Jager, instructor in nursing, Convocation helps prepare School of Nursing faculty, staff, and students for the spring semester.
“The entire School of Nursing gets together for Convocation, while the White Coat Ceremony is specifically for semester-one students,” said Jager, who serves as the semester three coordinator. “The entire school gets together as one group to get to know each other. It’s a good time to build rapport.
“Each faculty member stands up and all of the students get to see what they look like. And at the end of the ceremony, we take a group photo that is published on the school’s social media pages, and the senior students take a class photo that they use in their senior presentation for the semester.”
Hunter Patterson, an accelerated nursing major from Jackson, enjoys hearing the guest speaker’s message during Convocation.
“A distinguished nursing alum addresses the process of going through school and the numerous opportunities nursing provides to deliver holistic care to patients,” Patterson said. “It serves as a formal celebration and recognition of the student and faculty’s hard work and dedication towards the educational journey.
“The ceremony inspires students as they embark on their nursing careers. Convocation creates a sense of community and shared accomplishments among the attendees.”
Antonio Quintanilla, a fourth-semester nursing student from Eupora, attended his final Convocation. He said the ceremony represents the completion of the nursing school’s rigorous curriculum.
“As nursing students, this ceremony acknowledges our achievements,” Quintanilla said. “We welcome the first-semester nursing students and applaud the final accomplishments of the fourth-semester nursing students. We recognize the faculty and staff’s contributions and dedication to teaching the next generation of nurses.
“We also have a guest speaker who inspires student nurses to embark upon their professional paths.”
This year’s speaker was Elizabeth Easterling. School of Nursing student Emilia Miceli provided special music for the event.
The White Coat Ceremony was also a bonding experience for the first-semester students who received their brand-new coats and the fourth-semester students who presented them.
Callie Tate, instructor in nursing, was a member of the first class at Mississippi College to participate in the White Coat Ceremony in 2015. She said watching members of each successive class don their new white coats, recite the MC School of Nursing Creed, and receive a Blessing of the Hands remains a cherished part of her tenure as a faculty member at the Christian University.
“The white coat signals the first-semester students’ entrance into clinical practice,” said Tate, who serves as semester one coordinator. “It states they have met all of the requirements to be a nursing student and marks their entrance into patient care.
“Their families are invited and encouraged to support their students. It’s a special time for them to feel included in the school and to be blessed to go out and do the work of Jesus.”
Primarily an opportunity for first-semester students to look forward to their instruction, the ceremony is also a time of reflection for the older students, Tate said.
“The idea is for them to see how much they have grown personally in the last four semesters they’ve been in the program and to serve as a beacon of hope for the incoming students, knowing that it’s going to be hard, but they can make it through,” she said. “It’s a full-circle moment for the beginning and exiting students who will represent the Mississippi College School of Nursing well.”
It’s a responsibility that senior-semester students like Levi Lott take seriously.
“While the White Coat Ceremony has great meaning, I consider the overall purpose to be a commitment to hard work for your future, your school, and the future patients you will care for,” the Oxford native said. “This ritual is beloved in nursing schools because it shows the progress made in your education. It allows future nurses and their families to celebrate their accomplishments and what is to come.”
Julie Gardner, an MC School of Nursing alum and a nurse practitioner at Lakeland Surgical Clinic, served as guest speaker at the ceremony, which included a Blessing of the Hands. Each student also received a pocket-sized copy of the Gideon Bible.
Harris, who attended her first Convocation and White Coat Ceremony as a first-semester nursing student in fall 2022, said she enjoyed participating in both events and being recognized as a fourth-semester student who will graduate in May.
“Knowing that I will soon be a part of the larger community of nursing is a feeling like no other,” she said. “If I could tell a first-semester student anything, it would be do not give up. Even on the hard days, I want them to remember that they still belong. Although the road will not be easy, the result will be rewarding – a reward not necessarily from people, but from God.”