Ready for the Next Level: Celebrating the UF MHA Class of 2024

standing at hooding
UF MHA graduate, Nathalie Sawczuk, with guests of honor, Laura Gruber, MBA, MHS, and Lonn McDowell, MHA, FACHE, FACMPE, during the UF MHA Hooding and Awards Ceremony.

By Sara A. Mayo

On Thursday, May 2nd, the UF MHA Class of 2024 was bestowed with hoods as part of the annual UF MHA Hooding and Awards Ceremony, signaling the entrance into their careers as healthcare management professionals.

seated students

During the ceremony, certain members of the cohort were recognized for their accomplishments with various awards such as “Outstanding Service”, “Outstanding Student”, and “Distinguished Student”. Several students were also formally inducted into the Upsilon Phi Delta Honor Society.

Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul Duncan shared the history of the academic regalia, tracing the gowns and hoods’ history back to medieval Europe. The hoods, he elaborated, identified the wearer by academic discipline as well as rank, and signified the knowledge gained and skills developed.

Then, at the announcement of their name, each student crossed the stage to be hooded by distinguished guests, Laura Gruber, MBA, MHS, and Lonn McDowell, MHA, FACHE, FACMPE.

McDowell, the Vice Chair & Director for Administration of the UF Department of Surgery, offered an inspirational keynote speech to conclude the event, emphasizing that the symbolic wearing of the hood carries over into the daily professional attitude of their careers.

hooded student

According to McDowell, the profession of healthcare is about finding and resolving problems that hinder the goals of helping other people. “At the end of the day,” he shared, “we remove barriers.”

With over 150 in attendance, the event has quickly grown into a beloved new tradition for the UF MHA program. This year’s ceremony was proceeded by a welcome reception during which families and loved ones of the graduating students were able to celebrate with UF MHA faculty and other classmates. The Class of 2024 cohort is comprised of thirty-two full-time students and five part-time students.

Sara Midence, UF MHA Class of 2024, who pursued the part-time track of the program, commented that the event was “eye-opening”.

“Taking part in this ceremony was inspirational in terms of my future goals of obtaining a PhD,” said Midence. “Being a part of this program has made me want to push myself to the next level, and this [celebration] encapsulates that spirit.”

Later that evening, the UF MHA Class of 2024 celebrated the completion of their master’s degrees at the College of Public Health and Health Professions’ Recognition Ceremony at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. (Full recording of the ceremony can be viewed here.)

graduation students
The UF MHA Class of 2024 at the PHHP Recognition Ceremony.