BGE Graduates Receive Their Diplomas, And a Challenge to “Never Stop Learning”

Posted in GUMC Stories

May 19, 2017– After participating in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony,  nearly 400 Biomedical Graduate Education students filed into the bright and airy McDonough Gymnasium for their diploma distribution ceremony on Friday, greeted by their clapping and cheering friends and family members.

BGE encompasses 29 MS and PhD programs in fields such as biochemistry and molecular biology, biotechnology, pharmacology, tumor biology, and biohazardous threat agents. The Special Master’s Program in physiology, which is tailored for college graduates seeking to strengthen their credentials for application to medical school, is also part of BGE.

A total of 535 BGE students graduated on Friday, with 17 students from PhD programs, 313 from master’s programs, 204 from the Special Master’s Program in physiology and one student from a certificate program. 

“Never Forget Our Purpose…to Help Others”

Special Master’s Program graduate Cooper “Coop” Ehlers (BGE’17) was selected by the faculty to share some reflections. 

“Already in his young life, he has achieved much, as his resume reflects, but it might be the stuff not on his resume that makes him a standout,” said Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH, vice president of health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center as he introduced him.  

Before joining Georgetown, Ehlers spent a gap year as a self-described Vagabond, traveling to all 50 U.S. states participating in 50 volunteer experiences, ranging from working in homeless shelters to assisting in migrant workers clinics, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and United Way.

While the graduates all looked fantastic, “it’s really embarrassing that you all showed up wearing the exact same outfit,” Ehlers said. Students responded warmly to his speech, which included a “nerdy science joke” that only the graduates seemed to understand.

Though mostly humorous, Ehlers did have some thoughtful words for his peers. “One day someone will ask us where we earned our masters’ and we have the privilege of responding, ‘Georgetown,’” he said, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

“The diploma we receive today may signal the end to a long journey but they don’t mean we will stop learning,” Ehlers said. “And that is the challenge I would like to extend to my fellow graduates today. Even though we are closing this chapter in our education never stop learning.”

But that wasn’t the only challenge that Ehlers, who will be starting at Georgetown’s School of Medicine in the fall, had for his fellow students.

“Never forget the purpose for our quest for knowledge in the biomedical sciences…to help others. And although it may not seem immediately apparent, the extra hours you put into the clinic and the library and the lab could end up impacting the lives of millions.”

Leigh Ann Sham
GUMC Communications