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Alumnus addresses old teachers, future colleagues

Degree candidates at the May 5 spring honors convocation.

Degree candidates at the May 5 spring honors convocation.

UNMC Graduate Studies alumnus Gangadhar Sunkara, PhD, global program head at Novartis, knew how the assembled degree candidates felt at the May 5 spring honors convocation.

In fact, he was feeling those feelings with them.

“I’m still nervous,” Dr. Sunkara said, “because a couple of teachers who taught me are still on this podium.”

But it was a joyful homecoming for Dr. Sunkara, who served as keynote speaker. He offered advice and congratulations to the 36 master’s degree and 19 doctoral candidates, who were about to be hooded by proud mentors.

Please see a photo album from convocation.

Dr. Sunkara offered his new colleagues these four themes:

  • UNMC has designed us as a “smart device.” “You have so many apps,” Dr. Sunkara said. “Please keep updating, the world needs you.”
  • Embody gratitude. “I am here because these angels,” he said, gesturing to the stage filled with faculty and an audience filled with loved ones, “relentlessly, tirelessly worked for us.”
  • Become leaders. “You are much more than a scientist,” he said. “You all got a PhD in leadership.”
  • Have a strong sense of mission because somebody is relying on you. Dr. Sunkara recalled vising the ICU in a cancer center. “How many patients are fighting for their lives? How many parents and grandparents are not sleeping well tonight? There is a lot of pain in society and there is a lot of purpose for all of us.”

The degree candidates, who would graduate the next day, also heard from UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, who told them: “No matter where your path takes you, you have unique potential and tremendous opportunity.”

The highest honors bestowed at the convocation included the Praesto Award, to Mahmudul Hasan, PhD; the Thomas Jefferson Ingenuity Award, to Molly Nichole Schieber, PhD; and the Service-Learning/Interprofessional Education Platinum Badge, to Caitlin Molczyk, PhD.

Bethany Hansen, PhD, and Dong Wang, PhD, were named outstanding mentors to graduate students.