Starting the academic year, with ceremony

Convocation activities happening all next week

By Kristen O’Reilly

UMass Medical School Communications

September 07, 2011




Preparations that have been taking place behind the scenes for months move front and center this weekend when two giant tents rise from the campus green to accommodate a week’s worth of Convocation activities. Five major events—starting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, and wrapping up on Friday, Sept. 16—mark the official start of the academic year, with ceremonies commemorating student milestones, honoring faculty achievements, celebrating donors and fostering interprofessional learning. 

A primer for Convocation events
What are all these ceremonies?


The word “convocation,” which comes from Latin and means “calling together,” can be used to refer to any large, formal assembly. In some academic communities, it is an annual celebration where members of the community—faculty, staff and students—are “called together” to mark the official opening of a new academic year. Often the leader of the campus (in our case, Chancellor Collins) makes a campus address and lays out plans for the upcoming year.


The word “investiture” refers to the formal installation of someone to a post. At UMass Worcester, Investiture is a periodic recognition of distinguished faculty members who have been chosen for named professorships, and a celebration of the benefactors who made the named professorships possible through their generous contributions.

White Coat Ceremony

The White Coat Ceremony is a relatively new tradition in which medical students are presented with their white coats to signify the beginning of their clinical training. Started in 1993 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, the tradition emphasizes the importance of both scientific excellence and compassionate care for the patient.

GEP Pinning

At the Graduate School of Nursing’s Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) Pinning Ceremony, students are ceremonially presented with their nursing pins and welcomed into the nursing community. The pinning ceremony symbolizes successful completion of the courses and clinical experiences required for taking the licensure exam to become a registered nurse.

Summer Read/Dinner & Dialogue

The “summer read” is a book that members of the UMMS community are encouraged to read over the summer, with the goal of engaging the community in a collective discussion as the new academic year begins. All incoming students are provided with a copy of the book, and copies are also available in the bookstore for purchase and in the Lamar Souter Library for borrowing. A discussion with students from all three schools will be led by faculty at the Dinner & Dialogue event.


The centerpiece of the week’s events, Convocation, will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday with a talk by Chancellor Michael F. Collins, during which he will announce the recipients of the Chancellor’s Medals for distinguished teaching, distinguished scholarship and distinguished service. These highly anticipated awards are a closely guarded secret, revealed only during the speech. (Last year’s inaugural Chancellor’s Medal winners are captured in a poster display hanging in the new Medical School lobby.)

Following the address, Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, will join Chancellor Collins and Charles L. Sawyers, MD, for the keynote presentation. Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher at Columbia University and the Columbia University/NYU Presbyterian Hospital. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for The Emperor of All Maladies, a history of cancer framed as a biography. The book was required reading for new students this summer.

Dr. Sawyers, chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was crucial in the creation of Gleevec, a unique and extremely effective treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia, for which he and two colleagues won the 2009 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.


Later on Thursday, at 5 p.m., several distinguished faculty members will become named professors at the annual Investiture ceremony, a celebration of philanthropic partnerships that provide essential funding for research and education.

A new member of the faculty, Jeremy Luban, MD, professor of molecular medicine, will be invested as the David J. Freelander Professorship in AIDS Research. Read about Dr. Luban in this related article.

Melissa J. Moore, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, will be invested as the Eleanor Eustis Farrington Chair in Cancer Research. Julia D. Andrieni, MD, professor of medicine, will be named the Joy McCann Professor for Women in Medicine.

White Coat Ceremony

A relatively new tradition on campus is the White Coat Ceremony, which will take place on Friday, Sept. 16, at 3:30 p.m. under the tent. In the presence of family, guests and faculty members, incoming School of Medicine students will be welcomed into the medical community by campus leaders and ceremonially presented with their white coats. The keynote address will be given by Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Graduate School of Nursing’s Graduate Entry Pathway Pinning Ceremony

Convocation week will begin with the Graduate School of Nursing’s Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) Pinning Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. in the Faculty Conference Room. GEP students will be ceremonially presented with their nursing pins and welcomed into the nursing community during the event. Read more here.The GEP program, for students with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing, leads first to registered nurse licensure after a full year of courses, and then to advanced nursing practice specialties. The pinning ceremony symbolizes successful completion of the courses and clinical experiences required for taking the licensure exam.

Dinner and Dialogue

The student-centered “Dinner and Dialogue” takes place on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 5 p.m. in the Faculty Conference Room. The event is an opportunity for students from all three schools to get together for dinner and a discussion inspired by the Summer Read book The Emperor of All Maladies by Dr. Mukherjee, who will be a guest speaker at Convocation.

Presenting at the discussion will be Craig Ceol, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, and Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research and professor of molecular medicine and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology. Alan G. Rosmarin, MD, the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology and professor of medicine, will moderate.

For more information, visit the Convocation events information website: 

Related links on UMassMedNow:

Summer reading jump starts community engagement for students
Convocation 2010
International HIV/AIDS investigator joins faculty

Other related links:

Convocation events information

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