Published May 18, 2018
For Zhuo Yan “Joey” Lee, the road to a doctorate in physical therapy has been a long one.
Lee has spent 10½ years enrolled full time in higher education — earning a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, taking prerequisite coursework and then three years in UB’s DPT program. The son of immigrants — his father is originally from Hong Kong, his mother from Malaysia — he hopes to eventually earn certification as an orthopaedic clinical specialist and work with impoverished, refugee and immigrant populations.
So today’s hooding ceremony for graduate students in the Department of Rehabilitation Science is especially meaningful. Maybe more meaningful than the actual School of Public Health and Health Professions’ formal commencement ceremony tomorrow.
“From what I can remember, the hooding ceremony is a monastic tradition that was passed down from medieval times signifying the transition from a student to a master,” Lee says. “It is quite an honor to participate in a ceremony that signifies mastery of a subject material.
“Graduation to me signifies the end of formal schooling,” he says, “but the hooding ceremony to me represents a bar of educational achievement that I will have to continually strive to meet throughout my career.”
An informal survey by UBNow indicates that Rehabilitation Science may be the only unit on campus that formally recognizes its graduate students — those earning DPTs and PhDs in rehabilitation science, as well as a BS/MS in occupational therapy — in a ceremony separate from commencement.
This year’s ceremony, being held at 11 a.m. in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall, North Campus, is the 15th annual ceremony, which began in 2004 with the first class of DPT graduates. The OT students joined the ceremony the following year, with the graduation of the first BS/MS class.
Jean Wactawski-Wende, SUNY Distinguished Professor and dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, describes her hooding — she received her PhD in experimental pathology from UB —as “a first experience.”
“It signified for me that I was part of the academy and was especially symbolic,” she recalls. “In our school, hooding is done by your professors. In the case of PhDs, that is often your major adviser. That makes the hooding even more special.
“I believe the ceremony (in Rehabilitation Science) began to allow for each student in RS to have this experience. With the growing number of graduates at the graduate level, hooding everyone on stage became difficult, with the time restrictions for each venue and school,” she explains.
“The faculty felt strongly that each student should have this experience and, as I understand it, added this separate ceremony so each student could have that recognition.”
The intimacy of the ceremony will be “one last memorable moment” for OT graduate Brooke Montgomery.
Montgomery notes that her cohort has been together in small lectures and laboratory components for three of the five years of the combined program. “As a result of this structure, you form lasting connections — not only with your classmates, but with your professors as well,” she says.
“There is something so uniquely personal about being hooded by professors and mentors who have played such an important role in helping you transform from a student to an entry-level practitioner.”
Classmate Amanda Kershner agrees. “I think hooding is a really special ceremony. I love that it’s more intimate,” she says. “We have a really close class and close relationships with the professors, and I think it’s really special of the school to have an extra ceremony to commemorate our programs.”
Adds Joseph Vokes, whose parents met in UB’s OT program 20 years ago: “I look forward to attending an event that is specifically designed for Rehab Science students who have similar mindsets, ideals and interests.”
At this year’s ceremony, 42 PT students and 61 OT students will be hooded. There are no PhD graduates this year.
The PTs will be hooded by program chair Kirkwood Personius and faculty member Susan Bennett. The OTs will be hooded by program chair Janice Tona and academic fieldwork coordinator Kimberley Persons.
“Graduation, with all the traditions, is one of my favorite times of the year,” Wactawski-Wende says. “It’s a joyful day; so much accomplishment and so much to look forward to.”