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Western Colorado's Selective University
Heather Findlay Tobin, Dana Ashton Johnson and Judith Ann Shue
Heather Findlay Tobin, Dana Ashton Johnson and Judith Ann Shue, were the recipients of the first Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees.


University awards first doctoral degrees at winter commencement ceremony

The first three recipients of a doctoral degree from Colorado Mesa University received a standing ovation at the 2015 December Commencement Ceremony. On Dec. 11, Heather Findlay Tobin, Dana Ashton Johnson and Judith Ann Shue, recipients of the first Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees conferred by the institution, were among 570 graduating students who earned 629 degrees and/or certificates. About 250 of those students walked across the stage during the morning ceremony in Brownson Arena.

CMU’s DNP program is designed for nurses wishing to assume the role of a Family Nurse Practitioner. Tobin, Johnson and Shue will use their degrees to focus on providing care to communities with an emphasis on improving quality and access to diverse populations. Graduates are prepared as clinical experts in the delivery of primary care, with a focus on critical thinking, leadership and political policy skills needed to advocate and create changes in healthcare practice at all levels. They may also prepare for educator positions to address the critical, nationwide shortage of nursing faculty.

The commencement speaker was Aparna Dileep-Nageswaran Palmer, PhD, a biology professor who has taught at the university since 1999. She was selected by Associated Student Government. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Palmer currently serves as the faculty representative on the CMU Board of Trustees. In the past, she has served as Faculty Senate president of the and director of the University Honors Program.

Palmer graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and another in biological sciences. She received her doctorate in zoology with a specialization in the molecular phylogenetics and evolution of marine invertebrates from Washington State University. Palmer’s passion for the field came through in her commencement address, which featured a reference to sea slugs, beautiful creatures that thrive in the harshest environments.

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