Maria College, SPHP Celebrate Graduation of Inaugural RN-BS Cohort

On Sunday, May 23, Maria College’s baccalaureate graduates convened on the Maria campus for a conferral of degree celebration, a recognition of their academic achievements. The College’s Class of 2021 includes members from the inaugural SPHP Cohort I for the RN-BS Completion Program. This cohort consists of a high-caliber, talented group of nursing professionals employed with St. Peter’s Health Partners.

Christopher Jordan, MHA, RN, CPHQ, St. Peter’s Health Partners Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President for Patient Care Services, delivered the keynote address at Sunday’s ceremony.

“The partnership between Maria and SPHP, rooted in our aligned mission, is critical for educating nurses and expanding the pipeline of credentialed health professionals in the Capital Region,” said Thomas J. Gamble, PhD, President of Maria College. “Our graduates serve underrepresented communities in the Capital Region, providing compassionate care to those most in need. I am truly grateful for their service and contributions.”

“Back in 2018, when these 23 registered nurses from St. Peter’s Health Partners started their journey at Maria College to receive their RN-BS degree, none of us could have imagined the healthcare environment they would be facing as they prepared to graduate. It has now been more than a year since COVID-19 arrived in the Capital Region and, while much has changed over the past 14 months, the unrelenting bravery and endless talent of our community’s health care providers, particularly our nurses, has remained steadfast,” said James K. Reed, MD, President and CEO of St. Peter’s Health Partners.

“Not only has this outstanding group continued their studies while a pandemic raged around the world, but they did so while rushing to the front lines to provide desperately needed care. In our operating rooms, our physician practices, in our rehab facilities, on our maternity units, and in our intensive care units, these nurses provided exceptional care and a gentle human touch that brought relief and healing to those in need,” stated Reed. “I am so proud of them and their accomplishments – I cannot imagine a more exceptional group to serve as the first graduating class of this partnership between SPHP and Maria College.”

“Maria’s longstanding partnership with SPHP is vital to the sustainability and continued vertical growth of the College,” said Gamble.

“As nurses, these graduates have advanced their critical thinking skills, and evidence-based practice in the complex delivery of patient care. Focusing on Maria’s vision of service, scholarship, justice, hospitality and diversity,” stated Ellen Argust, Director of the RN-BS Completion Program and Assistant Professor.

“Back in 2018, when these 23 registered nurses from St. Peter’s Health Partners started their journey at Maria College to receive their RN-BS degree, none of us could have imagined the healthcare environment they would be facing as they prepared to graduate,” said James K. Reed, MD, President and CEO of SPHP.

When asked about her Maria experience, Rosanne Hilliker, graduate of the SPHP Cohort I, stated: “The years of tutelage, guidance, encouragement, and challenges, provided by the professors have instilled a confidence within me to navigate the world of academia. In short, I have developed a custom toolkit to explore the realm of advanced practice degrees such as nurse practitioner. I am so grateful for this scholarship opportunity and feel blessed to have been educated by some of the best!”

Dewatie Krishindat, another graduate of the SPHP Cohort I shared a similar testimony: “The comprehensive BSN program at Maria has broadened my scope of knowledge and prepared me to provide a higher quality of care for those I serve. I’ve benefited tremendously from the sense of community that Maria offers. Moreover, I was impressed by the various engaging teaching methods used by the highly skilled faculty as they seamlessly transitioned to an online learning format due to the pandemic. The passionate professors at Maria genuinely cared about my success and were responsive, supportive, and encouraging throughout my journey.”

“This group is dedicated to the profession, high achievers, and passionate about nursing. They inspired and supported each other to work together in pursuit of a common goal, to earn their bachelors’ degree in nursing grounded in the Sisters of Mercy Charism,” Argust reflected.

Hilliker and Krishindat were among 7 others inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society in 2020. Members of Sigma Theta Tau have access to free continuing education courses and professional development support.

Students enrolled in the SPHP Cohorts have access to reduced tuition, enabling them to pursue further education in a way they may not have otherwise been able. The SPHP Cohort IV will begin studies this Fall 2021 semester.

About Maria College
Founded in 1958, Maria College is one of 17 colleges and universities in the United States sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. The private, co-educational, Catholic college in Albany serves approximately 800 students in a variety of bachelor degree, associate degree, a master’s degree, and certificate programs including liberal arts, healthcare management, nursing, psychology, occupational therapy, and health and occupational sciences. For more information about Maria College, visit To view the graduation ceremony, visit

About St. Peter’s Health Partners
With more than 11,000 employees in more than 170 locations, St. Peter’s Health Partners is one of the Capital Region’s largest and most comprehensive not-for-profit integrated health care networks, and provides high-quality, compassionate, and sophisticated care to thousands of people every day. St. Peter’s Health Partners is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest Catholic health systems. For more information, please visit

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