Commencement speaker aims to inspire

By Kimberly Anderson
The members of this year’s graduating class are now finishing up their last semester at Fitchburg State College, cramming for finals and wondering what the future will hold for them. And this year’s commencement speaker can relate to what exactly the soon-to-be graduates are going through.
Dr. Patrice K. Nicholas, an alumna of Fitchburg State College and current director of Global Health and Academic Partnerships at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will deliver the address at Fitchburg State College’s 114th Commencement on May 22 at 10 a.m.
Fitchburg State College expects to award nearly 800 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate commencements. The graduate commencement will be held at 6:30 p.m. on May 20.
“I’m so honored by getting the opportunity to give the commencement address,” said Nicholas. “I feel like I’ve come full circle, having graduated from Fitchburg State College and now coming back to speak at graduation.”
Nicholas received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1977.  After completing her bachelor’s at Fitchburg State, she went on to earn a master’s and then a doctorate in nursing science, both from Boston University. Nicholas also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University School of Public Health, focusing her research on HIV/AIDS and quality of life in chronic illness. During her fellowship, she completed a master of public health degree in international health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Throughout her career in the medical field, Nicholas said, Fitchburg State College has been her biggest influence.
“One thing I want to tell the graduating class is that graduation is a movement of great success,” Nicholas said. “Fitchburg State has impacted everything I’ve done, from faculty members to friendships I remain connected with.”
Along with her current position at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Nicholas is also a professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing in Boston.  When Nicholas is not teaching, she is traveling; she has traveled the world researching HIV and AIDS as well as the quality of life with chronic illness.
Nicholas said she has already started writing her commencement speech, and she hopes to make it memorable.
“Commencement speeches are so important,” said Nicholas. “I remember my graduation and they leave such an impact.
“In my speech, I’m going to describe my own graduation and talk about the importance of being a citizen to the world and the importance of giving back locally, regionally and internationally.”
Nicholas has been recognized for her work through numerous awards and has conducted numerous research studies related to quality of life in HIV/AIDS and neuropathy-related symptoms in HIV. Most recently, she was selected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2008.
Nicholas has also authored more than 80 peer-reviewed research and clinical manuscripts, texts, chapters and monographs related to nursing, health care, and global health.