For one group of history-making Cal State Monterey Bay graduates, it’s not about the caps and gowns. It’s about the pin.

CSUMB’s first class of 10 nursing graduates participated in a pinning ceremony in late December. Commencement will follow in May.

"The ceremony is a tradition in nursing, where graduates receive a pin unique to that program," said Dr. Marianne Hultgren, director of nursing at CSUMB. "It dates back to the days of Florence Nightingale, when a pin was a way to identify a nurse."

Students in the program designed the pin, which can be worn throughout a nurse’s career.

The ceremony marked an important milestone not just for the students, but also for the university. A nursing program was discussed in CSUMB’s early days. Funded by a grant, planning started in 2008; the first students were admitted four years later.

"As a pioneer, I feel like I have helped lay the foundation for future nursing classes," said Jennifer Riccobono. "The students in our graduating class have set the bar high."

Riccobono wasn’t aware of the possibilities in the profession until she entered the program.

"Nursing is not just caring for the patient at the bedside. Nursing is caring for whole communities; nursing is using technology so that the patient information we collect can be used in a meaningful way. Nursing is working to create health care policies that will benefit generations to come," she said.

CSUMB offers the only bachelor of science in nursing degree in the tri-county region. The program started in 2012 in collaboration with four regional community colleges. Students begin their education at one of the two-year schools, spend time in a "blended" learning environment, and then complete their studies at CSUMB. They receive an associate degree in nursing from their community college and a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from CSUMB.

In the summer of 2014, a second track was added that allows already-employed nurses with associate’s degrees to earn a BSN while continuing to work. Classes are offered on campus, online and at local hospitals to make it easier for working nurses.

"The one thing I know for sure about our graduating class is no matter what nursing position we fill in the community, we will put our patient’s needs first and strive to make positive changes in health care," Riccobono said.

Learn more about the nursing program at csumb.edu/nursing