Kean University recognized 908 seniors who will graduate with honors as part of the Class of 2017 at the Senior Honors Convocation at Harwood Arena on Friday, April 28 as the students’ family and friends cheered from the stands.
“We couldn’t be more proud of you than we are today,” said Kean University President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D. “You said to yourself, ‘I am going to compete. I am going to do the work.’ And you did. I have absolutely no doubt that you will reach your dream and get to the top of any mountain that you want to climb."
The Convocation Address was delivered by Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Ph.D., associate professor of English education at Teachers College, Columbia University, who recounted the importance of education in her journey out of poverty in the Bronx to a career as a tenured professor.
“You have traveled your path and marked your time at Kean with a memorable legacy. You should be pumped and excited,” said Sealey-Ruiz to roaring applause from the honor students. “This ceremony recognizes your journey as beginning or continuing a legacy in your family that says, ‘Education is important to us.’”
Each student was congratulated individually on stage and will receive an honors certificate. For the students, it was a time to reflect on their years at Kean and the effort it took to earn honors recognition.
"It’s such an exciting feeling to know that all the hard work has paid off,” said Juliana Gardiner of Hillside, a communication/public relations major who is graduating magna cum laude. “I had a very busy schedule as a non-traditional student, combining family with work and school, but I would say despite the challenges, all the sacrifices have been worth it, and I am thankful."
Gregory Burke of Milltown is graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics and has accepted a job at Santander Bank in Monroe as a relationship banker. He says studying with homemade flashcards got him through his toughest courses – economics and finance.
Whether it was flashcards or late nights, the honors students say it took sacrifices to get them to the head of the class.
“It was a lot of sweat and tears and lots of hard work, but it’s gratifying to be here,” said Jennifer Ballard, a Kean Ocean student from Brick and cum laude graduate who plans to go on for an advanced degree in psychology.
“I’m very proud of this moment,” said Maria Fajuyi of Mays Landing who will graduate magna cum laude with a degree in cellular/molecular biology and plans to apply to medical school. “It wasn’t easy balancing my classwork and social life, but thank God I was able to make it.”
For more information on Kean University’s Undergraduate Commencement, which will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark on Thursday, May 18, visit www.kean.edu/commencement.