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A Glimpse at Some of R-N's Graduating Students

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Paula Buenaventura

As nearly 3,300 Rutgers-Newark students prepare to don caps and gowns and contemplate life after Rutgers, some of them take a moment to reflect on their time at R-N before they rise to the rank of alumni.

Paula Buenaventura

Degree(s): Bachelor of Science
Current residence city or town: Union, NJ
Area(s) of study:  Nursing

Aspirations: Upon graduation, I’d love to work in a critical care or oncology unit at a hospital. In a few years, I will return for my nursing graduate studies, either doctorate in nursing practice in acute care services and/or leadership and management, or doctoral degree in nursing research. My biggest non-nursing aspiration is to travel the world and participate in mission trips.

Activities & interests: Playing the piano, watercolor or acrylic painting, traveling, eating, planning activities, and engaging in deep conversations with strangers, patients, family, and friends.

Favorite class at Rutgers: I can’t choose just ONE favorite class but I enjoyed “Anatomy and Physiology,” “Nutrition,” and “Health and Illness of Adults” lecture and clinical.

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: Overcoming the last few obstacles of my last semester (Health Education Systems Inc. exit exam, final exams, papers, presentations, etc. - I just want to graduate!) and preparing and paying for the paperwork necessary for my nursing license.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Rutgers-Newark and the College of Nursing. I am confident that the world-class education I received here has prepared me for the “real nursing world’ and that it will propel me to achieve greater goals and accomplishments. I am grateful for this learning experience and the faculty, mentors, and friends that I have met along the way.

Paula's advice to incoming students [video]

Whitney A. English

Degree(s): Juris Doctor         
Current residence city or town: Jersey City, NJ    
Area(s) of study: Law

Aspirations: I aspire to use my law degree to make New Jersey a better place for all to live, learn, and thrive. Part of reaching that goal means working to strengthen our education system by making sure the best educators are staffed in public schools.

Favorite class at Rutgers: My two favorite classes at Rutgers include “Legislative Advocacy” and “Problems in American Politics.” These courses have helped me to sharpen my advocacy, communication, and leadership skills.

Activities & interests: As a law student, I have been involved in a variety of on-campus activities such as the Minority Student Program and Labor & Employment Law Society. I also served as a clinical law student in the Special Education Clinic where I represented parents seeking educational services for their special needs children. Additionally, I served in the Community Law Clinic where I provided legal advice to small businesses on corporate transactional and intellectual property matters. Moreover, I was a managing editor of the Rutgers Law Record and an Eagleton Fellow at the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs.

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: While I was looking forward to starting my first year of law school, I was somewhat concerned about the process of transitioning back into the role of student. With the loving support of my mother and close friends, I overcame my fears and found ways to appreciate the challenges and rewards of the law school experience.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: I am so thankful for my experience at Rutgers—Newark for it has been the platform for me to be part of so many enriching experiences, from working on employment law matters as a legal intern, to volunteering to advance the rights of at-risk youth, to enjoying the local restaurants and attractions, such as The Newark Museum.

Colin Gates

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts
Current residence city or town: Cranford, NJ
Area(s) of study: Biology and Chemistry

Aspirations: I seek to enter the field of solar energy, specifically the "artificial leaf" field.  I aim to become a researcher developing biologically derived systems for the production of electricity and hydrogen via photosynthesis or an analogue thereof.  I will be entering the Rutgers-New Brunswick doctoral program in chemistry to pursue this path.

Activities & interests: Research, research, research.  I'm a workaholic. I am also a founding member and the current president of the Rutgers-Newark Chemistry Society.

Favorite class at Rutgers: “Molecular Biotechniques” -- this class integrates actual research with a structured plan to teach the students and is generally very well-taught.

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: Not enough time to take all the classes I'd like.  Because the general education requirements cut into the number of major-field classes I can potentially take per semester, I had to make some tough decisions on which classes to take both to fulfill my requirements and to advance my interests.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: When I transferred to Rutgers-Newark, I did it in order to do my research. I had been working with a faculty member in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science, Dr. Adam Kustka, and I transferred in order to do research during the semester. Rutgers-Newark is a great school for undergraduate research, where an undergraduate can become not just a number but a valuable member of a lab group and can benefit accordingly by learning how to apply his or her education.

Colin's advice to incoming students [video]

Alleea Hill

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts
Current residence city or town: Maplewood, New Jersey
Area(s) of study:  Journalism

Aspirations: My dream is to shed light on topics that the media deem unimportant. I also plan to travel the world and expose truths through documentaries and words.

Activities & interests: I love to write! I also love promoting international involvement and emphasizing the importance of empowering young girls, because a positive self esteem and confidence are necessary for girls to flourish in today's society.

Favorite class at Rutgers: “Advanced Reporting“

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: My biggest challenge getting to graduation was the fact that I had to take classes outside of my major, like laboratory sciences. I dreaded them. :(  

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: I had an amazing experience at Rutgers! I love how the Journalism Department quickly morphed into my family. My classmates and my phenomenal professors helped to challenge, mold and motivate me to succeed in the world of journalism. Their expertise helped strengthen my skills.

John Wesley Johnson Jr.

Degree(s): Doctor of Philosophy
Current residence city or town: Kearny, NJ
Area(s) of study:  American Studies

Aspirations: I aspire to be a professor and a program director for a cultural studies institute.

Activities & interests: Reading; fencing (the sport); biking; digging up the original tracks of sampled and covered music; photography; collecting stamps in my passport; all things The Wire, The Walking Dead, Luther, The Boondocks, and Project Runway (recent convert).

Favorite class at Rutgers: “Urban History Research Seminar” with Prof. Beryl Satter

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: The biggest challenge to getting to graduation is Netflix.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: I have been through many transitions since I began graduate work at Rutgers-Newark. Changing from the full-time work of a middle school guidance counselor to the full-time work of a doctoral student was not easy. I am grateful for the mentorship from the Rutgers-Newark faculty and staff and the support of friends I've made along the way. A great deal of thanks goes to Professors Clement Price, Sherri-Ann Butterfield, Beryl Satter, Rob Snyder, and Charles Russell, and department administrator Georgia Mellos.

Justine A. Powell

Degrees(s): Bachelor of Arts
Current residence city or town: Montclair, NJ
Area(s) of study: Social Work

Aspirations: Overall, I’d like to work with children through counseling and intervention services. I plan on attending Rutgers School of Social Work in fall 2014 to obtain my master’s degree. Once I receive my master of social work, I’d like to work as a school social worker while doing educational policy advocacy on the side. My ultimate goal is to open a joint outpatient psychotherapy and recreation center for children/adolescents.

Activities & interests: My activities and interests include blogging, volunteering, meditation, dance, and photography. I also enjoy traveling and learning about various histories.

Favorite class a Rutgers: “Critical Race Theory” taught by Asha Best, a doctoral candidate in the American Studies Department.

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: I’d say my biggest challenge getting to graduation has been balancing self-care with academic responsibilities. I’ve had several health complications during my college career so it was important to take care of myself as best I could while still making sure I graduate.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: My experience at Rutgers-Newark has been one that I will treasure forever. The faculty and administration have been beyond supportive and have offered suggestions and resources to help every step of the way. The learning environment has pushed me to think critically and nurtured intellectual growth in ways I could’ve never imagined at the start of this journey. I’m extremely grateful and have enjoyed being part of such a diverse student body. I’m also thankful that I’ve been given so many opportunities to get involved, both on campus and communitywide. Looking back I think the one thing I’ll take from my experience at Rutgers-Newark is that no matter how large to community is, there can always be a sense of belonging, support and encouragement to grow as a person because I’ve seen and felt it firsthand here.

Saima M. Shikari

Degree(s): Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts
Current residence city or town: Newark, NJ
Area(s) of study: Management and Biology

Aspirations: I will start medical school in August and would like to become a practicing cardiologist in the future.

Activities & interests: Spending time with family and friends, reading, working with the Thaakat Foundation, and listening to music.

Favorite class: “Neuropathophysiology”

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: Staying motivated throughout this year so I could battle senioritis.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: My four years in Newark have made me who I want to be. For me, this has been the perfect place to make the transition from high school student to independent adult. I've loved my time here and if I had to make the decision about where to go as an undergrad, I would make the same one.

Sean Singer

Degree(s): Doctor of Philosophy (NOTE: Sean is the first American Studies student to successfully defend his dissertation at R-N)
Current residence city or town: New York, NY
Area(s) of study: American Studies             

Aspirations: To get a tenure-track job teaching American Studies and creative writing.                                               

Activities & interests: Reading, listening to jazz, going to the movies.                               

Favorite class at Rutgers: James Goodman's “Fiction & Fact”

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: I almost died a year ago from a ruptured appendix. Also, I had a baby girl in March; the last couple of months finishing my dissertation and being up all night with the baby has been challenging.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: I only applied to one doctoral program, the one at Rutgers-Newark. That's where I wanted to go, and this is what I wanted to do.

Sean's advice to incoming students [video]

Hugo E. Torres

Degree(s): Master of Public Administration
Current residence city or town: Newark, NJ
Area(s) of study: Public Management

Aspirations: Having two years of graduate level course work with an emphasis on public management will not only allow me to fulfill my goal of being a successful city manager, but will also assist me in seeking public office one day.

Activities & interests: I enjoy jogging, rock climbing, skiing, sky diving, chess, the theater, playing the guitar, and whenever time allows it, participating in my local United Way’s Celebrity Read program.

Favorite class at Rutgers: I have two -- “Leadership and Diversity” and “Political Economy”

Biggest challenge getting to graduation: Two words – “time” and “schedule.” Between work and family responsibilities, the lack of time forced me to consistently redo my daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Fortunately, my professors understood how overwhelming being a full-time graduate student can be.

Reflections on Rutgers-Newark experience: Overall, I enjoyed me time at the School of Public Affairs and Administration. Everything from the professors to fellow graduate students added to my positive experience. I am certain that the relationships I developed in the classroom will last for years to come.

Hugo's advice to incoming students [video]