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Hail And Farewell To The Class Of 2010

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(NEWARK, N.J., April 15, 2010)

– Meet several graduates who represent the best and the brightest of the Rutgers University, Newark, Class of 2010. They will be receiving diplomas during ceremonies next month.

A Musical Multitasker
Tiffany Peng, Bachelor of Science, biology, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Honors College (Ceremony May 17) Resident of New Brunswick, N.J.
If you can’t find Tiffany Peng on the Newark campus, go to the Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway; she’ll be the bio major with the trumpet performing with the Rutgers Marching Band.

Tiffany has divided her time at Rutgers between her love of biology and her love of music, especially jazz trumpet, managing to earn a GPA of 3.9 while also performing with the Marching Band, Pep Band, Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band. Despite an auto accident last year that temporarily slowed her academic and musical activities, Tiffany still managed to complete four years of college in only three, all while participating in the Honors College. What’s more, Tiffany has already been accepted at two medical schools, moving her toward her life’s goal of becoming a cardiologist.

Science and achievement run in her family; her older sister is a medical student, while her younger brother –a jazz trombonist –also plans on a medical career. Tiffany’s parents emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S., where her mom earned a Ph.D. in pharmacy, and her dad went to dental school. “My parents are my role models, especially my mom,” she notes.

Tiffany says she thrived in the “very nurturing environment” of the campus, and credits that environment, as well as supportive faculty, with helping her through her “most difficult semester,” following the car accident. She also loved the range of diversity among fellow students, including both first generation college students, and students from families where a college education was a tradition; military veterans; older students; and international students. “You can’t experience everything in life firsthand, so you learn and experience life through others and your relationships with them,” she notes.

An Actor Who Means Business
Dwight Braswell, Bachelor of Science, Rutgers Business School-Newark, Honors College (Ceremony May 17) Resident of Jersey City, N.J.; formerly of Denver, CO.
Dwight Braswell’s life could never be called dull. An actor, he is one of the stars of HBO’s “The Pacific,” Tom Hanks’ and Steven Spielberg’s latest WWII miniseries, portraying US Marine PFC Steve Evanson (http://tinyurl.com/yb2eaf8) Dwight also sings with the rock group Mere and writes music (one of Mere’s songs was part of the soundtrack for the televised coverage of the 2008 Olympics), and has appeared in commercials (including a 2007 Super Bowl commercial with NFL player Donovan McNabb).

A “military brat,” Dwight traces his love of music to his years of singing in churches at military bases around the world, at services conducted by his father, an Air Force chaplain, now retired.

Dwight took classes part-time this spring semester, while caring all day for his son Noah, born last September, as his wife Maritza, a recent graduate of Rutgers School of Law-Newark, worked full-time at a Newark law firm. The couple moved from Colorado to the New York area in 2004 so Dwight could concentrate on his acting career. He has done just that, but also decided to finish his last two years of college after being impressed by the “great learning environment” he experienced whenever he visited Maritza while she was on campus.

Dwight’s philosophy is one he encourages other students to follow: Define your personal passion, dream “vividly,” and focus on programs that will help you fulfill your dreams and satisfy your passion. His dream is to eventually earn an MBA at RBS, while auditioning for acting roles to satisfy that personal passion.

A Traveling Man of Letters
André Keeton, Doctor of Philosophy, urban systems, Graduate School-Newark (Ceremony May 18, completed degree January 2010) Resident of Newark, N.J.; formerly of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Austin, TX.

It’s a long way from Texas, to Newark, both geographically and culturally. It’s also quite a journey from prosecuting defendants accused of sex crimes, to teaching college students while completing a Ph.D. But André Keeton has successfully made those transitions, and is ready to move on yet again.

André was a Texas boy to the bone, having already completed two degrees in 1998 –a bachelor of arts and a Masters in Public Policy – from the University of Texas-Austin. In fact he was still in Austin, at UT’s law school, winding up his law degree, when an opportunity fell into his lap. Recruiters from the Bronx District Attorney’s office came to Texas, and André, who already loved trial work, interviewed for –and won – a position. “I never looked back,” André recalls. The New York lifestyle was “a bit of a change,” he says, but one he likes. “There are so many different types of people, and each brings their own viewpoints and insights.”

After seven years André was ready for new challenges; he found the urban systems degree at Rutgers, which incorporated what he already knew in law, public affairs and criminal justice, with a new field: urban educational policy. His teaching fellowship clinched his decision to start a new career as a college professor.

A bit of Texas will be at André’s May 18 graduation, in the form of his proud parents. He credits them with instilling in him, as well as his two brothers, the values of hard work and higher education that have gotten him where he is today.

Ready to Star in Real-life Legal Dramas
Alison Powers, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Rutgers School of Law-Newark (Ceremony May 28) Resident of Hoboken, N.J. (formerly of Staten Island, N.Y.)

Degrees in English and fine arts aren’t typically what you find on a lawyer’s resume; neither are stage roles in dramas and musical theater. But Alison Powers’ atypical background reflects her philosophy that “different passions take you to different places.”

After earning that English degree at Binghamton University, Alison worked in theater throughout the Northeast, and also taught theater while working toward her MFA at Brooklyn College. But ever since childhood, she had been interested in the power of the law and, “in the back of my mind, I always knew I would go to law school.” That interest was sparked by her Irish-born grandfather. He had wanted to become a lawyer but didn’t have the financial means to get the necessary education.

Her route to Rutgers and the law was a circuitous one but one she is glad she made. “I explored a lot of different roads to find this one, but I know it is a perfect fit.”

Her three years at Rutgers School of Law-Newark were busy but “law school is supposed to be a lot of work,” she notes. What she didn’t expect was the intense sense of community she has experienced, or the lifelong friendships she has made.

Alison was managing editor of the Rutgers Law Review, which published her note, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Mandatory Sentencing of Juveniles Tried as Adults Without the Possibility of Youth as a Mitigating Factor,” in fall 2009. She has a busy next few months: commencement in May, law boards in July, and a new job at the law firm of Carter, Ledyard and Milburn in Manhattan, where she’ll get to work in several different types of law. And somehow she will squeeze in an important August engagement: her marriage.

Alison still remains “very passionate” about the theater, and has kept her membership in Actors Equity, but has decided an actor’s life is not her life’s dream. By pursuing a legal career, she has managed to fulfill the dreams of two generations.

A People Person at Heart
Evelyn Rodriguez, Master of Arts, American studies, Graduate School – Newark (Ceremony May 18) Resident of Bloomfield, NJ
“How best to know a culture and its people than by personal encounter and immersion in their homeland?” asks Evelyn Rodriquez. “That’s why I love to travel!”

Not only does Evelyn possess a keen desire to learn about people and their ways, she’s equally passionate about helping them, especially immigrants of Newark’s ever-growing Latino community. When she’s not busy satisfying her degree requirements to become the very first graduate of Rutgers-Newark’s master’s program in American studies, or performing paralegal duties at a small law firm in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Evelyn’s hard at work volunteering as an unofficial intervener for New Labor in Newark. New Labor is a grassroots organization that combines new and existing strategies to improve working conditions and provide a voice for low-wage, immigrant workers in Central and Northern New Jersey.

Of Puerto Rican descent, Evelyn uses her bilingual skills to teach conversational English to natives of Uruguay, Peru, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador and other Spanish-speaking countries. She also attends weekly meetings as well as informal gatherings during which she shares the importance of being productive contributors to the community.

“It’s very simple. Immigrants will be perceived as being productive when they have a command of the English language, follow the rules, and pay their taxes,” notes Evelyn.

Her dream job? Working full-time for a not-for-profit or legal services organization that caters to the needs of undocumented immigrants who firmly believe attainment of the “American Dream” remains a possibility for everyone.

Evelyn received her bachelor’s degree in communication in 2003 and her master’s degree in liberal arts in 2007 from Monmouth University.

Two Degrees, Three Disciplines, One Graduate
Jess Santiago, Bachelor of Science, criminal justice, School of Criminal Justice (SCJ); Bachelor of Arts, sociology, Newark College of Arts and Sciences (Will receive diploma at the SCJ ceremony, May 21) Resident of Elizabeth, N.J.

For Jess Santiago, the road to success was an obstacle course. He struggled to balance a fulltime job, commuting across the Hudson River to college — studying criminal justice fulltime — and piano lessons.

The overload was too much; Jess transferred to a local school to eliminate the hours of commuting and gave up the music lessons. He explored a career option that sent him to Disney World in Florida to study and work in hospitality for several months, an opportunity that helped Jess “re-establish myself.” Back in New Jersey, he decided to stick with criminal justice, still working 40 hours a week.

After graduating from Union County College, Jess came to Rutgers with a new focus and a shorter work schedule, and starting knocking down any remaining obstacles to his bachelor degree.

Two years later, Jess is preparing to accept not one but two degrees: a B.S. in criminal justice, and a B.A. in sociology, with a minor in psychology. He is vice president of the campus chapter of the national criminal justice honor society, and was a finalist to give the student address at his graduation. And he already is planning to go for either a master’s degree in social work or psychology, or possibly a law degree.

“I want to help young people make better decisions in life,” says Jess, and help them avoid making mistakes that might result in their dropping out of school, or land them in prison. “I believe we all have a contract as human beings to help one another,” he notes, and he believes his education “gives me the background” to do just that.

He’s glad he made his education his top priority and that he studied criminal justice, even though his father hoped he would be a professional musician “Music is dad’s great love, but it’s not my passion. Even though I didn’t become a musician, Dad is proud of me and what I’ve accomplished.”

The Numbers Add Up to Success
Sharissa Barrow, Bachelor of Arts, mathematics and economics, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Honors College (Ceremony May 17) Resident of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (originally from Guyana)
Sharissa Barrow’s original goal was a career in chemical engineering. But are her teammates on the Fed Challenge team ever glad she discovered economics! Sharissa is one reason the Rutgers-Newark team found itself at in Washington, D.C., competing in the national finals of the College Fed Challenge. Sharissa and her teammates enjoyed the satisfaction of besting Harvard, Northwestern, Cornell, and Columbia, among others, on the road to their second-place finish, and Sharissa earned the distinction of being the only female finalist.

The Guyana native traces her love of mathematics and science to childhood, but fell in love with economics after just one course. After she picks up her diploma in May, she will return in September to complete the final semester of a joint BA/MA program in economics.

Although she has lived in the U.S. for only four years, she has come annually since childhood to visit relatives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. When she decided to attend college in this country, Rutgers-Newark was a familiar and logical choice, thanks to its reputation, size, and diversity. “Guyana is very diverse, so attending a diverse college was important to me.”

As part of the Fed Challenge team, she spent hours each week doing research, analyzing data, developing a proposal and preparing a presentation for judges. Despite the intensive work and time commitment, Sharissa says that she “learned a lot that wasn’t in books.” She also found time to be a resident assistant on campus, and to be active in the Honors College and the West Indian Student Association, especially in fundraising efforts for Haitian earthquake victims.

She advises future college students to “be an active part of the campus community, attend special events, join organizations. Have fun.” A more unusual bit of advice: Take as many math courses as you can; they’ll help with graduate work.

At Home on the Basketball Court and the Courtroom
Julius Redd, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Rutgers School of Law-Newark (Ceremony May 28)
Resident of Newark, originally from Gaithersburg, M.D.

Julius Redd is a man shaped by many cultures.

He was born in the U.S. to Liberian parents: a mother who was educated in England before attending college in the U.S., and a father who completed his education in Liberia, including college. Julius lived in that African nation for a few years as a small boy before returning to Maryland, growing up in the shadows of Washington, D.C., where he was a star basketball player. He went to Gettysburg College in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he continued to shine on the basketball court as well as in the classroom, earning a degree in political science. Then, three years ago he became a student on the most diverse national university campus in the U.S., while also living in Newark, home to many nationalities and cultures.

Julius believes that law is “the best way to help people and to effectuate change in society.” Through his work with the Rutgers Urban Legal Clinic, he has already begun to change the world, one low-income client at a time, including being part of the legal team that helped release a wrongly convicted man who had spent 24 years in prison. Helping to get Quincy Spruell paroled was a “lot of hard work” but “exciting and rewarding,” states Julius.

Julius was an active student, both as a member of the Rutgers Association of Black Law Students, and as Managing Notes and Comments Editor of the Rutgers Race and the Law Review, which recently published his note entitled, “Liberty’s Irony: A Path to Liberation Via the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention?”

After interning for two summers at the Morristown firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, Julius will join the firm after graduation. The job comes with an unusual fringe benefit: Julius gets to play on the firm’s recreational basketball team, bringing his considerable talents to a different type of court.

For more information, please contact Carla Capizzi, 973/353-5263, or email: capizzi@rutgers.edu.