A city council President, a renaissance woman, a mother and son an E- JOURNAL founder among the class of 2009 at Rutgers University in Newark

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Commencement speakers often get the bulk of the attention, but the real stars of any commencement are the graduates themselves. In May, 2,700 members of the Class of 2009 are receiving degrees at Rutgers University, Newark, in a series of ceremonies spanning six ceremonies in four days. While all are stars in their own right, a few have especially interesting reasons to shine:

Mildred Crump, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Masters of Public Administration; resident of Newark, NJ
Ceremony: May 19, 2 p.m., Golden Dome Athletic Center, Newark, NJ

Newark City Council President Mildred Crump might not have found the fountain of youth, but she has learned one way to stay young at heart and young in mind: lifelong learning. In 2007, a unique a collaboration with the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration brought the Executive Master in Public Administration program to City Hall for municipal employees, and Mildred eagerly enrolled. No matter that she already was a highly respected and experienced civic leader, having been elected Newark’s first female council member in 1994.  No matter that Mildred had been elected as the city’s first female council president in 2006, or that she had a distinguished career in education, teaching the blind, before she entered public service.  No matter that she was 68 when she began the two-year program.
“I love learning and have always believed that ‘You’re never too old’ isn’t just a saying,” says Mildred. Moreover, she had often been asked to teach government at a community college but didn’t feel she had the academic credentials to go with her hands-on knowledge. When the Executive MPA program was announced, “I grabbed the opportunity.  Now I feel I can teach from theory as well as from practical experience.”
One of the biggest challenges she faced was “finding the balance” between her 365-day-a-year, 12-hour daily job, the demands of classes and homework, volunteering at a local K-3 school, and competing in bridge tournaments.  Through trial and error she learned that if she tackled her homework at home from 9:30 p.m. until midnight, she was able to keep up.  She also took courses all summer.
Now she is delighted both to be finishing up her degree and to realize her classmates from City Hall have evolved into good friends and supportive classmates. “We became a family, and also know more about each other’s work responsibilities and department. So I also feel I know more about my city’s government in all of its totality.” She is especially pleased that her example has inspired every one on her staff to either go to graduate school or start college.
Mildred will have a huge rooting section when she marches down the aisle in her academic robes: her two children, her sister from Ohio, and all of her staff, since she is shutting down the office that day.  Then she’ll take a short breather – before applying to Rutgers’ doctoral program in public administration.

Jason Khurdan, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Arts, political science; resident of Roselle, NJ
Ceremony: May 21, 2 p.m., New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ

Not long after beginning courses at Rutgers University, Newark, Jason Khurdan learned an important lesson: “It’s not just in the classroom that you learn; you learn a lot from the people you meet.” The campus’s diversity was especially enlightening, exposing him to cultures and ideas he hadn’t previously encountered.
As Jason prepares to graduate, he looks back on four years during which he both gained a lot and gave a lot.  His first political science course opened his eyes to “how the world operates, and why,” and convinced him to major in political science. That class also converted Jason into a community activist determined to “do the things you should do.” At Rutgers he volunteered with NJPIRG’s WaterWatch group, educating public school children about pollution, and also worked with the Hunger/Homelessness Campaign.
But the Roselle resident made the most impact by founding The Guardian Fellowship in 2007, a non-profit organization dedicated to “people helping people.” Jason and 16 Rutgers students work with K-8 pupils at St. Phillips Academy in Newark, Jason’s alma mater. Twice a week, the unpaid Rutgers volunteers tutor and mentor the younger pupils.
Last fall Jason’s dedication and hard work were recognized by Rutgers when he received the Student Community Service Award as part of the Chancellor’s Community Engagement Awards.
Graduation and graduate school will not end Jason’s work with The Guardian Fellowship.  “When you help children and change their lives, you change the world,” he observes, and that is one of his life’s goals.

Katharine M. Seip, Graduate School-Newark, Ph.D., resident of Jersey City, NJ
Ceremony: May 19, 2 p.m., Golden Dome Athletic Center, 42 Warren St., Newark

For some people science comprehension comes easily. Certain individuals have an intense passion and knack for formulating questions and insatiably unfolding the many resultant layers of discovery. For them, no detail is too daunting, no query too complex. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena thrill and excite them to boundless end. Such is the case for neuroscience doctoral student Katharine M. Seip, who, with persistent encouragement from her mother, pursued her love of science at an early age.
“Science is fascinating and exciting. It’s the perfect discipline for inquisitive, creative minds,” said Seip when asked about her fondness for science. “I believe that if scientists reached out and engaged more people of all ages – young and old – more people would better understand and appreciate science and its global application to social, medical and technological advances.”
It is for this very reason Seip co-founded the Science Communication Consortium (SCC) in 2007, while pursuing work for her doctoral degree in neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark. Through SCC, Seip coordinated panel discussions and keynote presentations based in New York to help bridge the communication gap between scientists and the general public and public policy makers.
“With continued meaningful and relevant programming, the Science Communication Consortium will succeed in making science accessible to more laypersons,” commented Seip, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Santa Clara University, California, in 2004, and has worked in the research laboratory of Dr. Joan Morrell at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark.
When Seip is not urging scientists to speak the language of science in plain English, the 26-year-old is running marathons on the east and west coasts. In 2005 she competed in the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, and last year she completed the Philadelphia Marathon in less than four hours. The Seattle native also enjoys yoga.
Following graduation from Rutgers this May, Seip will perform post-doctoral research on drug dependence/addiction in the laboratory of Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek at The Rockefeller University in New York.

Alicia Schatteman, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Ph.D., public administration; resident of Bloomfield, NJ
Ceremony: May 19, 2 p.m., Golden Dome Athletic Center, Newark, NJ

Think being a Ph.D. student is tough? Try working on your dissertation while pregnant.  And to make it even more challenging, try caring for four other children at the same time – and also teaching two courses per semester.
That was Alicia Shatteman’s life during the 3 1/2 years she worked toward her doctoral degree. She was already a mother of three, and seven months pregnant with her fourth, when she began coursework for her Ph.D.  She had decided to make a career change, from working for a non-profit to teaching fulltime at the college level, and needed her doctoral degree to make that possible. “As a college professor I could have a more flexible schedule, that better fit me as a working mother,” she explains.
Her first semester at Rutgers coincided with the birth of her fourth child, an event for which she took only about a week off before resuming classes – four per semester, as well as some summer courses, for two years, relying heavily on her husband, several members of his family and daycare so she could take courses, teach as a graduate assistant, and tend to her family. She was working on her dissertation when her last child was born, and successfully defended her thesis in time for his first birthday.
Alicia’s own mom, a single working mother, had dropped out of high school to work, then went back to school, in her 40s, to complete a nursing program.  Her mother’s determination helped inspire Alicia and her brother, also a college graduate.  Alicia’s husband Matthew shares her educational values: he has an MBA and is working toward a second master’s degree.
Alicia hopes her example can be an inspiration to others.   “I would like other mothers working in higher education to see it can be done.  Women still haven’t broken the glass ceiling in academia; there are too-few female full professors, chairs, deans or presidents. The burden of child-rearing still falls on the mother in most cases, making it hard for many to advance in academia.”
Her next big challenge: “Finding a position where being a mother of five won’t be an obstacle to career advancement.  Wherever I teach, I plan to work to change attitudes toward motherhood and careers.”

Marvin Chochotte, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Arts, history; resident of Newark, NJ
Ceremony: May 21, 2 p.m., New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ

For someone who graduated from high school more than a year late, Marvin has certainly made up for lost time.  Not only is he completing his degree in four years –despite grueling work hours and family commitments as well as challenging courses that helped him to “stretch and improve” – but come fall he will embark on a combined master’s/doctoral degree in a prestigious graduate history program at the University of Michigan. And to top it off, he is receiving a fully funded, multi-year fellowship.
Marvin, a Brooklyn native, moved to New Jersey after graduating from John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, an accomplishment delayed 18 months because, he admits, “I wasn’t mature enough or self-disciplined enough” for his school’s academic program, which was modeled after a college structure and put the burden on students to show up for class and complete assignments.  Fortunately, he finally “got with the program,” and developed the traits that not only enabled him to graduate high school but to succeed in college.
He loved the small classes at Rutgers University in Newark, and credits his professors with constantly challenging him, making him a better writer and better student in the process.  “I’m not really organized but I have a lot of energy,” Marvin observes, and he used that energy to balance class work and a late-night, part-time job at Newark Liberty International Airport – a job that involved more than an hour commute each way via mass transit.  For one semester, Marvin took on the additional responsibility of babysitter; he would watch over his two pre-school nephews for about three hours in the mornings, then do homework and go to class.
Marvin even managed to volunteer time to write for The Observer, the student newspaper on campus, and funneled his special interest in Haitian culture –his parents were born there – into volunteering on the Haitian-American Student Association at Rutgers.  “I helped plan special programs and events – but I never had the free time to attend any of them,” he notes.
Marvin will forgo any outside jobs at graduate school to focus on his coursework and fellowship responsibilities.  His ultimate goal: to become a professor and researcher of Caribbean/Latin American history.

Kaitlyn Bonsell, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Honors College, Bachelor of Art, English, music, and ancient and medieval civilization; resident of Montville, NJ
Ceremony: May 21, 2 p.m., New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ

Kaitlyn Bonsell never considered a college education as simply a ticket to a good job; it was always the key to unlocking her mind’s full potential.  That’s why she took three majors, rather than just one, and studied Latin, Greek, Old English, Sanskrit, and non-required mathematics courses.   “I wanted to learn as much as I could while I was here, and become as well-rounded as I could.”
She seems to have succeeded, based on her three majors, acceptance into the Honors College and the Phi Beta Kappa Society, 3.9 grade average, and singing in the Rutgers University Chorus.  She was one of 50 undergraduates nationwide chosen by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as a 2008 Honors Fellow, which included taking part in a weeklong, all-expense-paid conference in Canada.  Kaitlyn already has been accepted into Cornell University’s Graduate School, where she will begin a joint masters/doctoral program in the fall.
Her development into a modern Renaissance woman began at an early age, thanks to two well-educated, and education-loving, parents. She studied Latin at home, then continued in her K-12 school. Both parents were voracious readers, so Kaitlyn has been immersed in books and learning since childhood.
Kaitlyn’s work experiences also reflect her intellectual pursuits.  For some months she worked part-time for the Morris County Library, and currently she teaches SAT/ACT preparation classes.
On campus, she helps other students in the Honors College as a peer advisor, offering guidance on courses and related academic matters.
Kaitlyn, not surprisingly, plans to teach college literature after earning her advanced degrees.  Meanwhile, she already has some teacherly advice for college students: “Don’t view college simply as a ticket to a job; expand your mind and learn as much as you can while you’re here. And look outside your major to take courses that aren’t required. It will help you be as well-rounded as possible.”

Marisa Levine-Sabol, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, J.D., resident of Jersey City, NJ
Ceremony: May 22, 10 a.m., New Jersey Performing Arts Center, One Center St., Newark

“The best thing about law school?” pondered high-achieving, third-year law student, Marisa Levine-Sabol. “I’ve truly enjoyed attending school in my home state and having the opportunity to learn different areas of the law, particularly public interest law.”
Levine-Sabol is a Kinoy-Stavis Fellow, an honor bestowed upon her, along with three other classmates, during the spring semester of her first year in law school based on her demonstrated commitment to public service. As a Kinoy-Stavis Fellow at Rutgers Law School in Newark, Levine-Sabol actively participates in the law school’s Constitutional Litigation Clinic, serves on the law school’s Public Interest Committee, organizes the annual “First Monday” program, promotes public interest activities throughout the year, and meets regularly with faculty advisers and invited guests from the field of public interest law to discuss aspects of public interest practice and career opportunities.
So does this mean Levine-Sabol will be pursuing a career in public interest law upon graduation? Not necessarily. This fall Levine-Sabol will be clerking at the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Thereafter she will be working as an associate in the litigation department of a prestigious New York law firm where she also plans to participate in as many pro bono projects as her schedule will permit.
“That’s the beauty of a law degree. The career opportunities are limitless,” stated Levine-Sabol, who, in addition to being a Kinoy-Stavis Fellow, has a nearly-perfect grade point average and is a Norman Samuels Fellow at Rutgers Law School in Newark, a Dean’s Merit Scholar, and a Philip J. Levin Scholar.
Not quite sure where her pursuit of legal scholarship will take her ultimately, for the time being, Levine-Sabol is enjoying the ride and its varying landscapes.

Panayotis A. Yannakogeorgos, Graduate School-Newark, Ph.D., resident of New Brunswick, NJ
Ceremony: May 19, 2 p.m., Golden Dome Athletic Center, 42 Warren St., Newark

With a keen eye for spotting voids and filling them, in 2007 Panayotis “Pano” Yannakogeorgos, a doctoral student and teaching fellow in the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University in Newark, designed and began teaching an upper-level undergraduate course titled “Problems in International Relations: Diplomacy and Intelligence.” The course encourages students to read critically, think logically, and question intelligently the practice of diplomacy and intelligence and the interplay between the two.
Recognizing the need for a medium that enables global affairs scholars and professionals to share their research and views, Pano founded the Journal of Global Change and Governance (JGCG) in 2007. JGCG is a free e-journal that facilitates interdisciplinary exchanges among scholars of anthropology; business; criminal justice; economics; history; law; philosophy; political science; public affairs and administration; and sociology. Upon graduation from Rutgers, Pano will continue to serve as founding publisher and editor-in-chief of JGCG and enhance its fundraising capability and outreach.
To satiate his entrepreneurial appetite, Pano recently founded Cyrtone Consulting, a cybersecurity policy and global affairs research and advising firm. He plans to remain in the New York metropolitan area where he will offer expertise to corporations, small-businesses, federal government, the United Nations and other organizations. His experience with the United Nations already includes an appointment in 2008 as a delegate-expert by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the International Telecommunications Union Global Cybersecurity Agenda’s High Level Experts Group. He also served as an advisor in 2006-2007 for the Permanent Mission of Greece’s United Nations Security Council desk on issues pertaining to non-proliferation, the Middle East and Al-Qaeda.
When Pano is not designing courses, founding e-journals, and establishing consulting firms, he finds time to give back to the Rutgers community. He has served as president of the Student Association for Global Affairs as well as university senator, representing the Graduate School-Newark.
Pano received his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Harvard University, cum laude, in 2005, and a master’s degree in global affairs from Rutgers University, Newark, in 2007. His many honors include the Walter F. Weiker Scholarship and the Graduate Student Excellence Award; both awarded in 2008 by Rutgers University in Newark.

Aaron Werschulz, Graduate School-Newark, Master of Arts, resident of Elizabeth, NJ
Ceremony: May 19, 2 p.m., Golden Dome Athletic Center, 42 Warren St., Newark

Pat Werschulz, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, J.D., resident of Cranford, NJ
Ceremony: May 22, 10 a.m., New Jersey Performing Arts Center, One Center St., Newark

What are the odds of a mother receiving a college degree the same year her two sons and daughter-in-law receive their college degrees (and from the same institution of higher learning as her first-born son, to boot)? This unlikely scenario is Patricia Werschulz’s reality.
Werschulz, the mother of two grown sons, is a full-time, third-year law student at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, and joining her in cap and gown this May are: Aaron Werschulz, Pat’s eldest son, receiving a master’s degree in political science from Rutgers Graduate School-Newark; Patricia “Trish” Ochoa-Werschulz, Pat’s daughter-in-law and Aaron’s wife, earning a master’s degree in bilingual speech pathology from Kean University; and Nathaniel Werschulz, Pat’s youngest son, obtaining an associate’s degree in business from Gloucester County College.
Indeed, these are exciting times for the Werschulz family. Pat, former director of product development for Bristol Meyers Squibb, will embark upon a career in pharmaceutical patent law upon graduation. Currently employed part-time at a medium-sized, New Jersey law firm, Pat is pursuing full-time employment opportunities with law firms based in New Jersey and New York focusing on issues concerning the use of patent, trademark, and copyright protection in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields.
“Ultimately, I would love to retire to Israel and represent Israeli firms in matters involving the U.S. Patent Office,” states Pat, who is the president-elect of the New Jersey Region of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. She begins her two-year term in 2010.
Aaron, who received a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2002 from William Paterson University, currently is an audio-video technician for a pharmaceutical company. Upon graduation from Rutgers University in Newark, he would like to use his master’s degree to teach at a community college in New Jersey and/or secure a post with a non-profit organization focusing on issues concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I decided to get a master’s degree because I realized I had to keep training myself to remain marketable among today’s workforce,” said Aaron. Pursuing a doctoral degree in political science, with a concentration in international affairs, is a strong possibility for the Elizabeth, New Jersey, resident.
While most people would think it a bit awkward for a mother and son to attend the same college at the same time, both Pat and Aaron enjoyed the experience.  Their frequent dinners together will be missed.

Nerley Lausier, Rutgers Business School-Newark, Honors College, Bachelor of Science, accounting; resident of West Orange, NJ
Ceremony: May 21, 10 a.m., New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ
For Nerley, college wasn’t simply educational; it was transformational.  “I’m a better student than I was four years ago, and also a better person,” he observes. His Haitian-born and educated parents, he notes, are “amazed and pleased” at the changes in their son, their first child to attend college in the U.S.
But a key part of Nerley’s maturity didn’t happen on the Rutgers campus itself, but in Belize, thanks to an internship at Pricewaterhouse Coopers that was made possible through his Rutgers accounting studies.  Nerley was one of a select group of interns chosen to participate in a PwC community service project in Belize, where he spent several days last summer volunteering at a school, dividing his time between painting and cleaning schools, setting up a library, teaching a class and befriending local students.  For Nerley, it was exposure to a previously unknown world of hardship and poverty, and a life-altering experience. Gaining the trust of the local children was a special challenge, and he considered it a personal victory when he won over a young girl who had been especially fearful of non-locals.
A term as president of the National Association of Black Accountants, which focuses on professional development, also helped him in his transformation, exposing him to networking, public speaking, business etiquette and interpersonal skills.  Membership in the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity introduced him to mentoring in his early Rutgers years, and he returned the favor by acting as a “big brother” later on.
Nerley emphasizes, “Rutgers has been the best place to build relationships with instructors who genuinely care about their students’ success. This alone has motivated me to do better.” Two such professors who he credits with being major influences in his development process are Dr. Jeffrey Robinson and Professor Daniel Stubbs Jr.
Nerley offered his own straightforward bit of guidance to his Alpha Kappa Psi “little brother:” Always ask questions.  “If you never have questions then you’re not critiquing yourself enough.  Even in the classroom, asking questions provides for a better learning experience not only for you but for everyone around you. Always question yourself—that’s how you grow and develop,” he explains.
After receiving a couple of job offers, Nerley accepted one from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, where he begins work this summer.

To arrange to interview any of these graduates, please contact Carla Capizzi, 973/353-5263, or email: