Meet Rutgers University–Newark’s Class of 2018

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By the end of May 2018, thousands of extraordinary students will have received bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees from Rutgers University–Newark. Here is an introduction to a few of them.


Lizbeth MarinezLizbeth Marinez
School of Criminal Justice

Lizbeth Marinez was introduced to the criminal justice system at an early age when a close family member was sentenced to time in a federal penitentiary. Through her experience, she witnessed the stigma many individuals experience upon re-entry from prison and knew she had to help change the narrative. Marinez is passionate about criminal justice reform and specifically focuses her efforts on the rights of women and children. She stresses the importance of education and prevention and believes in post-incarceration programs that encourage job-training, résumé building, and other rehabilitation techniques.

Currently enrolled in a five-year program at the School of Criminal Justice, Marinez received her bachelor’s degree this spring and will earn her master’s degree in the fall. An advocate of criminal justice education, she regularly visits her hometown of Passaic to talk to middle and high school students on relevant criminal justice issues.

“Many communities have not been educated on the ins and outs of the criminal justice system. Consequently, they often find themselves learning the processes when it’s much too late. I believe it is critical to educate children to help them avoid situations that may have lasting repercussions.”


Ajani Compton
School of Public Affairs and Administration

With an interest in technology and an impending degree in public and nonprofit administration, graduating senior Ajani Compton has big plans. Realizing he lacked strong leadership skills, after earning his associate’s degree from Bergen Community College, Compton chose to attend Rutgers-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration to help him reach his ambitious goals. Currently enrolled in a five year program, Compton received his bachelor’s degree this spring and will earn a master’s degree next year.

During the summer of 2017, Compton interned in the Office of the Mayor of the City of Newark. Through this experience, he gained a better sense of professional direction. Compton plans to merge his love for technology with his background in public and nonprofit administration. He believes the curation of “big data” will help politicians better understand their constituents and the needs of their communities. 

“With increased use of technology, it is important for public servants to be involved in tech because it is one of the most useful, efficient, and effective ways to connect with the public. This ultimately will help leaders make impactful changes in the lives of the people they serve.”


Jamie FrankJamie Frank
School of Public Affairs and Administration

After suffering a severe head trauma at the age of 18, Jamie Frank never thought she would have an opportunity to attend college … but overcoming adversity was her destiny.

Frank enrolled in community college and pursued a degree in health sciences. Upon completion of her associate’s degree, she found her passion in social justice and healthcare reform. Consequently, Frank graduated with a degree in public and nonprofit administration from the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.

Frank credits the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) with her positive experience at Rutgers-Newark and plans to use the tools and scholarship she has gained from the program to further her profession. HLLC is an honors program that measures success and merit through non-traditional lenses.

“I’ve always worked to survive and after this, I’m ready to thrive.”


Chinedu OnyemaobiChinedu Onyemaobi
Newark College of Arts and Sciences

Chinedu Onyemaobi always knew he wanted to be a journalist. For as long as he can remember, he has been fascinated with seeking the truth. He believes in the power journalists have as storytellers and wants to use his degree to tell the stories of the unheard and misrepresented. In October 2017, Onyemaobi put his pursuit of truth to the test when he represented Rutgers University during the televised New Jersey gubernatorial debate and posed a thought-provoking question to the candidates.

Onyemaobi credits the HLLC with his growth and development as in individual. While working toward an associate’s degree at Essex County College, Onyemaobi unexpectedly received an email informing him of the HLLC program at Rutgers-Newark. Intrigued, Onyemaobi immediately submitted his application. After writing an essay and participating in a rigorous interview process, he was chosen out of hundreds of applicants.

“HLLC has prepared me for the real world by building relationships with people from all walks of life. It has been instrumental in my growth and maturation as a person.”

Onyemaobi is considering pursuing a master’s degree in journalism and has been accepted at New York University.


Eleanor Ratner
Newark College of Arts and Sciences

What Eleanor Ratner loves most about Rutgers-Newark is its diversity. In an environment much different from her hometown of River Edge, New Jersey, Ratner has met men and women from many backgrounds during her college career. The honors college student is a psychology major on a premedical track and aspires to become a doctor of pediatric psychology or neurology.

“As a doctor, I will be working with many different people. Rutgers-Newark has opened my eyes to diversity and helped me appreciate cultural differences. Through food, music, and traditions, variety in humans is beautiful and cannot be learned from reading a book. I am happy I got such a well-rounded education that will help me professionally.”

Ratner was a resident assistant and enjoyed interacting with students and members of the Rutgers-Newark community. She also was a peer educator who used her influence to educate students on issues of social justice and equality.


Luke Barlow
Rutgers Law School

Luke Barlow, officially completed his law school studies in January ceremoniously received his juris doctor from Rutgers Law School in May. While holding a job at Prudential, Barlow attended law school part-time and managed to graduate in just three and a half years.

With a successful finance career and undergraduate degree in finance from Penn State, in 2013, Barlow decided he wanted a career change. He had always been fascinated with law, as he had minored in business law. He appreciated Rutgers Law School’s flexible schedule, which enabled him to work full-time and attend law school at his own pace. 

Barlow will begin a clerkship with the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, in August. He hopes to use his professional background to pursue a career in real estate law or securities law at a New Jersey law firm. Despite the many challenges a long hiatus from school might bring, “it is never too late” to go back, according to Barlow. “With focus and discipline, anything is possible.”


Sheila Zegarra
Rutgers Business School

At a young age, Sheila Zegarra questioned everything and never took “no” for an answer. She continually uses her passion and drive as motivation to be her very best in all aspects of her life. As a result of her hard work and excellent academic standing, Zegarra was able to take college courses as a high school senior. She always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and through her exposure to college business courses, realized her aptitude for management and leadership. Unsurprisingly, in May she will be graduating from Rutgers Business School with a bachelor’s degree in business management and global business.

In her short time at Rutgers-Newark, the Union County College alumna founded the Association of International Relations. The organization educates its members on issues of diversity and cultural differences and has planned many charitable activities including assembling hygiene kits for the Salvation Army and organizing a toy drive for refugee children.

“I love when we can celebrate culture. But what I love more than anything is when we can learn about other cultures. The point of my organization is to provide a platform that allows people the opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of others.”


Israel C. Nnah
Graduate School–Newark

Born in Nigeria, Israel C. Nnah came to the United States at the age of 13. Fascinated by biology, Nnah earned his doctoral degree in cellular and molecular biology from Rutgers University–Newark in February and currently is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University.

Throughout his educational journey, Nnah has received numerous prestigious awards and recognition for his academic excellence.  In 2017, he received the Graduate Student Scholarship award from Rutgers University, and from 2012- 2015, he was named a Minority Biomedical Research Support Fellow at Rutgers University–Newark.

As for his career aspirations, Nnah shared, “Following my postdoctoral training, I plan to seek a career in academia to further extend my expertise in cellular neuroscience, commitment to hard work and high quality.”