The largest graduating class in Montclair State University’s history conferred their degrees at commencement at the Izod Center. This year, 4,262 students graduated, receiving their baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Of the graduates, 3,189 were undergraduate students and 1,079 were graduate students.
In her commencement speech Dr. Cole, university president stated, “There were 45 students in the first graduating class. A half century ago, in 1962, there were 480 graduates, and today we confer 4,262 degrees – the largest class of graduates in the University’s history. All told, in its first 104 years, Montclair State has granted 123,920 degrees.”
“The vast majority of those students have been the first in their families to earn a college degree, and we have sent them out into the world, just as we are today sending all of you out into the world, to work hard, to pursue advanced study, and to have distinguished careers in medicine and the health professions, in science, law, business, the arts, and education,” said Dr. Cole.
With the country reportedly bouncing back from the recession, many students are optimistic about their professional futures, degree in hand. From students continuing in higher education, to theatre and dance majors auditioning, to those joining the work force, Montclair State’s class of 2012 is a unique mix.
According to the Associated Press, an optimistic future is at hand. On May 13 business writer Scott Mayerowitz wrote, “Between September 2008 and August 2010, 6.9 million American jobs were eliminated. In the last year and a half, 3.1 million jobs have been created. The strengthening job market has made a big difference to seniors who are job-hunting in their final semester.”
The current unemployment rate in America is 8.1 percent.
For some students like Amal Abulhawa, she will have a job while working towards her master’s degree. A student staff member of Residential Education and Services during her time at MSU, Abulhawa will now be working as a Graduate Resident Director at Rider University while studying Organizational Leadership.
“I never doubted that I would graduate with a job because I had so much support from family and the ResEd staff here,” she said. “Also, we get an abundance of experience as Community Assistants, so I felt ready. I am still very thankful and excited that the search is finally over and I found a really good fit for me.”
Alexander Thompson has also been able to secure a job through a previous experience and has already begun working. Thompson currently works as an Executive Team Leader for Target Corporation and said, “I started out as an intern and while it was a demanding summer internship I knew it was an investment in my future. I saw it as more than working retail; their leadership development program is well known and more importantly, I knew the skills learned would be transferable to any field I chose to go into in the future.”
“I think the best thing a college student can do is give themselves the most opportunity for success and look at the bigger picture,” said Thompson.
Student leader and business administration major with a concentration in finance, Aisha Salaam agrees with students taking the initiative to give themselves opportunities in their futures.
She said, “I personally believe that being involved with my campus community and holding leadership positions has prepared me for the real world because I had to interact with all types of people. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet people from all over, which created a really good network for myself.”
Salaam said her strong leadership skills developed at MSU have helped prepare her for the next step, already with a job lined up. “I’m excited and blessed to say that I received several job offers and opportunities and I have chosen to work for The Sherwin-Williams Company,” said Salaam. “My four years at Montclair State University have been wonderful. I left my mark now it’s time to embark on another journey in life!”
Some students have decided to finally take some well-deserved time off and backpack through Europe. Randall Payton plans on visiting Germany, France, Amsterdam, Italy and others over the summer. He explained, “I want to experience different cultures, the food, the languages and just learn from them.”
“I’ve been in school for the last 18 years, so what better opportunity to travel abroad and have that cultural exposure before I get into the work field? I’m going to be working for the rest of my life, so what better time than now?”
Payton plans on applying for more jobs when he returns from being abroad and has already received some offers.
For theatre and dance majors, the road to that big break begins now. Sharrod Williams has already begun auditioning and shared his thoughts on a promising future.
“Focusing on performing post graduation I have been auditioning throughout this past Spring semester,” said Williams. “Auditioning has been hit or miss and takes a great deal of energy, confidence and courage. Through each audition you learn something new and grow in some small way in preparation for the next one.”
Williams said that being a double major in Dance and Communication Studies is one of the best decisions he’s made and it has given him various career opportunities.
“The next step for me is to start apprenticing for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company based New York City. Also I will be performing as the role of Herman in the musical Cabaret at Park Playhouse in Albany, NY,” said Williams. “MSU has indeed prepared me for an extensive and fulfilling career in the performing arts.’
Khadijjah Mote, Theatre major also has begun auditioning and proudly said, “Graduation is here and the world is after this. I feel prepared enough to go out and do what I always knew I could do.”
Dr. Pennington, vice president for student development and campus life, supplied her words of wisdom and stated, “Live life to the fullest. Don’t put off things for another day. Take risks. Let go of anger; it will eat you up. Be kind.”
Though the Montclair State University experience has ended for many, the journey doesn’t end here. “I am immensely happy that I went here,” said Abulhawa. “MSU offered so many opportunities and no one person is untraceable, so any time I needed help I found it. I’ll never forget the people I met and the memories they gave me. I know I’ll be back in the future.”
“Standing on the threshold of the University’s second century, we can see clearly that everything is now and always has been about possibilities: the possibilities represented by you – the possibilities of the science you will do, the businesses you will create, the children you will teach, and the music you will make and the possibilities of the hundreds of thousands of students who will follow in your footsteps over the years to come,” said Dr. Cole.
“And this journey is now and always has been about expectations: the expectations that your families have had for you, that we have had for you, and the expectations that you will now have for yourselves,” said Dr. Cole. “Just imagine the impact you could have on the state, the nation and the world.”