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Turning the Tassel

by Sunah Choudhry

As family and friends lined up for the 2019 Montclair State University undergraduate ceremony on May 24, graduates rushed inside the Prudential Center and awaited to turn their tassels on to the next chapter of their lives.

President Susan Cole addressed the graduates and their families with some Montclair State related history. Along with the current graduates, a group of graduates from the class of ’69 were celebrating their 50th anniversary. In the class of ’69, 1,182 students graduated.

A graduating student looks up at the Prudential Center screen. Sunah Choudhry | The Montclarion Photo credit: Sunah Choudhry

“This year the universities graduates will number 5,235, and you will be among that number,” President Cole said addressing the crowd of seated students.

Next who took the stage was commencement speaker, Kevin P. Bradley, who is on the advisory board for the Feliciano School of Business, is a former graduate of Montclair State and also serves as the executive vice president and chief financial officer of U.S. Steel Corporation.

“You will begin to understand that without taking risk, there can be little to no reward,” Bradley said. “You need to be thoughtful when it comes to risk management, but simply avoiding risk will severely limit your full upside potential.”

As the advice continued, Student Government Association (SGA) President Serefina Genise addressed the undergraduate class of 2019. Genise urged her classmates to recognize the foundation that Montclair State faculty has provided to them.

“Think about those who have been beside you and lifted you up and pushed you to keep you going when all you wanted to do was give up,” Genise said.

While students eagerly lined up in the halls of the arena before the commencement, they reflected on their times at Montclair State, those who helped them along the way to achieve their aspirations and what their plans are moving forward.

Iffat Siddiqi, graduating with a bachelors in computer science, holds up and poses with his graduation cap and degree. Sunah Choudhry | The Montclarion Photo credit: Sunah Choudhry

Iffat Siddiqi, graduating with a bachelor’s in computer science, was excited to see the look on his parents’ faces when he walked up to accept his degree.

“My dad struggled to get to America just so that his kids could get a better education and have a better lifestyle,” Siddiqi said. “He’s still struggling to this day to make sure that we still get whatever we need to keep moving forward. Me graduating and getting this degree is me basically giving back to them for what they have done for me.”

Talia Smith, graduating with a bachelors in nutrition & food science, poses with her graduation cap. Sunah Choudhry | The Montclarion. Photo credit: Sunah Choudhry

Talia Smith, graduating with a bachelor’s in nutrition and food science, is the first person in her family to have gone to college and earn a bachelor’s degree.

“Everyone has been asking me how I feel but I don’t think it’s going to feel real until after the commencement,” Smith said. “[My mom] is super excited. She was crying at the other [ceremony] and I told her, this isn’t even the real ceremony yet!”

Team Rocky poses for a photo. (left to right) Mario Papa, Amy Zaniewski, and Katie Lanigan. Sunah Choudhry | The Montclarion

While some students might have gone shoe shopping for the special day, others came equipped with Rocky the Red Hawk’s vibrant yellow claws. Katie Lanigan, a graduating member of Team Rocky receiving a bachelor’s in history, expressed that she was excited to see her friends graduate by her side.

“[Graduating] is going to be very sentimental,” Lanigan said. “Rocky has been my life for the past two years and being able to be his friend and accompany him on campus has meant the world to me.”

Esosa Kest, graduating with a bachelors in dietetics, poses for a photo. Sunah Choudhry | The Montclarion Photo credit: Sunah Choudhry

As others plan to relax, Esosa Kest, graduating with a bachelor’s in dietetics, already has a strategy in place for her next step in life.

“I’m planning on going to medical school so I’m hoping to use all this information I learned in nutrition to bring more prevention measures in the medical field since a lot of doctors don’t know about permission,” Kest said.

Dominique Wirsing, former forward of Montclair State’s women’s basketball team and a recent graduate with a bachelors in justice studies, poses for a photo. Sunah Choudhry | The Montclarion. Photo credit: Sunah Choudhry

Dominique Wirsing, the former forward of Montclair State’s women’s basketball team and recent graduate with a bachelor’s in justice studies, has been playing basketball since she could walk and now is leaving the sport behind. Without basketball, she can already feel the adjustment in her schedule.

“[I plan on] working out a lot [in the gym] and hopefully doing lots of working,” Wirsing said. “Our athletic community at Montclair State is really important to me. Now that we’re going to be alumni, I’m still going to keep in touch and that means a lot to me.”

As students turned their tassels over to the left side, accepted their degrees and waved and smiled at their gleaming parents looking down upon them, these graduating Red Hawks have the ability to soar as high as Rocky and his team.

“Once a Red Hawk, always a Red Hawk,” Wirsing said.

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