Home Feature Red Hawk Graduates Reflect on Leaving the Nest

Red Hawk Graduates Reflect on Leaving the Nest

by Taylor Risley



Rocky the Red Hawk prepares for graduation.
Taylor Risley | The Montclarion Photo credit: Taylor Risley

May has arrived, and the graduating seniors at Montclair State University are anxiously waiting to break free from the nest and soar into the real world.

According to Montclair State’s Dean of Students Margaree Carter, there will be approximately 4,000 seniors graduating this year. The 2019 graduating class will be the first group she has seen through all four years since becoming Dean of Students in 2015.


Dean Margaree Carter and Rocky the Red Hawk share their Red Hawk pride.
Taylor Risley | The Montclarion Photo credit: Taylor Risley

“I remember when this class had come in as freshmen,” Carter said. “That was the year the hawk statue was built, and we began the tradition of rubbing the beak for good luck after leaving Sprague Field on Red Hawk Day.”

After high school, most students come to college ready to find themselves and their career path. After being in college for four years, some students feel comfortable and confident to leave, but others remain uncertain of what the future holds.

“I think most students do have a plan,” Carter said. “However, there is also a large group that is still unsure.”

Mario Papa, a graduating senior, shared his feelings on graduating, expressing a sense of anxiety about life after graduation.

“I’m kind of nervous in a way,” Papa said. “I’m actually going to be an adult in the real world, and it’s scary.”

Although many students are sad to be leaving a part of them behind, most students are eager to start the next chapter of their lives. Many will continue on to pursue further education in graduate school, while many will begin their careers.

Student Government Association President Serafina Genise is also a graduating senior, but she plans to continue her studies and earn a master’s degree.

“I’m going to be attending grad school at Rowan University, so I’m already starting the transition,” Genise said. “I’m ready to move on from one nest to another.”

Graduating senior Amy Zaniewski will miss the memories she’s made during her undergraduate career, but she’s excited to continue her journey at Montclair State next semester.

“It’s pretty bittersweet,” Zaniewski said. “I’m sad to be leaving my friends but luckily I’ll be going to grad school here at Montclair State.”

Katie Lanigan is also graduating this semester. She feels conflicted about her departure, but looks forward to attending graduate school at Salem University next fall.

“This chapter in life is ending and it’s terrifying,” Lanigan said. “But I’m very excited for the next chapter.”


Mario Papa expresses his excitement for graduation.
Taylor Risley | The Montclarion Photo credit: Taylor Risley

Papa explained what worries him about graduating.

“I’m counting down the days, but it’s just hiding the fear that I’m going to have to find a job and I’m going to be on my own,” Papa said. “It’s weird that I won’t be coming back to school in August.”

Oftentimes students find themselves in the predicament after graduation where they are lost and not exactly sure what they should be doing. Although they have spent a lot of time preparing for the moment of pursuing their dreams, many still find themselves in a place of fear and confusion.

“My advice for students would be to not hold back from trying different things,” Carter said. “You may not get opportunities from your major right away, but those other experiences are stepping stones that will lead you to your end goal.”

Although four years may seem like a long time when you are coming in as a freshman, the consensus on campus seems to be that the experience flew by.

“It seems like almost yesterday that I moved into my dorm freshman year,” Papa said. “Time really did move fast.”

Genise shared gratitude for her experiences at Montclair State.

“Honestly, I loved my time here,” Genise said. “This year was by far my favorite and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Zaniewski shared how quickly she felt time went at college.

“It’s crazy how quick it goes, especially senior year,” Zaniewski said. “They always say that high school flies by, but college is unreal.”

Lanigan shared how Montclair State has helped her grow.

“I’m not the same person I was when I started my freshman year,” Lanigan said. “I was definitely not as confident as I am today and I have the past few years to thank for that.”

The graduating class has been through a long journey together, and as the school year comes to a close, they will all begin their individual journeys. They will always be a part of the Red Hawk community, but after graduation they will be able to go out into the real world, spread their wings and fly.

“I wish them the very best in their future endeavors,” Carter said. “There’s a big world out there waiting for each and every one of them to make an impact and take every opportunity to seize the day. Carpe diem.”

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