Rain fails to dampen spirits as thousands gather in stadium
Thousands of people braved wet and chilly conditions Sunday to cheer on the Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences Class of 2018 at the school’s annual convocation.
“Before I make my quite short speech, I want to thank you all for staying,” Executive Dean Peter March told the rain-soaked crowd at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The School of Arts and Sciences Convocation, which takes place after Rutgers University Commencement, has become an annual tradition honoring graduates of the university’s largest and most comprehensive school and giving their families the opportunity to watch them ascend to the stage and shake hands with the deans.
“This is the whole point in coming!” quipped Roberta Muccino, a Manalapan woman and mother of graduate Jason Muccino. ”It’s just wonderful to be able to watch them go up to stage.”
Because of the heavy rain, March announced from the stage that graduates would remain within the indoor marshalling area behind the stage until their major was called.
“We’ve taken a little pity on them, and we’ll bring them up group by group,” he said.
The rain hardly dampened spirits. The audience roared its approval when March announced that this was the school’s 10th anniversary class, and large numbers of people stayed until the very end to applaud the seniors. The graduates, many of whom donned clear ponchos, emerged with big bright smiles from the marshalling area to ascend the stage and be captured on the giant screen.
The SAS Class of 2018 numbered 5,595 students, including 37 with 4.0 grade point averages, 207 honors scholars, 445 Phi Beta Kappa inductees, 927 writing honors thesis, and 1,508 graduating with GPAs above 3.5.
In his speech, March urged the graduates to use their skills and talents for the greater good.
“You are entering a world challenged by issues of health, the environment, and human rights; issues that require innovation, vision, and courage to confront,” he said. “Graduates: you have what it takes not only to build successful lives, but also to be a positive force in your communities and to make a difference in the world.”
A number of graduates are planning to do just that.
“The public health component deals with health disparities, and political science focuses on the workings of government,” she said. “My goal has been to combine the two to address healthcare issues through public policy reform.”
“I don’t have an ultimate goal at this point but I know I want to be a medical educator and help change the healthcare system,” she said. “There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed to help patients have a better experience.”
Meanwhile, graduates Aime Serrano and Karla Andrade said their major in cultural anthropology has inspired them toward careers and work that support communities and help people.
Serrano said she’d like to teach overseas or work for the state Department of Children and Families.
“I am mixed race of Romanian, Hungarian, and Mexican descent,” she said. “I have always been interested in different cultures, and that’s why I fell in love with this major.”
Andrade agreed. She’s considering joining the Peace Corps and later working in a museum, public library, or some other community organization.
“It was a powerful experience learning about other cultures—how we are different and the same,” she said.
Graduates said they will miss Rutgers for its big, sprawling sense of community.
“It was definitely fun having so many people around,” said Kenneth Dioguardi, an economics major who will be working working in a real estate investment company.
“Rutgers is a big, diverse, multi-faceted community and there are so many opportunities to get involved," he said.
But they also said that they leave with a feeling of empowerment, ready to venture out and make their mark in the world.
“I was encouraged by my professors to think really richly and critically about a broad intersection of subjects,” said religion major Austin McCaffery. “I leave here today feeling very much a part of society and confident in addressing people from many backgrounds and on many topics.”
For parents, it was also a bittersweet experience.
“I am excited my son will be starting a new phase in his life,” Muccino said. “I feel a little sad too. I was just looking at his baby pictures. It all went so fast.”
For relatives of public health major Ariana Acosta, meanwhile, coming to the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Convocation was an adventure.
Her friends and relatives traveled from Puerto Rico to attend.
“It’s kind of cold up here,” her aunt, Helvia Guzman, said with a smile on her face. “But happiness has prevailed.”