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Meet the Class of 2023: Students Reflect on Life in the Arts and Sciences

Convocation at Jersey Mike's Arena sets an SAS attendance record 

Graduating seniors at the 2023 Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Convocation

The Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences drew 3,026 graduating seniors to its annual convocation ceremonies Tuesday, the largest turnout since the school began holding convocations in 2015.

The graduates and their families and friends filled the Jersey Mike’s Arena for three successive ceremonies led by interim co-Executive Deans Susan Lawrence and Jim Masschaele.

“You come from over 50 countries and 40 US states,” Lawerence said in her convocation address. “A third of you are the first in your family to graduate from college.

“All of you have worked hard and availed yourselves of everything that the School of Arts and Sciences offers.”

The School of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most comprehensive school at Rutgers University, with more than 100 majors and minors across life sciences, humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and mathematical and physical sciences.

A Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences graduate celebrating as he crosses the stage.Some 5,117 seniors were in the graduating class in 2023. The lines began forming outside the arena well before the 9:00am start time for the first ceremony. Twelve hours later the final ceremony came to a conclusion with throngs of attendees in celebratory mode continuing to mingle, take selfies, and exchange well wishes outside the arena. 

Each convocation ceremony featured a student speaker who expounded on the themes of diversity, belonging, resiliency, and social change.

“In my degree, there is hope in my family’s eyes as they see a Latina woman be the first person in their family to earn a degree in the United States,” said Laynerys Martinez Custodio, a psychology major who delivered her speech at the morning ceremony.

Alesar Harfoush, a political science major, spoke at the afternoon ceremony on how she was a teenager when her family moved to the U.S. from Syria. She thought she would never be able to speak before a large audience.

“But here I am standing today, having the honor to speak in front of all of you,” she said. “I would like to tell my high school self: look at you now, with that same accent. If it wasn't for the classes I took here, the professors I encountered, my family, and the friends I made throughout this journey I would have never been standing here.”

Olufemi D. Folarin, an exercise science major who delivered the evening’s final student speech, reminded classmates to always remember and cherish the unexpected encounters and experiences of their Rutgers years. “These side quests – the clubs you joined, the spontaneous late-night conversations, the unforgettable memories – are invaluable treasures that you will carry with you long after we leave here today,” she said.

In the section below, meet a small but representative sample of the School of Arts and Sciences Class of 2023.


Priya AhmedPriya Ahmed

Hometown: Totowa, NJ

Major: Journalism and media Studies, with a minor in theater

Plans after graduation: I plan on attending Columbia University for my master's degree in journalism and law, a dual degree program. I hope to be a lawyer and journalist, but my long-term goal is to be a news anchor for ABC News or CNN. I also plan to attend the Air Force, where I will serve for two years abroad.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: The people and my professors. I have grown so close to so many people both older and younger than me. I have been lucky to have met the best people in New Jersey. And I will be missing the sport I did, here: wrestling! Go RU Women's wrestling!



Adrianna C. Bugliarello-WondrichAdrianna C. Bugliarello-Wondrich

Hometown: St. Charles, Ill.

Major: Double major in English and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies with a minor in geography

Plans after graduation: I am going to be moving to Philadelphia and working for Clean Water Action, an environmental nonprofit.

What I will miss most about Rutgers: Definitely all the great friends that I made here and the sense of community I got from that.




Laynerys MartinezLaynerys Martinez Custodio

Hometown: Hamilton, NJ

Major: Psychology with a minor in entrepreneurship

Plans after graduation: I plan to take a gap year to dedicate my time to a job in marketing or finance and volunteering at animal shelters and the National Suicide Hotline. I will then be applying to both MBA and animal psychology/behavior programs in hopes of getting further involved in the business world and running my own business: one that can help people by fighting against the stigma around mental health and also one in the animal welfare industry.

What I will miss most about Rutgers: The supportive community of students and faculty. Throughout my time at the university, I’ve always been exposed to incredibly kind students who wish each other good luck on exams, believe in one another, and push their fellow classmates to do their best. In terms of the faculty, they’re always working hard to make sure their students succeed.



Kayla EinhornKayla Einhorn

Hometown: Kinnelon, NJ

Major: Double major in psychology and linguistics

Plans after graduation: A gap year to take care of my health and wellness. I’m graduating a year early and am 20 years old, so it took a lot of work! But I eventually hope to go to medical or graduate school and also do more work in the Jewish community. I’ve learned over my time at Rutgers that I am very passionate about helping others, and hope that I can build a career doing so!

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: All of the friends I’ve made, the mentors I’ve met, and Rutgers Hillel. I will also very much miss Brower Dining Hall!



Olufemi FolarinOlufemi Folarin

Hometown: Williamstown, NJ

Major: Exercise science

Plans after graduation: I will be pursuing a career in healthcare.

What I will most about Rutgers: The amazing community with whom I have surrounded myself over the past four years and all the fun annual events Rutgers holds!





Gia GiudiceGia Giudice

Hometown: Montville, NJ

Major: Criminal justice with a minor in sociology

Plans after graduation: I am taking my LSATs in June so I am planning to go to law school.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: I just think the environment, with all the amazing relationships I made, and just being on campus every day.





Alesar HarfoushAlesar Harfoush

Hometown: Old Bridge, NJ

Major: Political science with a minor in psychology

Plans after graduation: I plan on taking a gap year to recharge before heading to law school.

What I will most about Rutgers: I will miss friends, spending time around campus, and the great conversations with professors during class and especially during office hours.





Christopher JohnsonChristopher Johnson

Hometown: Trenton, NJ

Major: Labor studies and employment relations, with a double minor in entrepreneurship and military science

Plans after graduation: I will be serving as an active duty infantry officer in the U.S. Army.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: Making memories with my friends.





Hyun Jai KimHyun Jai Kim

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Major: Political science with minors in sociology and international and global studies

Plans after graduation: I want to go to law school after serving my country as a civil service agent for the next two years.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: I will miss the amazing professors who taught me above and beyond academics. Thanks to them, throughout my college journey, I was not only encouraged to be diligent but also had many opportunities to experience personal growth.




Kiran KumaranayakamKiran Kumaranayakam

Hometown: Edison, NJ

Major: Double major in political science and economics with a minor in international relations and global studies

Plans after graduation: I will be working as a financial crime and compliance analyst at Standard Chartered Bank, in financial regulatory affairs. I plan to attend law school after gaining work experience.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: The first week of a new semester. When students come back to campus and new ones arrive, a plethora of opportunities are ahead of each of us. Whether it's the start of the fall or spring semester, there is always something to look forward to at the start of each one and I will definitely miss the feeling of excitement that comes with it.



Janki PatelJanki K. Patel

Hometown: I'm an Indian, born and raised in Kenya, and currently living in NJ.

Major: Biological sciences with a minor in business administration.

Plans after graduation: A gap year to gain clinical and research experience and with God's grace plan to study at New York University medical school for an MD.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: Honestly there is so much, the buses, so many buildings, getting lost when finding classes. But one thing I'm sure I won't find anywhere else is the positive energy and atmosphere. We see many happy faces, helpful and friendly professors, and classmates. RU is a place filled with so much hope, passion, and determination and it helped me to naturally do well in my academic career. I pray to find this everywhere I go. It's been an honor to be part of RU. Truly grateful and blessed.



Nasimeh SalemNasimeh Salem

Hometown: Hackensack, NJ

Major: Biology

Plans after graduation: I plan on continuing to pursue my passion for healthcare by working as a medical scribe. I am eager to gain experience and practical knowledge in the medical field through witnessing the influence healthcare professionals have on patients' lives. I also plan on preparing for the MCAT, volunteering at different healthcare settings, and continuing to shadow physicians to further prepare for medical school.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: One of the things that I will miss most would be the vibrant diversity of the community and the everlasting events to celebrate our differences. I established meaningful connections with people within my own culture and engaged with many people from different backgrounds and interests. Rutgers is committed to inclusivity and provides what feels like a trip around the world. It brings forth an unparalleled environment for fostering meaningful connections and personal growth.



Shivam SawhneyShivam Sawhney

Hometown: Plainsboro, NJ

Major: Information technology

Plans after graduation: Deloitte technology analyst

What will you miss most about RU: Friends, campus, and just everything!






Kemani A. ScottKemani A. Scott

Hometown: Allentown, NJ

Major: Double Major in political science and criminal justice

Plans after graduation: Starting a position as the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee's first ever Press Assistant and a long career in politics and public service!

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: The lifelong friends I’ve made in the Rutgers College Democrats Club!





Tatwa VaidyaTatwa Vaidya

Hometown: Edison, NJ

Major: Journalism and media studies with a minor in criminology

Plans after graduation: Attending graduate school at Rutgers University–Newark.

What I’ll miss most about Rutgers: I will miss my professors the most, especially the way they helped me throughout my academic journey. The connections I made with the professors during my undergraduate years are one of the most important factors that have influenced my decision to attend graduate school at Rutgers–Newark.



Zhiheng XuZhiheng Xu

Hometown: I am an international student from China.

Major: Mathematics with a minor in economics

Plans after graduation: I plan to attend a graduate school in mathematics or economics.

What will you miss most about Rutgers: I love the big campus. I love to play basketball and every campus has basketball (games). Also, the professors are so friendly and always make themselves available in office hours. That was new for me.