Our First Graduates

As the School of Arts and Sciences marks its 10th anniversary, we celebrate the achievements of members from our first graduating class. Graduates like Tovi Spero, above, who always knew he wanted to teach, discovered so much more to teaching while at Rutgers, and left prepared for that career: "I came out of Rutgers really wanting my students to take ownership of their learning, to be able to ask questions, construct experiments for themselves, and to be creative." These are also the hallmarks of an Arts and Sciences education. 

Just see what members of the Class of 2011 have to say about their Rutgers experience and beyond, and how the liberal arts education they received continues to shape their lives. 


The School of Arts and Sciences Class of 2011 in their own Words 

Selena Drobnick ClassOf2011 Selena Drobnick

Hometown: Oradell, N.J.

Choosing Rutgers: I wanted a big school with big school spirit. Also, I had been accepted into the SAS Honors Program and I really liked the honors students and faculty I met when I visited Rutgers before making my decision.

Arts and Sciences in Action: I was a psychology major with minors in public health and theater arts. I chose psychology because I was fascinated with the human brain and wanted to understand the dynamics of behavior. Public health complemented psychology with amazing classes in addiction policy and prevention. As for theater arts, I was a musical theater performer my whole life and wanted to keep performing when I went to college.

Transformative experience: My experience working in Student Life, and specifically in New Student Orientation changed my life. I was with a group of other undergraduates, all of us with a common interest in making sure first-year students have a great transition into college. We worked really hard, and felt constantly energized and excited.

Life after Rutgers: I got a job at a top talent agency. Working in the New York City theater world was incredibly thrilling, terrifying, and hard. But after two years, I realized I did not feel challenged in the way I wanted to be challenged in my career. I took a step back and did some soul searching. I asked myself: When in my life was I the most happy? I realized it was working for Rutgers Student Life. I'm now working in Student Affairs at the New York University College of Dentistry as a program coordinator for student life and leadership initiatives.

Words of Wisdom: At Rutgers I learned that you are in charge of your own happiness and it is up to you to be successful. Rutgers taught me to be a hard worker and find solutions to life challenges. That definitely propelled me in all of my jobs, in theater, and into my position here at NYU.

ClassOf2011 Michelle ShapiroMichelle (Lieblich) Shapiro

Hometown: Edison, N.J. 

Choosing Rutgers: It was close to home, which I liked. My brother had gone before me, and he really liked it. And it was affordable, with a very good education.

Arts and Sciences in Action: My major was cell biology and neuroscience – I love studying life at the cellular level. But my mentor was Paola Tartakoff of Jewish studies, where I had my minor. I just think taking a varied, eclectic course load is the purpose of college. Writing, history, literature – all of those are very important to me.

Transformative experience:  Paulo pushed me to do better, to be a stronger writer. Science was my strength, but she helped me develop another side of my academic life. I ended doing an interdisciplinary thesis in Jewish Studies that focused on Vatican-Israel Relations and the effects of the Holocaust in the 21st century.

Life after Rutgers: I attended Harvard School of Dental Medicine. I felt intimidated at first, but soon realized the education I got from Rutgers made me more than prepared. I am currently doing residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Words of Wisdom: There is so many resources for research here. It’s just a huge benefit. I had an amazing time here. I had a lot of friends. I loved going to the football games. I was very involved with Hillel. It was great.

ClassOf2011 Tovi SperoTovi Spero

Hometown: Fanwood, N.J.

Choosing Rutgers: I wanted to teach physics, and I knew Rutgers had a five-year program where I could get my bachelor’s degree in physics and my master’s degree in physics education.

Arts and Sciences in Action: It was nice to have a school big enough for a range of academic and social experiences. I liked the fact that I got to meet a lot of people from other majors as well as those in physics. It was a great college experience. 

Transformative experience: I really thought my teaching career was going to be me telling students to listen and take notes while I explain everything to them. But that just got flipped on its head. Under my mentor Eugenia Etkina, I was always reading the latest research into education, and learning about more inquiry-based, activing learning techniques. I came out of Rutgers really wanting my students to take ownership of their learning, to be able to ask questions, construct experiments for themselves, and to be creative.

Life after Rutgers: I am a physics teacher at West-Windor-Plainsboro High School North. I feel very fortunate to be here. The administration completely supports my guided-inquiry approach to teaching. New Jersey is redoing its science standards, and the new standards are in line with the way I teach, branching off from pure lecture. That means I can be resource for other teachers in my district.

Words of Wisdom: I look at science as a very creative field. Scientific knowledge isn’t just handed down from on high. You have to be creative. You see something happen and you ask an interesting question about it and start to investigate. It’s like you are a detective but nobody is telling you exactly what to look for and how to put everything together.

ClassOf2011 Natasha RamseyNatasha Ramsey

Hometown: New Brunswick, N.J.

Choosing Rutgers: In my senior year of high school I attended a Saturday academy program run by ODASIS. The director, Kamal Khan, was very supportive. I also wrote for a teen magazine which was affiliated with Rutgers and had a public health focus. Rutgers also gave me a Carr Scholarship. So in the end, attending Rutgers was pretty much a no-brainer!

Arts and Sciences in Action: I majored in public health and minored in biology and Africana studies. It was a great mix. I always had a passion for public health. The biology minor helped me pick up those courses I needed to be premed. And the Africana studies minor exposed me to many things - history, culture, and race – in ways that I had never experienced before. 

Transformative experience: I was involved in so many things, and each one was influential in its own way. I was part of a program called Project Learn, a very intense summer research program on how to use statistics, and gave me skills I still use today. It helped me to think critically and learn how to turn a question into an actual research project.

I also lived in the Paul Robeson floor, (now the Paul Robeson Living Learning Community) for two years and I ended up being president in my second year. I learned a lot of leadership skills and brought those skills to medical school where I have been involved in a lot of student leadership positions.

Life after Rutgers: I graduate from the New York University School of Medicine in the spring of 2016 and will be starting my residency at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in pediatric medicine.  Ultimately, I see myself doing a mix of things. I really want to work in the community, perhaps in a clinic or some sort of outpatient setting where people face social issues that might be affecting their health. I'm also interested in academic medicine, teaching medical students and residents how to work with diverse populations. Global health is also an area I want to pursue. I want to work in other countries, and do interventions to help people.

Words of Wisdom: Take advantage of every opportunity outside the traditional classroom setting because you don’t know how it will influence you down the line. It may just transform you into the professional or the leader that you want to be.

ClassOf2011 Sydney RhodesSydney Rhodes

Hometown: Collingswood, N.J.  

Choosing Rutgers: My dad went to Rutgers University-Camden and was pretty gung-ho about me applying to Rutgers. I ultimately decided on New Brunswick because I wanted more of a going-away-to-college experience. I went to a very small high school so the big campus environment was very appealing to me. 

Arts and Sciences in Action: I majored in history with minors in anthropology and French. I was able to explore many different courses. There was never a course that wasn’t available. I learned a lot of different things, which was empowering. I never felt locked in.

Transformative Experience: Socially, Rutgers helped me develop my sense of self. Because Rutgers was big, I had friends in history courses, my French courses; I had my RA friends and my friends from gymnastics. I was able to find people who I fit in with really well and fit all my interests. Academically, Shaun Illingworth, (director of the Rutgers Oral History Archives) gave me my first job at Rutgers, as a transcriber. That really helped me foster my love for what I was doing, and showed me the different ways that history could be a profession.

Life after Rutgers: I went to graduate school at American University where I earned an MA in history with a concentration in public history. The field of public history focuses on how to make history accessible to the public, and put it out in the open in places like museums and historic sites to make that history come to life. I currently work in Washington D.C as a content coordinator for Gallagher & Associates, which works with museum clients nationwide and some internationally to design exhibitions. 

Words of Wisdom: Rutgers really shaped me for continual learning. When I entered college I never thought that I’d go to graduate school. But I found myself really wanting to keep learning and to keep growing in my field.