Skip navigation Jump to navigation

Rutgers SPAA Celebrates the Class of 2021

Rutgers SPAA is proud to honor our 2021 graduates!

On May 16, more than 200 School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) graduates were honored and recognized as part of Rutgers University–Newark’s Virtual Commencement. Acclaimed actor, author, radio personality, and humanitarian Wendell Pierce delivered the keynote address and was given an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. An honorary Doctor of Fine Arts was also conferred on rap music pioneer and radio personality Angela “Angie” Martinez, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree was conferred upon Robert Parris Moses.

Remarks were made by Rutgers University–Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor, student speaker Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences-Newark graduate Eshrat Oyeshee, and RU-N Student Governing Association President and SPAA graduate Dylan Terpstra (BA'21). Greetings were extended from Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, and U.S. Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. The Rutgers University–Newark Chorus performed.

Prior to the university commencement ceremony, SPAA held a virtual 2021 Graduation Celebration on May 13, during which SPAA honored graduates, Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society inductees, the 2021 SPAA Award Winners, and SPAA scholarship awardees. SPAA Associate Dean of Student and Academic Services Aaron Gibbs emceed the event.

Rutgers SPAA Dean Charles E. Menifield remarked on the unique challenges we all faced this academic year. "I am sure that last year at Rutgers University–Newark has been a very interesting experience to say the least for all of you. However, it has afforded us an opportunity to reflect upon our lives as students, parents, and future leaders in our profession – and hopefully in a very positive way," said Dr. Menifield.

"As you know, no one went untouched by this virus. Faculty had to suddenly put their courses online. Students suddenly had to be instructed completely online. Staff had to do their advising and conduct other services online – all of these things were, for the most part, done from their homes," said Dr. Menifield. "We had to adapt, but that’s what we do. No doubt our view of higher education will be changed forever. However, we are going to utilize all the things that we learned to improve our methods of instruction and conducting business moving forward."

The graduation celebration's keynote speaker was Dr. Roger Koranteng, adviser and head, public sector governance, for the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, UK, who serves as the principal specialist for governance and anti-corruption programs for the 53 commonwealth countries.

"This is a defining moment for all of you," said Dr. Koranteng. "It is a day of celebration. A day when you look back on the many challenges you have overcome, and look forward to those that lie ahead, knowing that you have the skills and the knowledge needed to meet them. It is a day that you must never forget. This day is also a moment to give thanks for the tremendous support from family, friends, and benefactors who all together have made it possible for you students to make this remarkable journey through your educational voyage."

SPAA Assistant Teaching Professor Dr. Lois Warner managed the induction of 46 graduates into Pi Alpha Alpha, the global honor society for public affairs and administration. Pi Alpha Alpha encourages and recognizes outstanding scholarship and accomplishment in public affairs and administration and membership identifies students with the highest academic performance levels in educational programs. SPAA Assistant Professor Dr. Leonor Camarena was inducted as an honorary member. 

SPAA Director of Public Engagement Sharon Stroye spoke about the achievements of the 2020-2021 SPAA Ambassadors and the graduating ambassadors were acknowledged.

Dr. Menifield gave closing remarks and extended congratulations and well wishes to the graduates. "I want you graduates to remember that you will always be a member of the SPAA family. Know that you will always have a group of people that love you. We wish you the very best in all your endeavors and we will always be here for you."

SPAA Grads 2021

As part of our celebration of our 2021 graduating students, we are pleased to share some of their personal stories.