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Rutgers SPAA Celebrates the Class of 2024

Aliyah Saleem (BA'24)

Rutgers SPAA is proud to honor our 2024 graduates!

On Wednesday, May 15, School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) graduates were honored and recognized as part of Rutgers University–Newark’s 2024 Commencement held at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, with hip-hop artist and creator Black Thought as the commencement speaker.

SPAA Assistant Professor Dr. Ricardo Bello-Gomez carried the gonfalon for the school in the faculty procession and Elena Perez (BA'24) and Dr. Wendy Michelle Nicholson (PhD'24) were featured as graduating students of SPAA. While conferring the degrees of SPAA graduates, Dean Kaifeng Yang (PhD'03) said, "We celebrate your journey today, eagerly await your future successes, and are excited by the positive impact you are destined to make.”

Dean Kaifeng Yang (PhD'03) confers graduates at the 2024 RU-N Commencement.

Preceding the university commencement ceremony, SPAA held a 2024 Graduation and Awards Celebration on May 10 and a PhD Hooding Ceremony was hosted by the RU-N Graduate School on May 14, both at the Paul Robeson Campus Center.

At SPAA's celebration, inductees in to the national honor society for public administration, Pi Alpha Alpha, and the 2024 SPAA Award winners were honored. Dr. Lois Warner (PhD'07), associate teaching professor, and Dr. Bello-Gomez managed the induction of 22 students into Pi Alpha Alpha. SPAA Outstanding Student awards were presented by their respective degree program directors, Dr. Michael Dillard (MPA'10), assistant teaching professor and director of the BA program; Dr. Suzanne Piotrowski, professor and co-director of the MPA program; and Dr. Lindsey McDougle, associate professor and director of the PhD program. Dean Yang, Dr. James Davy, distinguished practitioner in residence; Dr. Diane Hill, assistant professor of professional practice; and Natasha Hemmings (MPA'16), chief executive officer for the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ), presented additional awards to students, alumni, faculty, and staff for academic, community engagement, and public service achievements. Graduating SPAA Student Ambassadors – Shanequa Evans and Damian Vasquez – were also acknowledged.

The keynote speaker at SPAA's celebration was Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Silna Zur (MPA'18), who has served as a commissioner for 12 years. As part of her legislative accomplishments, she spearheaded a task force to address food security and created a model of connectivity to services which is being emulated state-wide. Zur stressed the importance of using the skills learned and the connections made at SPAA to implement initiatives that make a difference to communities. 

"We need you to make impacts large and small to move our communities forward, and to use your skills and talents and perspectives to change the way we problem solve for our neighbors," said Zur. "Whether you are going to put them to work in local, county, or federal government, a think tank, a nonprofit, or even in the private sector, we all need you to use them to make a difference and use them to empower our communities to do better."

VIEW ALBUM: SPAA Graduation 2024


SPAA Grads 2024

As part of our celebration of our 2024 graduating students, we are pleased to share some of their personal stories.