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Rutgers SPAA Marks End of Year-Long 15th Anniversary Celebration with Hybrid Event

Simone Richardson (BA'19, MPA'20) and Maria Zamora-Porras (BA'19, MPA'20)
SPAA 15th Anniversary: Celebration Event – December 9, 2021

On December 9, Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) marked the end of its year-long 15th anniversary celebration with a hybrid in-person/virtual event highlighting some of the activities SPAA undertook this past year and recognizing its amazing students and alumni.

The event was introduced by Sharon Stroye (MPA'06), the director of public engagement at SPAA, and hosted by MPA students and 2021-2022 SPAA Ambassadors Monica Galas (in-person) and Chastity Gooden-Clyne (virtually).

The event began with remarks from Dean Charles Menifield who noted the importance of recognizing milestones such as this, since they are a major part of our history. He provided a brief overview of the school's timeline, making note of important events and accomplishments such as the launching of the SPAA Student Ambassador Program. "As you can see, we've come we've come a very long way," he said, "and we're only getting started." He spoke about the strategic plan in place to take the school to the next level and provide SPAA students with the best education possible as they join the workforce. "None of these things will be possible without your support," said Dr. Menifield. "With that said, I charge each of you with the task of doing all that you can do to support our school and our students. I ask you to join me in investing in our future as a school and as a university. Rutgers SPAA is a place where service meets leadership, and we all embrace that."

Keynote Speaker Shante Palmer (EMPA'14), Vice Chancellor, External and Governmental Relations, Rutgers University–Newark

The SPAA Student Ambassadors took the opportunity to highlight their "15-for15" fundraiser in recognition of the 15-year anniversary of SPAA. They are asking 100 donors to give $15 each toward a goal of $1,500, which if reached, will then be matched by an anonymous donor resulting in a total of $3,000 to support future public and nonprofit leaders.

Keynote Speaker Shantè Palmer (EMPA'14), who became vice chancellor of external and governmental relations at Rutgers University–Newark this summer, spoke about the motivation that drove her to earn her master of public administration degree. "I heard if you stay ready, you won't need to get ready. That was my exact thinking when I applied to the executive master of public administration program at SPAA," she said. As a working mother who attended school at night, the desire to set a positive example for her daughters led her to be a first-generation graduate and motivated her to engage with politics and channel her passion through public policy. She urged SPAA students and alumni to continue to grow as leaders who exude compassion and integrity. "Your SPAA degree is not a sign of a finished product but an indication that you are prepared for life. You are ready and equipped for your next opportunity. Now remain committed to values, promote diversity, encourage ideas, be persistent, stay motivated, and uphold civic responsibility, but most of all strive not to be a success but rather to be of value."

The keynote speech was followed by a photo montage highlighting some of the events that SPAA hosted in the last year to mark the 15th anniversary, a poem presentation, a video reflection by SPAA father-and-son alumni Robert Friday (PhD'18) and Isaiah Friday (BA'10, MPA'15), and remarks from SPAA alumni.

Director Stroye spoke of her own experiences as a SPAA graduate and working at the school. "Once I completed my degree, I knew that this is where I was supposed to be," she said. She spoke about becoming the first assistant dean for the school's undergraduate program and how fortunate she feels to have watched the program grow. She talked about how her current role as the director of public engagement gives her the opportunity to bring people together – faculty, staff, students, alumni, and our community partners.

"The school's full of support and it's somewhere where you really could go so far if you just take the opportunity," said Simone Richardson (BA'19, MPA'20), who introduced her remarks by saying she wanted to be a part of the 15th anniversary celebration because of what SPAA means to her.

Gloria Horton, director of social services at the Broadway House for Continuing Care in Newark, said she had the opportunity to interact with SPAA students when they came to the organization to talk about career paths and noted that some of them returned to intern in the organization. "I am also one of the field instructors for the social program here and I'm just grateful to be a part of making a difference in my community," she said.

Michael Dillard (MPA'10), assistant teaching professor and director of the BA program, said a few words about his experience at SPAA, noting that the skills he learned have allowed him to give back to the community and to people who come from similar backgrounds and have faced similar challenges.

The evening concluded with the presentation of musical performances from Shane Fuller (BA'16, MPA'17).