AU-NYC grads lauded for perseverance, service during pandemic
Alfred University held a virtual commencement ceremony Thursday evening, June 17, to recognize the 265 graduates from the AU-NYC program’s Class of 2021. Graduates from the AU-NYC program earned master’s degrees in School and Mental Health Counseling and Public Administration, or completed Advanced Certification programs in Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling, at Alfred University’s satellite campuses in New York City.
ALFRED, NY – Alfred University held a virtual commencement ceremony Thursday evening, June 17, to recognize the 265 graduates from the AU-NYC program’s Class of 2021. Graduates from the AU-NYC program earned master’s degrees in School and Mental Health Counseling and Public Administration, or completed Advanced Certification programs in Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling, at Alfred University’s satellite campuses in New York City.
Alfred University awarded 150 master’s degrees in School and Mental Health counseling; 30 master’s degrees in Public Administration; 75 Advanced Certificates in Mental Health Counseling; and 10 Advanced Certificates in School Counseling. Several speakers participated in Thursday’s commencement program, touching on a themes centered on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most students in the AU-NYC program are non-traditional students—professionals, many with families, working as counselors and administrators in the public education and health care fields while pursuing their graduate degrees. The New York metropolitan area was among the hardest hit by COVID, and many students enrolled in the AU-NYC program were among the front-line workers significantly impacted by the pandemic. COVID had a profound effect on the academic journeys of each graduate.
“To say this was a unique year would be an understatement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of you started the program in regular in-person classes but have spent the last year-and-a-half attending virtually. You’ve done this while balancing work from home with your family responsibilities,” commented Jay Cerio, dean Alfred University’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies. “The fact you’ve accomplished this makes this an even more remarkable achievement, especially considering how many of you were touched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you lost friends and loved ones to the pandemic. This particular achievement is hopefully your tribute to them and their memories.”
“Congratulations on your hard-earned Alfred University degrees,” said Mark Zupan, Alfred University president. “In a normal time, they are hard earned because of balancing your education with your professional responsibilities. You did it all on top of navigating the challenges associated with COVD-19. To that, we salute you. I commend you on your commitment to education. We can all take heart and have faith in the future because of that commitment.”
Beth Ann Dobie, Alfred University provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, added: “This has been quite a year, and you have not only persevered, you have excelled. It hasn’t been easy this year. You have been on the front lines, in our communities, in our schools, and in our health care systems, working with people who are dealing with the pandemic. You did this while working on your advanced degree in order to improve how well you can serve your communities.”
“We can’t be more proud of everything you’ve accomplished,” said Greg Connors ’92, chair of Alfred University’s Board of Trustees. “Persevering and getting your advanced degree is always an extremely difficult challenge when you’re working and have other distractions of life. Doing it while working on the front lines of a pandemic is truly remarkable.”
Connors was among four Trustees who addressed the class. Board of Trustees members Craig Peretz ’88 and Matthew Washington ’04, and Life Trustee Robert Meltzer ’60 also offered remarks during the ceremony.
Washington, who serves as Deputy Borough President for the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, spoke with pride about the AU-NYC program and its graduates, who have done so much for his hometown during the pandemic and will be counted on to provide critical services moving forward.
“This is truly a proud moment for me to join you all in celebrating your accomplishments. New York City is my hometown. I like to tell people I was born, bred, and buttered in New York City, and so this Alfred University program happening in my hometown makes it extra special to be able to celebrate with all of you today,” Washington said. “I can’t think of a more needed time than now for you to have completed your coursework. All of your time and effort to become counselors and therapists, the support team that we all need right now in such a bad way.”
Added Meltzer, “The pandemic has made normal life so difficult, and yet each of you has persevered to get a degree from our wonderful university. Your work this past year in public schools, health care systems, and other organizations contributed to New York City making a comeback.”
Peretz told graduates that while they may feel disappointment with how their Alfred University studies concluded—without the pomp and circumstance of a traditional commencement ceremony—it can’t diminish their achievements.
“I know when each you started on your journey to obtain your advanced degree, you thought it might end differently. Perhaps with a ceremony, wearing a cap and gown, surrounded by faculty, family and friends—a joyous celebration of your achievements,” Peretz commented. “But just because the medium of today’s ceremony was not what you were expecting or dreaming of, let that take nothing away from what you have accomplished.”
Robert Bitting, associate dean of the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, urged members of the Class of 2021 to thank the people—friends, family, teachers—who helped them on their academic journeys. “Take a minute to look around at the people who have supported you over the last couple years as you went through your program of study, because without that support you probably wouldn’t have accomplished what you have accomplished,” Bitting said.
Cerio presented winners of the Dougherty Awards. Created in honor of the late James F. Dougherty, who was executive director of the Center for Integrated Teacher Education, Alfred University’s partner in the New York-based programs, the awards are presented each year to students the faculty nominate based on their growth in leadership roles.
This year’s Dougherty Award recipients in the area of Counseling are: Kenneth Carrington, Hema Bhanot, Horace Chin Sang, Elizabeth Medina, Kimberly Miller, Mayra Parra, Erik Perez, Vanessa Silva, and Melika Vasquez. Winners in the area of Public Administration are: Zara Chaudary and Danesia De La Rosa.