The excitement among the nearly 4,000 SC&I students, their families, and friends, as they arrived for SC&I’s graduation on the morning of May 12, 2022, nearly filling Jersey Mike’s Arena (formerly known as the RAC/Rutgers Athletic Center) on Rutgers-University New Brunswick’s Livingston Campus, was electrifying and contagious.
Appearing as an ocean of smiling faces and dressed in Rutgers colors (scarlet red and black) to complement their black graduation robes, more than half of the 1,161 graduates earning SC&I degrees this year attended the first in-person graduation SC&I has hosted since 2019. Graduations for the classes of 2020 and 2021 were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"SC&I faculty and staff share a great sense of pride being here this morning and helping you celebrate this wonderful milestone in your life." - Associate Dean for Administration Karen Hundert Novick
The number of undergraduates who earned bachelor’s degrees this year include 345 Communication majors; 422 Information Technology and Informatics majors; and 129 Journalism and Media Studies majors. In addition, 229 undergraduate students minored in Digital Communication, Information, and Media and 12 minored in Gender and Media.
Of the graduate students, 82 earned Master of Communication and Media (MCM) degrees; 4 were the first to earn the new Master of Health Communication and Information (MHCI) degree; 169 earned Master of Information (MI) degrees; and 10 earned Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degrees in Communication, Information, and Media.
The ceremony began with a processional of the Class of 2022, led by Gonfalonier Kevin Ewell, Associate Dean for Student Services at SC&I. Once the graduates were seated, the Rutgers group Shockwave sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Rutgers alma mater song “On The Banks of the Old Raritan,” which has been sung at Rutgers since 1873.
Dean for Administration Karen Hundert Novick then welcomed the graduates and their families, followed by Dean Jonathan Potter, who provided introductions and a special message to the graduates. This ceremony marked the last SC&I convocation Potter will preside over, as he is stepping down as dean on June 30, 2022.
Novick said, “I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of you while you’ve been at Rutgers. I’ve enjoyed working with you, I’ve been impressed by you, and I’ve been inspired by you. SC&I faculty and staff share a great sense of pride being here this morning and helping you celebrate this wonderful milestone in your life.”
Potter, explaining that he grew up in a very small village on the southern coast of England, and had spent a long career in significant research universities in the UK before he accepted the offer to become SC&I’s dean, said, “One of the delights of coming to Rutgers is the students. I’ve talked to them in class, in the student center, in Hidden Grounds Coffee. Loving your excitement, your enthusiasm, and your positivity, it’s been an honor and a privilege to meet you and learn with you. You make the culture what it is, and it’s your day.
“Some of you have earned honors because of your stellar academic performance, and I congratulate those of you who have excelled academically. Some accomplishments do not earn public recognition but are notable, nonetheless. We’re proud of those of you who struggled to overcome personal challenges while completing your degree and worked hard while quietly dealing with adversity. Some of you might have grades that look average or even less than average to someone who does not know you, but your relatives, your friends, and those of us on this stage know the size of the mountain you’ve climbed. We will forever be inspired by your determination.”
“All of you navigated the various challenges due to Covid, the pandemic that disrupted your studies in so many ways and has upended your lives, and that is an accomplishment that will stay with you.” - Dean Jonathan Potter
Noting that the Class of 2022 is one of the SC&I classes that spent two years of their Rutgers education learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Potter said, “All of you navigated the various challenges due to Covid, the pandemic that disrupted your studies in so many ways and has upended your lives, and that is an accomplishment that will stay with you.”
After Dean Potter’s remarks, the President of the SC&I Alumni Association, Ron Jantz, Ph.D.’13, MI’97, who is a Digital Library Architect at Rutgers University Libraries, delivered the SC&I Alumni Association presentation. He noted that there are over 28,000 members of the association (there are around a half a million Rutgers alumni worldwide), and all SC&I graduates are automatically enrolled upon graduation, making them able to immediately benefit from the networking opportunities, events, and other benefits the association provides.
Class Speaker Arielle Yu 'ITI22, who surprised her parents by not telling them ahead of time that she had been nominated as class speaker, spoke next. She said, “As much as we all hoped to be sitting here for graduation, it was never really guaranteed two years ago. We never really knew how long virtual learning was going to last and we never really knew if we would get the opportunity to walk at graduation. But, here we are, celebrating together. We’re here because we were able to persevere through the good and the bad with the help of our friends, family, and each other as peers.
“These so-called unprecedented times are never going to fade away into the background. Just as they did when we started at Rutgers, things are going to be changing. But, they’ll continue to be new, exciting, and challenging. These times are going to be much different than the last few years. These specific unprecedented times will be a key part of our separate journeys into what's next and continued growth. But that’s adulting for you I guess, continuing to be filled with things that you’ve never done or known before, just on a slightly bigger scale.
“For now, I wish you all the best, sending you good luck and hope for what lies ahead of you after today! We can all be so incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished thus far at Rutgers and at SC&I. I cannot wait to see everyone persevere in the years to come and move onto greater things and even greater accomplishments. It truly was an honor to take a chance and speak here today, representing such amazing individuals.”
Following Yu’s presentation, the students slowly began to rise, one row at a time, to approach the stage to receive their degrees, starting with the Ph.D. students, whose degrees were conferred by Professor of Communication and Director of the SC&I Doctoral Program Jennifer Theiss.
“For now, I wish you all the best, sending you good luck and hope for what lies ahead of you after today!" - Class Speaker Arielle Yu
Once the last degree was conferred, the students and their families left the arena to enjoy a reception ceremony under a tent outside.
The Class of 2022 will likely long remember Dean Potter’s closing remarks, “As the name of our school underlines, we are at the center of a communication, information, and media revolution that’s reconfiguring our state and transforming our world. You’ve been given a gift and therefore taken on a responsibility to shape that transformation. Most importantly, and finally, the task of a university is to create the future. That is your job.”