Class of 2022 Doctoral and Master’s Degree Graduates Celebrate Achievements During Ceremony on Campus

More than 400 doctoral and master’s degree graduates were recognized for attaining their advanced degrees during William Paterson University’s 2022 Graduate Commencement ceremony on May 19 in the Sports and Recreation Center on campus.

“You are at a very different place in your academic and professional careers than you were when you received your undergraduate degrees,” said President Richard J. Helldobler in his remarks. “What for many of you was uncertainty about career choices has been replaced by a decisiveness born of real-world experience. You have found your niche and identified just how it is that you will advance your career and make a difference in the world. Whether that is in business, education, science, the arts, healthcare, government or another sector, you now have the skills and resources to ascend to the top of your field.”

Noting that only 13 percent of Americans have earned advanced degrees, President Helldobler encouraged the graduates to use their new status to the benefit of their communities, as well as to the benefit of their professions. “Colleagues and neighbors will look to you—as holders of advanced degrees—to help make things better on the job and in your cities and towns,” he added.

Colleen DeNoia-Grace, a preschool teacher in Garfield who earned a master of education degree in special education, served as the graduate student speaker. She spoke about the word “unprecedented,” and how it had been used countless times during the past two years to describe the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But tonight, I want to correlate that word with all of you,” she told the Class of 2022. “We are unprecedented. Throughout the last two years, we have dealt with quarantines, social distancing, remote learning—whether it be the classes we were taking or the classes we were teaching—mask mandates, COVID-19 testing, vaccine releases, and much more.”

DeNoia-Grace went on to note that many of the graduates were also working full-time jobs, taking care of their own families, and completing their graduate degrees. “Needless to say, all of this came with a lot of emotions. No one would have judged us if we quit,” she said. “But despite all the restrictions, we continued to push and completed our degree.”

The graduates, including many who earned degrees fully online through the University’s WP Online platform, processed from tents in Pioneer Soccer Park through festive arches of black and orange balloons to the Sports and Recreation Center. More than 2,000 family and friends filled the venue.

During the ceremony, each degree candidate processed individually across the stage to receive their doctoral or master’s degree. Six candidates were awarded doctor of nursing practice degrees, eight students were awarded doctor of psychology degrees in clinical psychology, and more than 425 students were awarded master’s degrees in 25 fields.