Crossing the stage at FDU onto the threshold of the future

Cecil Abrahams, Campus Provost FDU-Vancouver, Sheldon Drucker, Acting President, and Christopher Capuano, University Provost, smile and wave along with the FDU-Vancouver Class of 2012. Graduates from both of Fairleigh Dickinson University's campuses in New Jersey will join the Vancouver students as alumni on May 15.

By Kenna Caprio

Come Tuesday, May 15, the IZOD Center will be awash in caps and gowns and pomp and circumstance.

Approximately 2,600 students will receive doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees at the 69th Commencement ceremony of Fairleigh Dickinson University, held in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Class of 2012 represents 50 countries including the United States, 26 states plus the District of Columbia and all 21 counties in New Jersey.

Among those students clad in black caps and gowns will be Keith Griffiths, Mikhael Precel, Noelle Jansen, Michael Mento and Kenzi Locks. From heading to graduate school to jumping into the job market, these four students embody the promise of an education at FDU.

A big summer awaits Keith Griffiths, 21, of Teaneck, on the golf course. Make that miniature golf course.

A member of Figment, a nonprofit that supports emerging artists, Griffiths is at work on an art installation called “Hit the Clown.” The work will be displayed at the 2012 FIGMENT Minigolf Course on Governor’s Island in New York. “It’s a mini-golf version of a whack-a-clown boardwalk game,” he says. The fine arts major estimates the installation measures 13 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall.

This is Griffiths’ second year in the exhibit and earlier this year his work was also part of a Figment benefit honoring the 25th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s death. Artists could submit paintings, drawings, sculptures and furniture to be auctioned off as a fundraiser. Griffiths entered a sculpture called “Waiting for Bacon” and his art was selected as an auction item. “It’s a gold table with gold manikin arms and checkerboard pattern on top,” he says. The sculpture also made an appearance at Griffiths’ senior art show on the Metropolitan Campus in February.

As he prepares for the mini golf exhibit, Griffiths is also figuring out his next educational move, as he looks towards applying to the fine arts and marketing masters programs at FDU. He also recently revamped his website,

Entrepreneurial studies major Mikhael Precel, 26, of Jerusalem fought in the Israeli Defense Force before attending college.

The son of an American and an Israeli, Precel says that fighting in the Israeli army is very different than fighting in the American armed forces.

“I lost friends in different attacks in Israel and wanted to do what I could to protect my friends and family,” says Precel. “The furthest I’d ever go was like six hours away from my house, it was (like) protecting my backyard.”

He went further than his backyard for college in 2008 — to FDU's Metropolitan Campus. Precel started in Petrocelli College, eventually transferring to Silberman College. With the help of Dr. Denise Hart, director of adult education in Continuing Education, Precel was able to receive some credits for his military experience.

“Being a veteran taught me a lot of discipline to get through school,” says Precel, who also benefited from the Regional Center for College Students with Learning Disabilities at FDU.

The graduating senior also worked part-time at Vidyo in Hackensack, a company that provides high definition video conferencing, to pay for college. Post-graduation, Precel has accepted a full-time position with the company “dealing with hardware,” he says.

Before going back to school, management major Noelle Jansen, 32, of Jersey City, researched colleges for two years. After attending an open house, she decided on FDU because of the promise of a global education and a flexible schedule.

Though she enrolled at the College at Florham, Jansen made use of the opportunity to take classes on both campuses and took advantage of summer and winter sessions.

“I liked the ability to have whatever was convenient for my schedule,” she says of her classes at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “It was something that most places don’t offer.”

Jansen opted to go back to school full time to help advance her career. She says her management degree from FDU and concentration in global business management will help her do just that.

“In my industry, being globally aware, it’s essential,” says the AboveNet Communications employee. AboveNet “deals with fiber optic networks and provides bandwidth to financial services, hospitals and government agencies,” she says.

Beyond the classroom, Jansen worked as a Rotaract club charter member at the College at Florham, joined the new professional development program club headed by professors Kent Fairfield and Kenneth Betz, and helped coordinate the annual Hackensack River cleanup for Earth Day.

Even now, as her time as an FDU student comes to an end, Jansen is going at full speed. “I have a countdown (to commencement) on my personal Facebook page,” she says with glee.

During a tour of the College at Florham, Michael Mento, 21, of West Berlin told his mother “this is where I need to be,” he says. “To be honest, I didn’t visit any other school.”

Turns out that though he was set on the school, he wasn’t set on a degree. The management major started out as a biology major — “I had a crazy dream that I was going to be a doctor,” he says. But he quickly realized that his people skills and business ideas better suited him for a management career. “I’m always thinking money,” Mento says.

After securing an internship with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, through the help of the Career Development Center, Mento put business theory into practice, learning about sales.

The former Alpha Kappa Lambda and Student Government Association president recently accepted a position at AT&T in the company’s Retail Leadership Development Program. He leaves for Atlanta in mid-July to train for six months before becoming a store manager.

Graduating senior Kenzi Locks, 21, of Smithtown, New York has been busy getting tanked at FDU.

After receiving an email about the senior class gift, the psychology major decided to get involved in the process, becoming one of two Student Government Association Senior Senators responsible for the gift. Together with her counterpart, Locks brainstormed the idea of buying a fish tank to bring to the College at Florham. That thought turned into one of the most talked about class gifts in recent history: a custom aquarium built by the stars of the Animal Planet reality show “Tanked.”   

So far, the students have raised just over $8,000 to put towards the tank through T-shirt sales, graduation celebrations in the Bottle Hill Pub, a beer tasting in Lenfell Hall and an Applebee’s breakfast with FDU student servers.

Now, as classes end and finals wind down, the Columbia University-bound Locks looks forward to seeing the installed tank at homecoming weekend in the fall.

“FDU promotes figuring things out for yourself,” says Locks. “I’m a sociology and criminology minor and a lot of that is understanding how you feel about what’s going on in the world and how people are affected.”

That theme of global understanding will likely manifest during the commencement ceremony, as the Class of 2012 begins its foray into the post-college world.

During the ceremony, the University will confer honorary doctor of humane letters degrees on Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times; The Hon. Cory Booker, mayor of Newark; and Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf, FDU alum and real estate developer, attorney and owner of the Minnesota Vikings. Mayor Booker will also serve as the Commencement Speaker.

Campus provosts will present the Student Pinnacle Awards to this year’s winners: Morrine Omolo of Kikuyu, Kenya (Metropolitan Campus), Jessica Dingman of Roxbury, N.J. (College at Florham) and Juliana Fiorentino of Belo Horizonte, Brazil (FDU-Vancouver). 

The Commencement ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and will be broadcast live on the Web, allowing family and friends around the world to share the ceremony with the graduates. The live stream starts at 8 a.m. EDT with Grad Greetings, followed by the full commencement ceremony. A link on the FDU home page will take users directly to the live steam.

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

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Kenna Caprio,
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Helen Grill,
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FDU Office of Public Relations

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Scott Giglio,
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Daniel Landau,
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