Reflections from the Class of 2015

Gretchen Von Koenig is the senior class president, graduating with a double-degree in industrial design and technical theater.

Gretchen Von Koenig can barely contain her enthusiasm.

“I’m really, really excited,” says the soon-to-be college graduate. “Super, super stoked.”

On May 19, she will take the stage to address her peers as the senior class president and sole student speaker at Newark’s Prudential Center, where NJIT will conduct its commencement exercises and confer nearly 2,700 doctoral, master's and bachelor's degrees on members of the Class of 2015.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility to amp up the crowd,” she insists. “I’m going to be the hype master. I want to be like, ‘Yo, we did it! We’re done! Revel in this moment!’”

A lover of the arts—Von Koenig is graduating with a double-degree (B.S. in industrial design and B.A. in technical theater)—she plans to deliver a speech that will feature snippets of songs from both Frank Sinatra and Jay Z. “Two great lyricists of our time,” she states. “I’m very honored to speak at graduation. I was a speaker at my high school’s graduation. I’m using this as an opportunity to reach out to everyone in my class. I want to unite us.”

The Akron, Ohio native has racked up a slew of treasured memories during her five years as a Highlander, but there’s one that distinctly stands out.

“I was on the women’s volleyball team for four years. My sophomore year, we beat Hofstra, which was ranked 25th in the nation,” she recalls. “I remember the feeling after that. We felt so accomplished. It was a team effort. It was really an amazing moment.”

On May 20, after the applause stops and the confetti falls, Von Koenig will cross the Hudson River to work at the American Design Club in Brooklyn and as a tour guide in Central Park for the summer. And in the fall, she’s off to graduate school to study history of design and curatorial studies, a program offered jointly with Parsons The New School for Design and the Smithsonian Design Museum.

“I’ll actually be attending a Smithsonian Institution,” she says, still in awe. “I’m so excited about that. I tell people all the time: Utilize your time here. NJIT is not the easiest school to get into. It has a great reputation and can serve as springboard to get you into a lot of other places, especially something as applicable as grad school.”

Coming from NJIT gave Von Koenig a competitive edge when applying to Ivy League graduate schools and earned her a 35 percent merit scholarship from the Smithsonian.

“This school has enabled me to do so much,” she continues. “Being so involved at NJIT has really enriched me as a person. I’m so grateful.”

Meet the 2015 Gonfalon Carriers:

Waydon Destin

Major: Science, Technology and Society

Hometown: Manchester

Next up: will begin work as an IT analyst for Cisco Systems

“I took on so much here, from serving in the student Senate, to interning at S&P Ratings, to being an RA, to completing my senior research thesis. I discovered I performed best that way. You find out who you are in the face of this intensity – diamonds are produced by pressure. And in the end, I’m way more than my major. Put me in any situation and I will be comfortable. I will find a way to succeed.”

Jasmine Faldu

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Hometown: Barnegat

Next up: enrolling at Penn Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

“When people told me in high school that college would be the best four years of my life, I didn't believe them. It seemed so challenging. Now, I get it. I've not only earned a degree, I've learned life lessons and captured timeless memories – in class, in adventures from dorming on campus, and from my exciting community service project in India – with people I now call my family. Yes, I’m sad to leave NJIT, but it’s prepared me for that next chapter.”

Paula McCarter

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Newark, Del.

Next up: will begin work as a process engineer for W.L. Gore

 “When I was choosing between colleges, I spent a night on campus with the Women’s Center and that was it, decision made.  NJIT felt like such a community and I loved that. I feel this place has taken me from being just a student to so much more. I've learned to lead, to communicate, and, of course, to do all kinds of engineering. And with everyone’s support from day one, I was encouraged to just ‘go for it.’ ”

Rogerio Oliveira Henriques

Major: MBA from the School of Management

Hometown: Fafe, Portugal

Next up: will be a project manager for S&A Technologies

“I’m a biomedical engineer, so my program’s strong focus on technology has been really valuable. Future leaders must have a deep knowledge of technology and the tools it provides to make decisions in this complex, fast-moving business environment. The ability to work with companies at NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center and apply what I’m learning has also been amazing. These are like living case studies.”

Timothy Boyle

Major: Computer Science

Hometown: Woodbridge Township

Next up: will earn a master’s degree in computer science at NJIT

“I’ve been doing research with professor Marvin Nakayama since early 2014, analyzing systems with the capacity to fail in a cascading, exponential manner. We calculate the average time to failure and the approximate amount of time the system is unavailable as a result. I plan to continue as a graduate student. What I enjoy most about tackling these problems is finding just the right way to get the computer to do exactly what you want it to do."

Kevin McIlmail

Major: Architecture

Hometown: Moorestown

Next up: will be a high school math teacher for Teach for America in Philadelphia while earning a master’s in education at the University of Pennsylvania

“The highlight of my NJIT experience was my 2013 ‘Rebuild by Design’ studio with Georgeen Theodore following Hurricane Sandy. Merely talking only gets you so far after a tragedy. Instead, I was surrounded by people intent on making change. Focused on Long Beach Island – where my family has a beach house – we looked at large questions such as where, how and even if rebuilding should take place. As a design thinker, it shifted my perspective from individual buildings to societal practices.”

Vatsal Shah

Major: Civil engineering B.S. ’08, M.S. ’09, Ph.D. ’14,

Hometown: Green Brook

Next up: currently works for Hatch Mott MacDonald

“The NJIT campus is at the epicenter of the booming growth around the Northeast corridor and our faculty, students, and alumni are at the heart of it all. Because the university encourages practice along with theory, many of us attend classes, work in industry and make connections – all in parallel- before we even graduate. This often is the differentiator between getting a good job and having a successful career. I’ve found alumni who were first friends, become colleagues and clients. I’m constantly running in to people, saying, ‘Hey, didn’t we have class together?’”

By Shydale James (sjames@njit.edu) and Tracey Regan (tracey.l.regan@njit.edu)

To learn about more about the outstanding graduates of the Class of 2015, click here: http://youtu.be/cY4mo0HvBHc and here: https://youtu.be/TuGvEno_4Sg.