Alexis Jarufe is a freshman nursing student.
Caldwell, N.J., March 3, 2021 – Caldwell University recognized 101 outstanding freshmen for earning a 3.8 or higher grade-point average during their first semester.
Caldwell President Matthew Whelan congratulated the students at the virtual ceremony March 1, saying their achievements are remarkable, especially given the challenges of the pandemic environment. He said the students had shown “grit,” which is the ability to manage through obstacles. “Your grit will carry you far not just at Caldwell University, but it will carry you far beyond Caldwell.”
Dr. Whelan told the freshmen, “Life is not about an easy downhill ride; life is more about an uphill climb with cliffs and crags and stormy weather in your way, but the important thing, as you have shown, is to just keep moving.” Life is not just about learning in college or earning a degree, he said. “It is not just about the mastery; it is about the failures.
“Failures are the building block for the next great idea.” – Caldwell University President Matthew Whelan
“It is how you deal with that failure that will identify you and define you, so always remember it is not just what you learn and master, it is what you learn from your failures. Failures are the building block for the next great idea.”
Dr. Whelan encouraged the students to stretch their intellectual horizons—taking a course that may not be required for a degree—“so you can begin to think differently about how to approach problems.”
Alexis Jarufe, a nursing major who carried 17 credits and received a 4.0 her first semester, was honored to be recognized. She feels “blessed and grateful” to have been accepted into “a competitive, great program” with academic advisors and professors who are compassionate and “go the extra mile” for their students.
Benjamin Fernandez, an art and secondary education major, was also thrilled to be honored. He is focused on getting the most he can out of his university experience. “I’ve grown intellectually and artistically through my engaging classes, as well as the Honors program; and the variety of social activities have enabled me to pursue new interests while meeting new people.”
Dr. Ellina Chernobilsky, acting vice president for academic affairs, congratulated the students on their perseverance, hard work and determination to succeed despite difficulties they faced. “This is just the very first step towards your degree. There are many more steps to go.” Just as important as striving for a goal, said Chernobilsky, is the understanding that learning is a journey and a process. She encouraged the students to remain focused. “Enjoy yourself while on the journey.”
“You are in this together. So push one another to that finish line.” -Samantha Guerra, Caldwell University Student Government President
Samantha Guerra, president of the Student Government Association and a nursing student, acknowledged the challenges for this class of freshmen in finishing their high school studies last year online and then starting university studies during a pandemic. “Our time here at Caldwell teaches us more than we must learn to just get a degree. We learn to be strong-willed, compassionate individuals and advocate for the rest of the world.” She urged the students to use the resources Caldwell offers, like tutoring and office hours with professors, to form connections and continue to grow in their academics. “Connect with your fellow students. You are in this together. So push one another to that finish line.”
She recalled her freshman academic recognition ceremony and realizing that day that she wanted to push herself academically because “not only do I want to be the best nursing student I can be, I one day want to be an amazing nurse.”
Jhoanna Marquez, assistant director for advisement, organized and ran the ceremony. Agnes Berki, Ph.D., and Darryl Aucoin, Ph.D., of the School of Natural Sciences, explained the opportunities and support available for research at the university including the annual Research and Creative Arts Day. Dr. Tara Harney-Mahajan, assistant professor of English and co-director of the honors program, described the benefits of the program and urged the freshmen to consider applying. Rosa Mirna Sánchez, Ph.D., O.P.A., associate professor of Spanish language, literature and culture, described the study-abroad programs at Caldwell including one she hosts each summer in Spain where students spend a month learning about culture and history and living with host families. She encouraged students to look into study-abroad after the pandemic eases and travel opens up.
For the freshmen, the recognition ceremony was a wonderful boost for their spirits especially during a pandemic. “Based on my wonderful experience so far, I’m excited to see where my future opportunities and endeavors will take me,” said Fernandez.