Interview with Sr Gerardine Mueller, O.P., Professor Emerita – Caldwell University Art Department
This year will be my 7th year teaching. I am currently a special education teacher at Parsippany High School and an advisor for their Key Club, a service club under Kiwanis International. I am also a member of the Dominican Young Adults Caldwell chapter & a Eucharistic Minister at my parish St. Peter the Apostle in Parsippany.
Thank you for supporting Caldwell University. What inspired your gift?
I was so blessed to have amazing teachers and incredibly supportive school communities at every level of my education who never hesitated to make sure my needs were taken care of when my family faced challenging times. Now that I am in a position to give back, I want to continue the tradition of unconditionally giving and serving that was so generously shown to me and my family. Additionally, as a first-generation college student, I am immensely grateful for my time at Caldwell and want to help ensure other young adults who may be in the same position have the resources and opportunities they need to successfully complete their degree.
Do you have a favorite or meaningful experience from your time at Caldwell? Tell us!
There are so many, it’s hard to choose! I would have to say my top two are: my senior History Outcomes class with Dr. Marie Mullaney and going on the college’s first service trip to Belize in 2013.
Welcome to Caldwell University President Matthew Whelan!
We are so happy that you are here.
We are ready to go!
“On behalf of the student government association here at Caldwell University, we would like to welcome you to our campus. We are very excited to be working with you to create a proactive, healthy, and safe environment for all the students, faculty, and staff here at Caldwell University. Looking forward to expanding both your mission for Caldwell, as well as ours for the success of our students.”
– Samantha Guerra ‘22, Major- Nursing, President, SGA, and the SGA Eboard
Congratulations, President Whelan! I look forward to seeing you in action! I can tell you right now that you made the right choice choosing to work at Caldwell University. We are all here for you as you are here for all of us.
– Paul Iwarat ‘22 – Major – Accounting, Esports overwatch captain, resident assistant.
On behalf of the EOF Program, which is embodied by students, and blessed by God with determination, perseverance, and grit, we welcome you Dr. Matthew Whelan to both the Caldwell University Family and the Caldwell EOF family. Thank you for taking the torch of light and hope that will empower Caldwell students to continue to seek the welfare and justice of their families, communities, and the whole world.
-Dennis Martin ‘21 Major – Social Studies, EOF Class Representative of 2017 Cohort
Dear Dr. Whelan, I am looking forward to seeing you around campus. It will be fantastic to get to know you. Please let me know if you need help with anything, as I would like to make your transition into our Caldwell University Community as pleasant as possible.
–Jose Perez ‘21, Major – Financial Economics and Marketing, Vice President, International Student Organization, member of the men’s track and field team.
Welcome to Caldwell, Dr. Whelan! I hope you fall in love with the community as quickly as I did during my freshman year. I can’t wait to see what you do for our community!
– Madison Perry ’21, Major – Biology, Member, Women’s Bowling Team, Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassador.
My name is Ashley Williams and I am a student in the EOF program. I just want to welcome you to Caldwell University and I hope you create some of your best memories while you are here!
-Ashley Williams ‘21 – Major-History
President Whelan, It is my honor to welcome you on behalf of the Caldwell University Football Team. I promise to deliver you a championship this year
-Colin Williams ’21 – Major – Communication and Media Studies
Welcome to Caldwell University, President Whelan! On behalf of the Staff Council, we are so excited that you are now part of our beautiful and vibrant campus community. We look forward to all you will bring to Caldwell’s present and future! – Marina C. Manning, Academic Advisor
Dear Dr. Whelan,
On behalf of the faculty of Caldwell University, I would like to welcome you to our community. Having met you during the interview process, I know firsthand your passion for our mission and your excitement about the institution’s future. I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead. – Dr. Benjamin Lammers, President of the Faculty Council
The Board and I look forward to partnering with you in your role as Caldwell University’s ninth president. I am confident that you will successfully lead our university into the future.
Best regards, Linda Luciano, EdD, MBA
Chair, Caldwell University Board of Trustees
Dear Dr. Whelan,
It is a pleasure to be able to welcome you to Caldwell University! As the Pastor of St. Aloysius Church here in Caldwell, I look forward to collaborating with you whenever possible. There has always been a wonderful relationship between the University and the Parish and I know that will continue under your leadership. Please know that I am always willing to help in any way. I wish you many blessings in your new role and promise you a special place in my prayers.
Sincerely in Christ,
Msgr. Robert Emery
Pastor, St. Aloysius Pastor, Caldwell, NJ
I’m looking forward to continued conversation and wishing you a very warm welcome to Caldwell University and our Dominican family. With all of the sisters I extend our Dominican blessing:
May God, the Creator, bless you.
May God, Redeemer, heal you.
And may God, the Holy Spirit, fill you with light.
In Dominic and Catherine,
Prioress, Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell
June 1, 2020
Dear Members of the Caldwell University Community,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. In the course of the past few painful days and months, we have witnessed the horrific and senseless killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and countless other people of color who died because of what they look like. It is a tragic reality that the sin of racism, which began over 400 years ago in the United States, remains with us today and is an insidious systemic reality in our society.
Racism is a social evil and conflicts with our university’s Catholic Dominican values. As the U.S. Catholic Bishops expressed in a statement issued on May 29, 2020: “People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option.” We painfully witnessed the indefensible death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer who swore to protect the public’s safety. We cannot in good conscience remain indifferent to the abuses that people of color endure regularly in our country.
We acknowledge the cumulative pain and trauma that these experiences bring, especially to those members of our community who time and again disproportionately bear the weight of racism. We are united in our fundamental belief that all people possess dignity and deserve respect, and we will not remain silent when any member of our family is harmed.
Together, we will draw strength to face these larger societal challenges, informed by our Catholic and Dominican mission and identity and our value of inclusiveness. We regret that the pandemic does not allow us to gather in person as a community to connect, support, pray and educate each other. However, Caldwell University stands with and offers condolences to the Taylor, Arbery, and Floyd families and the individuals and communities impacted by their deaths.
As a Caldwell family, we embrace the core value of ‘community’; I encourage you to reach out in support of our students, colleagues and neighbors of color who are, without a doubt, feeling the weight of these tragedies. Please let them know they are not alone. Please do not be silent, but speak up for what is right.
For students who may find themselves struggling over these tragedies, please know that Caldwell University’s Counseling Services is available to you. You can email a counselor at email@example.com for free and confidential assistance. Tele-counseling services are available.
Similarly, staff and faculty can receive counseling by contacting Caldwell University’s EAP, Aetna Resources for Living; information can be found on the Benefits section of the Human Resources website page.
Let us stand together as a community to repudiate the racism that ravages the dignity of human life. Let us live out the core values of Caldwell University.
Nancy Blattner, Ph.D., OPA
Lamar–Shea Chang ‘20 knows he’s equipped to make a difference in the world, and he credits the mentorship he received at Caldwell University for that conviction. Professors, staff, faculty, alumni, and health care and business leaders helped him get on “the right trajectory” to believe that the sky is the limit. He certainly did his part in taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him.
Chang received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and Biology with a minor in Chemistry on May 17, and he plans to work a year or two before pursuing a career in medicine.
Chang has been selected to deliver the Class of 2020 undergraduate commencement address at a ceremony in the fall, delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He plans to tell his classmates that graduating from Caldwell University has given them the “arsenal of tools and calibrated compasses” to impact the lives of “billions” of people for generations to come. “It is true,” he said. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Although it was difficult to have his senior year interrupted by the pandemic, after the initial shock, he realized “the world had changed, and I had, as well. New opportunities look bright as some companies begin to reevaluate their business models.” Most of all, he is grateful that his family and friends have been okay and that, as one of the very few students who has lived on campus through the pandemic, he had “a place to stay and food to eat while I finished up my studies.”
It helped to draw on what he believes at his deepest core—“that God is in control of my daily events…I quickly accept a given reality…and see the potential in every decision” while moving forward and keeping focused on his goals.
The pandemic cannot diminish his accomplishments at Caldwell like learning about and experiencing the Dominican tradition, which “is all about love,” he said.
The virus cannot detract from his impressive honors like being recognized at the Independent College Fund of New Jersey’s symposium at Liberty Science Center for his research on the growing problem of mosquitoes in many areas of the world.
A native of Portmore, Jamaica, in the Caribbean, Chang is proud that he joined other student leaders who stepped up in the fall of 2019 to spearhead the Bahamas Strong Relief Drive for those slammed by Hurricane Dorian.
He appreciates the internships and work experiences including being mentored by an executive in global drug development at Novartis and working with the Borough of Caldwell learning about municipal government while providing his input on how to create relationships between small–business owners and consumers.
As a resident life assistant in the dorms, Chang is proud to have hosted community development programs to help students form relationships. “One of my favorite things was to mentor other students,” he said.
Caldwell University, he said, gave him the “perfect gift,” a package filled with qualities to carry one through a lifetime—“a sense of pride, community, a great education, lifelong relationships and a desire to make the world a better place for those inhabit it.” And that is a gift no virus can ever touch.
Thank you to all the essential workers who are stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic. We celebrate the many brave, dedicated members of our Caldwell University community. Here are some of those champions. Special thanks and congratulations to the Class of 2020’s Communication and Media Studies graduate Anthony Escanosti for his great work on this video!
Anamika Sharma Paudel ’20 is about to join the ranks of those responding to COVID-19. She’ll be working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a care coordinator. She comes to the position armed with a passion for service to others and a resume filled with her many contributions to the Caldwell University community.
Sharma, who received her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration with a minor in Communication and Media Studies on May 17, recalls how when she arrived at Caldwell as a freshman, she wasn’t so sure of her path. In those early days, Sharma wondered who she would meet and how she would grow. In a completely new environment, the future was filled with questions. The way she describes it, she felt like she was a seed being planted. It wasn’t long before she discovered that Caldwell is a nurturing place for a seed to grow.
Soon after arriving at Caldwell, she was surrounded by kind people, wonderful professors and cool things to do. She found that those kind people were willing to welcome her into their lives beyond the campus. “I still remember sitting in a long bio lab,” Sharma says, “and a girl came up to me and asked, ‘Do you want to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family?’” That student, Stef Konboz, would become one of Sharma’s dearest friends. She represented a larger community of people at Caldwell who nurtured Sharma during her time as an undergraduate student studying healthcare administration with a minor in communication and media studies. Dr. Barbara Chesler, Caldwell’s vice president for academic affairs, celebrated Sharma’s successes with her. Grace, a member of the cafe staff, took the time to learn her name and would speak to her every day. Sister Kathleen Tuite, O.P., vice president for student life, wrote her a note of appreciation for her work. President Nancy Blattner stopped to talk to her. Blattner took the time to get to know her and connect with her as she made her way through Caldwell. These people provided Sharma the fertile ground that allowed her to flourish.
One person who made a lasting impact was Dr. Agnes Berki, an associate professor of biology in the Natural and Physical Sciences Department. Not only did Berki provide comfort while Sharma navigated a change in her major, but she also helped her secure her dream job, working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. While Sharma was an intern there, her supervisor often forgot she was not a full-time employee. Like so many other Caldwell students, she was told that her strong interpersonal skills made her look like a seasoned professional. It is no accident that so many undergraduates and graduates of the university hear something similar. Sharma credits her experiences at Caldwell with making relationship-building a natural part of her work life.
She was extremely involved with campus life, honing those strong interpersonal skills during her time at Caldwell. She worked as a resident assistant, helping students and organizing self-development programs. Serving as an orientation leader, she guided freshmen as they navigated the same challenges of adjusting to a new atmosphere that she had experienced. She also served as president of the International Student Organization. In that role, she worked with other students to organize the first Global Thanksgiving Day, celebrating the 33 countries represented on campus, an event that is now held annually. Adding to her impressive resume, Sharma served as a member of the Student Government Association, as student representative to the Board of Trustees for Academic Affairs and as a founding member of the Nepalese Student Association. The NSA hosted the consulate general of Nepal at Caldwell University on the occasion of Tihar: Festival of Lights, strengthening the relationship between the Nepalese embassy in the United States and Caldwell University. During the pandemic, the NSA has reached out to Nepalese organizations that helped approximately 80 students with groceries and medical supplies.
At the virtual honors convocation on May 7, she received departmental honors for healthcare administration. She plans to bring everything she has learned at Caldwell to her job. After an experience that has allowedher to stretch herself and grow strong, she is ready to go into the world and flourish. “I am honored to join the front lines of health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have found my purpose, and I will be fulfilling it with my heart and soul.”
- Nicole Burrell – ‘09
Pedro Liriano of Plainfield, New Jersey is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education. But he knows he is taking much more with him from his Caldwell University experience than a degree. When he looks back on his time here, he acknowledges not just his education in music but also his education in life skills.
“During my time at Caldwell University, I experienced many different lessons that helped form me into the man I am today…but the greatest lesson I took away from Caldwell was a lesson in how to be more open to meeting new people and learning how to network,” says Liriano who received the prestigious 2020 Trustee Recognition Award and Music Department honors at a virtual honors convocation May 7.
A large part of being a teacher is being open to students and communicating with them effectively. Liriano knows that his time at Caldwell has allowed him to sharpen those social skills in a way that will make him a much more effective educator. “Coming in as the only student from my high school [at Caldwell] freshman year really forced me to open up and talk to new people, which in the end I am grateful for, because now as a future music teacher I have the skills necessary to be communicative and open towards my students and parents.”
Liriano proved to be adept at opening up and sharing his talents with the Caldwell community. His participation in campus activities was far-reaching. He contributed his musical talents to a multitude of music groups: the jazz band, the marching band, the wind, clarinet, flute, and pop ensembles and the choir. He identifies the highlights of his music career as his senior recital and his time performing with Clueless, a band featured at many campus events. He is also very proud of being a part of the Theatre club in its first play performed at Caldwell in many years.
And if that were not enough, he was also a member of the cross country and track and field teams. That experience added a ton to his time at Caldwell. “I cherish the memories made with all my teammates at every practice and every race,” Liriano says.
It is always a special honor when your professors encourage you to participate with students from other colleges in your area of expertise. So it was a great credit to Liriano that his private instructor and jazz ensemble director, Music Department faculty member, Rob Middleton directed him toward the New Jersey Intercollegiate Jazz Ensemble, in which he participated for two years. Liriano also volunteered as the pianist for his grandfather’s church and worked as the music director at his own church in New Brunswick.
Not only did Liriano participate in many activities, but he also was a great role model for incoming freshmen. During his time at Caldwell, he served as a freshman orientation leader, and his excitement for the school was contagious. “I found joy in meeting new incoming freshmen and telling them all about my college experience as well as telling them how they can make the very best of their experience whether they lived on campus or commuted as I did.”
Perhaps the reason Liriano was such a strong influence on these new students was that he understands the importance of creating close bonds while attending school. When he thinks of what Caldwell has given him, he puts the lifelong friendships he has developed at the top of the list. Having been involved in so many extracurricular activities, he was able to meet a variety of people, including some who were pursuing majors other than music education.
Through his many outlets, he created strong, lasting bonds with a diverse group of fellow students. And he plans to have those relationships last for life. Liriano hopes to secure a job as a music teacher soon. Down the road, he would also love to become a high school band instructor. With the impressive resume he has built at Caldwell, his future is certainly bright. His experience is strong and his plans for the future are inspiring.
“I plan on being a teacher, role model, a leader, and a person in whom my students can put their trust and go to with any problem they have.”
- Nicole Burrell – ’09
When alumnus Patrick Koslecki’17 heard that hospitals were in desperate need of personal protective equipment he knew he had to do something. “My mother and I both know how to sew and together we made the decision that anything we could do, we would do, “said Koslecki who holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Caldwell.
The shared understanding between Koslecki and his mother has transpired into a project of sewing masks for hospitals and nonprofits. After initially making 15 masks, he posted the story to Facebook and Instagram putting out a call for materials such as elastics, heavy quilter’s fabric, and donations for shipping. Most rewarding to them has been seeing how many people from around the country have stepped up to donate.
With help from extended family, the Kosleckis have made and donated over 600 masks to those who are high risk and to hospitals, clinics, first responders, immunocompromised persons, Navy contractors and Army soldiers.
As orders continued to increase, Koslecki, who is now a graduate student in the Master of Public Administration program at The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York, and his mother were not able to keep up with the demands. “My father masterminded an “assembly line” in our house where my brother would measure our 16 x 9 squares and cut them out, pass them to my dad to be ironed and he would pass them to me to have the hems sewn in and turned inside out, where finally my mother would pleat and attach the straps.”
When the family outgrew their process, they began dropping fabrics off to an aunt and cousins who would cut and iron over 100 masks per day, letting the family focus on the sewing. “Throughout this process, cleanliness and hygiene has been our highest priority,” said Koslecki. “The fabrics are sanitized when moved from house to house, which is another step, but a necessary one.”
Hospitals they have donated to include St. Barnabas in the Bronx and in Livingston, Newark Beth Israel, University Hospital in Newark, Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NYU Langone’s Cardiac and Acute Respiratory Units and NYC Health + Hospitals/ Harlem. The masks have been sent to 18 states and New Zealand and Italy. “Most important to me are the masks that have been sent to Oyate Health Center in South Dakota, a habitually underserved community where many of the Native peoples do not have access to clean drinking water, let alone access to regular hand washing practices, and HIV clinics serving LGBTQ positive individuals. These individuals deserve to live without stigma, as well as have the security of health as a right, not a privilege,” said Koslecki.
Koslecki says he lives by a belief in the importance of servant leadership—something that he learned from his parents, his mother who is a public-school teacher and his father who is a captain in the Newark, New Jersey Fire Department—which means “never resting when things get tough, but keeping my head down, getting the work done, and encouraging others to do the same.” Koslecki does not do it for the recognition but always simply to do the right thing and help someone in need. “I was raised by public servants who instilled in me that our community and the greater good, is more important than yourself.”
Marchelle Boyd ’15 – ‘We Need to Get More Nurses to Come Out Here’
Working in a hospital COVID-19 unit, Marchelle Boyd’15 is more convinced than ever that she wants to teach the next generation of nurses. “We need to get more nurses to come out here –out into the fight,” said Boyd, a primary nurse at a small community regional hospital and a graduate student in Caldwell’s Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health program. “It is a war zone,” she said of the battle she and her colleagues take up each day to do their best for coronavirus patients and their families. The virus has limited how often she can go into patients’ rooms. Much of the leg work is done on the phone with patients and their family members. The hallways are quieter and everyone – whether a patient or a healthcare worker-is masked. Even in the last moments of life, some patients are alone. This is the raw, eye-opening reality of administering health care through this pandemic. Yet, in the midst of the fragility, Boyd sees an outpouring of support. Leadership is making the rounds more. “It feels good to feel supported and appreciated and checked on more,” she said. Employees are there for each other. “We are leaning on each other more—we are more supportive to fellow colleagues,” said Boyd, an alumna of Caldwell’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
Even though volunteers cannot come into the hospital, they are standing with the health care professionals in other ways. “I stopped having to bring my lunch,” said Boyd, because of all of the outside merchants who are donating food to the hospital. A high school student who normally volunteers at the hospital raised $2,000 for the health care workers, and someone else donated Crocs for nursing shoes.
Through the intensity of challenges, Boyd relies on the support of friends, family, and colleagues from the Middlesex Regional Black Nurses Association, of which she is chapter president. The professional nursing organization is a part of the National Black Nurses Association.
As a current graduate nursing student, Boyd is eager to share what she has seen on the front lines with future nursing students. “This outbreak is shining a light on the nursing shortage and probably upcoming nursing shortage due to this pandemic,” says Boyd citing a study from the World Health Organization stating that there is a global shortfall of 5.9 million nurses and another study from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing showing that master’s and doctoral programs in nursing are not producing enough nurse educators to meet demand. “I hope to close the gap from the lack of higher nursing educators. I want to educate and teach the next generation of nursing professionals.”
Peter Toscak: Serving in the hospital emergency room through COVID-19
Peter Toscak’s ’21 work in a hospital emergency room these days involves quite a bit of passing instruments to doctors and nurses and doing a lot of cleaning—making sure everyone is safe. As an emergency room clinical technician prior to COVID19, Toscak would assist with rapid treatments, draw blood, give flu tests and administer points of care testing like urine tests and blood sugars. Now, with the pandemic underway, his work has transitioned to making sure the nurses and doctors can facilitate proper care which translates to getting everything set in place for them. It is a “scary time”, says Toscak, a nursing student in Caldwell’s undergraduate nursing program. But it also a time where he is learning from the nurses and doctors who he watches every day. “It is a team effort…everything that took minutes, takes hours” and in particular that means the cleaning.
It is hard to see the reality of this virus. Toscak wears full personal protective equipment that he brings home to clean with specific instructions including how to use bleach.
He began working in the emergency room in 2017 and discovered right away that he wanted to pursue nursing studies. “I saw the true impact nurses were having on patients day-to-day.” Upon graduation, he wants to continue working in an emergency room, then move on to an intensive care unit and then military nursing perhaps in a flight mobile intensive nursing unit.
With Caldwell University classes now being taught remotely. Toscak appreciates how the nursing professors transitioned so quickly and that they are willing “to change up things so everyone learns at their best.” He sees clearly how the coronavirus will make future nurses face their careers with even more fortitude and professionalism. “Nursing students need to be extremely diligent and prepared to enter the workforce.”
Danielle Schiavone’19 – Grateful for the mentoring from senior nursing staff during COVID-19
Danielle Schiavone ’19 was thrilled to obtain her dream job of working with children in a pediatric intensive care unit right out of the nursing program at Caldwell University.
She cares for kids with different illnesses, the most common of which were respiratory viruses, neurologic conditions, trauma, and cancer. “Some are very sick, on ventilators and receiving life-saving medications, and others are on the mend but not well enough yet to go to an acute care unit,” explained Schiavone. To her, it has been an honor to meet the brave children and their parents. “Kids are resilient and their caregivers are courageous.”
Her days are different now; instead of working exclusively with a population of sick children and young people up to the age of 21, she is seeing adults who have COVID-19. As tough as it is, she is grateful to have the mentoring and support of senior nursing staff at the large research and teaching hospital. They are constantly checking in with her — “taking time to explain it all to me and making sure I feel comfortable,” said Schiavone. In her Caldwell nursing classes she was warned of some senior nurses who can push around the less experienced. “It could not be farther from that—we are all very close,” said Schiavone of her current experiences. She is appreciative of her more experienced colleagues as she learns from them and they work together in administering critical nursing health care in these trying times. She is also thankful that they are wearing hospital-supplied scrubs. “We can return them at the end of our shift and do not have to wear the same uniform home that we wore to care for COVID patients.”