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Recycled commencement academic attire featured in news outlets

News outlets including NJTVNews, News 12 New Jersey and NJ. Com reported on Caldwell University’s 100 percent recycled caps, gowns and tassels worn by undergraduate and graduate students at the May 21 ceremonies.  Sister Kathleen Tuite, vice president of student life explained that the fabric in the attire was spun from molten plastic pellets that come from plastic bottles. “With each gown taking about 23 bottles to make, and more than 300 graduates (present at both ceremonies), that’s 7000 bottles that have been used for this purpose,” she said.   “This sustainable switch is a tangible reflection of Caldwell University’s mission and vision that states ‘our graduates will respect the sacredness of creation.’ Making this choice to utilize these new green gowns fall right in line with the respect and reverence of creation.”

Following both ceremonies, there were collection bins in the bookstore and outside the CARES Center for students who chose to upcycle their gowns.

To watch the NJTVNews coverage go in 5:35 on this link.

NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams

For News 12 New Jersey go to:


To see NJ.Com’s story go to:


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Koumudi Thirunagaru – The dream of attending medical school becomes a reality

Koumudi Thirunagaru started thinking about becoming a doctor at a young age. She volunteered at Stanford Children’s Hospital near her home in San Ramon, California, and she took AP biology at Homestead High School and found the subject constantly stimulating.

Caldwell has been her home away from home. She began college at Caldwell as a biology major. “I became involved in everything that had to do with the medical field my first year including being an officer for the Health Professions Club.” The idea of pursuing a career in medicine “turned from a fantasized” dream to a realistic goal.” During the summer between her freshman and sophomore years, she went on a medical mission to Nicaragua, an eye-opening experience that spurred her to pursue a minor in Spanish.

Thirunagaru will be taking a step closer to her goal of becoming a doctor when she begins her studies at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., in the fall. The faculty at Caldwell have helped her in the process. “I received a lot of guidance from Dr. William Velhagen. The professors are easily approachable. They are not just teachers but also mentors—inside and outside the classroom.”

She received her bachelor’s in biology with minors in chemistry and Spanish at graduation on May 21. She excelled during her undergraduate years, receiving departmental honors in the Department of Natural and Physical Sciences and being involved in a number of activities including holding leadership positions in the Health Professions Club, playing tennis all four years, tutoring in the Academic Success Center and working as a scribe at a hospital in Newark. She appreciated being given opportunities for community service ranging from planning the annual Halloween-for-hunger drive to attending Midnight Runs for the homeless in New York City and volunteering at the annual Caldwell Day.

Thirunagaru finished her coursework last December and taught grammar school children math and English at an after-school center and privately tutored in art. Her artwork appeared in this year’s edition of Calyx, a Caldwell student journal of literature and art. Caldwell has been her home away from home, especially since her family lives on the West Coast. The university’s cohesiveness makes it special for her. “It’s a circle, a family.” Thirunagaru advises incoming students to get involved quickly. “Students make the school. Take advantage of what you have, and never lose sight of your dreams, regardless of the daily battles.”

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Caldwell University celebrates 75th annual commencement with largest number of graduates ever



Caldwell, N.J., May 21, 2017– Caldwell University held its 75th annual commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21 with 482 graduates, the largest in the institution’s history.

The undergraduate commencement speaker was Shyam Sharma, president of the Student Government Association.   Sharma, of Lodi, New Jersey reminded the students  of Caldwell’s core values of  respect, integrity, community, excellence and the responsibility they have in upholding those values, “going forward: embrace the diversity of everyone you meet, and take care to notice what makes them special.” Sharma received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with minors in marketing, pre-law and political science.

Matthew J. Block, director of human resources for the Summit public schools, was the commencement speaker for the graduate ceremony.  He received his Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership. He pointed out that in a time of blurred lines, fake news, and alternative facts, it is important to analyze data, conduct deep research, and use the lessons learned in graduate school to change the world for the better.  “Through our experiences here at Caldwell University each of us has been given a metaphorical mirror with which to reflect light into dark places.  We have been given the tools to be a positive force where there is negativity, and to provide clarity where there is ambiguity.”

President Nancy Blattner said the day is one of great joy and pride for all of the parents, family members and friends who have supported the students over the years.  “And it is a day of celebration for the faculty, staff and administration of Caldwell as we send forth our 75th class of graduates to make a positive impact upon our world.”

The university presented an honorary degree to Olive Woodye, an outstanding educator from Belize, a country where Caldwell University students, faculty and staff have served on volunteer mission trips. Woodye was honored for her service to children, education and her community. She was the first principal of St. Benedict Primary School, a model Roman Catholic school in Punta Gorda in the Toledo district of Belize. Miss Olive said she accepted the honorary degree with gratitude and pride. “This degree is very significant and special to me. I accept it in the name of all the children I taught during the 44 years of my teaching career, and of course, the class of 2017 without whom this would not have been possible.”

Undergraduate and graduate students wore academic attire made from 100 percent-recycled plastic bottles. The company the university chose, Greenweaver, reports that an average of 23 plastic bottles are used to produce each cap and gown.

Dr. Blattner  presented doctoral students with their Ph.D.’s and Ed.D.’s, graduate students with their Master of Arts, Master of Business Administration or Master of Science degrees and undergraduates with their Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees.

The first two graduates from the educational leadership doctoral program received their degrees. They were Block and Lauren Banker, an elementary school principal with the Summit public schools.

The 50th reunion class participated in the undergraduate ceremony.

Stephen Maret, Ph.D., professor of psychology and counseling was the grand marshall for the undergraduate ceremony.

John R. McIntyre, Ed.D., professor emeritus, Education Division, was the grand marshall for the graduate ceremony.

About Caldwell University

Caldwell University is a private, Catholic coed four-year university with a strong liberal arts core curriculum that enhances critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Caldwell offers 30 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs, including doctoral, master’s, certificate and certification programs, as well as online and distance learning options that prepare students for today’s global marketplace. The university has 15 NCAA Division II athletic teams and numerous clubs, fraternities, sororities, and activities. It is located on a beautiful 70-acre campus in suburban Caldwell, New Jersey. Caldwell was founded by the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell. Its core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence influence academic and campus life. For more information about Caldwell University, visit www.caldwell.edu.

Follow the university on Twitter @CaldwellUniv, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/caldwelluniversity, and  on Instagram at www.instagram.com/caldwelluniversity

To see NJ.Com’s story and photos go to:


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Amy Hickman Receives Trustee Recognition Award

Amy Hickman has enjoyed showing new students the ropes. “I liked helping future generations of Caldwell students,” says Hickman who received her bachelor’s in biology on May 21.  In her four years at Caldwell, she has had the opportunity to interact with many students—as a member of the women’s softball team, a resident assistant, a student worker in the Admissions Office and an orientation leader.

She has taken advantage of opportunities Caldwell has presented, going through the RCIA process to receive the sacrament of confirmation, serving in an impoverished village in Belize— “opened my eyes up tremendously; the people I went with are good friends ”—and making a Midnight Run to serve the homeless in New York City.    She is a two-time All-CACC Player and was an Academic All-District selection as a junior. In her sophomore and senior years, Caldwell won the CACC Championship.  She collected her 200th hit of her career during her senior year.

Hickman’s contributions have been noticed—so much so that at the honors convocation she received the Board of Trustee Recognition Award, a prestigious award given to a member of the senior class who has developed his or her giftedness while a student and has shared those gifts generously and who shows potential to communicate Caldwell’s mission and core values to others.

The Jackson, New Jersey, native is planning to go to graduate school to study to be a physical therapist. “I always knew I had a passion for helping people. People are always attracted to me for help with their injuries.” She says this is “a gift, a sign,” that physical therapy is the direction to take.

She has formed strong relationships with the professional staff and faculty at Caldwell—including science professors Dr. Agnes Berki and Dr. Angela Scimone, her softball coach Dean Johnson, Tim Kessler-Cleary, Meghan Moran and the admissions staff—and is grateful to them. “I love learning from professionals. They have helped me form who I am.”

In return she has made a point of sharing that goodness. “I like to make an imprint on other people. I feel like that was my main goal here.”

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Oral History SisterStory Project Highlights Caldwell Dominicans


Caldwell University held a celebration of its SisterStory project on May 10. For the second year in a row, Caldwell took part in the national oral history project, an initiative of National Catholic Sisters Week and St. Catherine’s University. Sponsored by the Hilton Foundation, the project aims to broaden the awareness of Catholic Sisters and the contributions they have made to American life.

The students were paired up with the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, the founding order of the university.  They met with the Sisters, interviewed them and produced blogs, videos and powerpoint presentations.  The videos and transcriptions will become part of a national archive being created by the project.

The Sisters and students were paired as follows:

Sr. Mary Joseph Bircsak/Michelle Eng

Sr. Joan Doyle/ Kathryn Reilly

Sr. Mary John Kearney/ Christina Campos

Sr. Catherine Gerard Kirchner/ Sarah Torres

Sr. Pat Mahoney/ Juan Garcia

Sr. Honora Werner/ Sean Puzzo

Sr. Lois Kikkert/ Jonathan Diaz

The project provided students with a chance to learn about women religious and about the founding order of Caldwell University.  Biology student Michelle Eng wrote how she was fortunate enough to be paired up with Sister Mary Joseph Bircsak, O.P. “When we first met, she had a warm and genuine atmosphere. At the same time, she was very put together and smart. I thought it would be fitting if we were paired together because we were both biology majors. I would learn so much from her. Lucky for me, this became a reality.”

Christina Campos, a junior, was happy to be teamed up with Sister Mary John Kearney, O.P. “In the little time that we have known one another so far she has shown much character and warmth in her personality that I look forward to building and furthering our newfound friendship.”

History Professor Marie Mullaney, Ph.D. supervised the academic portion of the oral history project.  Communication and Media Studies Professor Rachel Carey taught the students technical skills to produce the videos and Campus Ministry staff member Abby Cimorelli managed the logistics.

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ABA doctoral students accept faculty position and post-doctoral fellowship

Antonia Giannakakos is pictured here participating in the Caldwell University Research and Creative Arts Day.

Caldwell, N. J., May 12,  2017 – Two students in Caldwell University’s doctoral program in applied behavior analysis prepare to take the next step in their career in the fall 2017.

Antonia Giannakakos, M.A., BCBA, a student in the Applied Behavior Analysis Ph.D. program at Caldwell University was offered and accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Montreal. Giannakakos will serve as a fellow in the Laboratory of Applied Behavioural Research under the supervision of Marc Lanovaz, Ph.D. Ms. Giannakakos will begin her fellowship in October 2017.

Lauren Schnell is pictured here participating in the Caldwell University Research and Creative Arts Day.


Lauren Schnell, M.A., BCBA was offered and accepted a tenure-track faculty position in the Department of Special Education at Hunter College in New York, NY. Mrs. Schnell will assume her role as an assistant professor in the applied behavior analysis program at Hunter beginning in the fall 2017.

Giannakakos and Schnell are completing their dissertation requirements under the mentorship of Dr. Jason Vladescu, Ph.D., BCBA-D, NCSP, associate professor in the Caldwell University Department of Applied Behavior Analysis.

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Campus Ministry holds Rite of Christian Initiation prayer service and blessing


Caldwell, N.J., May 11, 2017–The university’s Campus Ministry office held a prayer service and blessing May 2 for the students who received their sacraments during the Easter season after they had prepared through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.

Karla Ventura and Allison Eglow were initiated in the Catholic Church, receiving Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation.  Brooke McPherson came into full communion in the Church, receiving her confirmation.

Ventura and McPherson were instructed this academic year by Theology professor Christopher Cimorelli, Ph.D., who coordinated the university’s RCIA program.  Dr. Cimorelli said that he was happy to be able to walk with the students in their journey, “fostering an engagement with the truths of the Catholic faith, as they grew in their own faith and personal relationship with God and the Church.”

Ventura was inspired to pursue initiation two years ago after the Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund program, Andrei St. Felix, told her about the program on campus. “I thought it was the perfect time in my life to start my journey for initiation.” Ventura is grateful for “the privilege” of having been able to work with Caldwell’s former Chaplain, Father Al Berner, and Dr. Cimorelli at the start of this wonderful journey in her life.

McPherson decided to pursue the RCIA program after hearing about it through a freshman retreat early on in the school year. “I had always toyed with the idea of returning to the Church to receive Confirmation, but it wasn’t until I came to Caldwell that I finally had the guidance and support I needed to go through with it.” The RCIA program was an enlightening and positive experience for her. “I am so blessed that I was given the opportunity to grow in my faith and relationship with God under the guidance of such a welcoming program.”

Eglow went through the RCIA process at Saint Philomena’s in Livingston with the guidance of Father Francisco Cordeiro Mendonca.  “When I first walked into the church November of 2015, I knew that becoming Catholic was definitely what I wanted. Having my sponsor, my godparents, and of course my mother with me through this journey has been amazing,” said Eglow.  She is grateful to Father Francisco from St. Phil’s and all the members of her RCIA class.

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Mission Trip to Belize Highlighted on Life & Living with Joanna Gagis

Caldwell University alumna Emma Clarke and senior Sean Puzzo are guests on Life & Living with Joanna Gagis. They shared their experiences on Caldwell’s mission trips during winter breaks to an impoverished village in Belize. Puzzo explained how their volunteer labor has varied each year from building dividers for classrooms, to helping to build a church and more recently, painting the outside walls of a school. Clarke spoke about how the trip inspired her and broadened her horizons. They shared how the excursions allowed them to learn about different cultures and how they left Belize with a broader understanding of community and what it means to be a part of the human family.

The program is scheduled to air on NJTV on:
Saturday, June 3, 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 4, 11 a.m.

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Softball Secures #3 Seed in NCAA Division II Championship; Faces #6 Merrimack on Thursday at Molloy College

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Caldwell University softball team earned the #3 seed in the NCAA Division II Championship and will be part of the East Region 2 hosted by Molloy College. The Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Champions secured the conference’s automatic bid and will take on #6 Merrimack College in the opening round on Thursday, May 11 at 2:30 pm. The Cougars enter the tournament at 44-13 overall and will be making their tenth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Caldwell takes on the #6 seed Merrimack College in their opening game on Thursday at 2:30 pm. Host and #2 seed Molloy faces #7 seed NYIT at noon. The winners will advance in the winner’s bracket to Friday’s game at 11 am. The teams that lose on Thursday will play an elimination game on Friday at 1:30 pm. The full schedule with times is listed below.

The Cougars enter the NCAA Division II Championship with a 44-13 mark. Caldwell won the CACC Regular Season title with a 25-1 record and won their seventh CACC Tournament Championship this past weekend. CACC Player of the Year junior Marisa Monasseri (Monroe, N.J.) leads the Cougars with a .507 batting average with 11 homeruns, 11 doubles, 65 RBI and .808 slugging percentage. First Team All-CACC senior Lauren Frye (Jupiter, Fla.) is second on the team with average at .428 with a team-best 77 hits along with 12 doubles this season.

In the other half of the region, East Region 1 will be hosted by Adelphi University and features the top seed Adelphi along with #4 University of New Haven, #5 Mercy College and #8 Wilmington University.

Here’s the complete schedule for this week’s tournament.

2017 NCAA Division II East Region Softball Tournament

East 2 Regional Schedule (Double Elimination)
Host: Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY
Thursday, May 11
Game 1: #2 Molloy vs. #7 NYIT – 12:00 pm
Game 2: #3 Caldwell vs. #6 Merrimack – 2:30 pm
Friday, May 12
Game 3: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 – 11:00 am
Game 4: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 – 1:30 pm
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 3 – 4:00 pm
Saturday, May 13
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 – 12:00 pm
Game 7: If Necessary – 2:30 pm

East 1 Regional Schedule (Double Elimination)
Host: Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Thursday, May 11
Game 1: #1 Adelphi vs. #8 Wilmington Molloy – 12:00 pm
Game 2: #4 New Haven vs. #5 Mercy – 2:30 pm
Friday, May 12
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs Winner Game 2 – 11:00 am
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 – 1:30 pm
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3 – 4:00 pm
Saturday, May 13
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 – 12:00 pm
Game 7: If Necessary – 2:30 pm