Great Graduate Stories
Congratulations, Caldwell class of 2021. Celebrating some of CU’s many great graduates!
Marchelle Boyd: Living out Caldwell’s core values in nursing
Degree: Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health
For Marchelle Boyd, walking across the stage to receive her Master of Science in Nursing in Population Health from Caldwell University on May 23 completed a whirlwind year of new experiences. A year before, as a primary care nurse at RWJ Somerset, she had been on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients during the lockdown—often connecting them with family members since visitations were prohibited. To keep her family safe from the virus, she stayed in a hotel room that the hospital provided for 200 days. The experience of serving during the pandemic convinced her that she wanted to teach the next generation of nurses to “close the gap of the lack of higher nursing educators.”
When fall semester 2020 came, Boyd, an alumna of Caldwell’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, continued with her graduate studies while taking on the roles of the first graduate research assistant and first nursing tutor in the School of Nursing and Public Health.
Her next new experience will be as health equity nurse manager for the Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health System’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She is excited about the challenge and wants to “hopefully make an impact and equitable change for the lives of others.” The East Brunswick resident has already had leadership roles such as serving as president of the Middlesex Regional Black Nurses Association. Her goals include earning a doctorate in nursing practice, purchasing a home and traveling “now that the country is opening up.”
Boyd is grateful for Caldwell’s core values—respect, integrity, community and excellence—which have underpinned her bachelor’s and master’s academic experiences, “values that I try to embrace daily … words that continue to help me develop into the person I am becoming.” Caldwell will always have a special place in her heart. “Some of my fondest memories of my young adulthood have been at Caldwell or with the people I have met from Caldwell … I have 10 years of friendships from this institution.”
As she looks back over the last year, Boyd can see silver linings. “I think the main lessons are to never give up on your dreams or desires, spend time with your loved ones, lean on your circle and it’s okay not to be okay. This was a very stressful time for people, especially if they experienced a loss from COVID-19.” She says it is important to remember to “Live the life of your dreams according to your vision, purpose, goals and values.”
Vincent Crisafi ’21: Graduate treasures Caldwell’s diverse, welcoming atmosphere
Degree: B.A. in Criminal Justice
Residence: Bloomfield, New Jersey
Hometown: Clark, New Jersey
What has Caldwell given you?
Caldwell has given me many things. It has helped me learn adaptability within the world. It has given me a fantastic education. It has given me lasting relationships with friends, coaches and professors. It has given me a different perspective on the lifestyles of different people throughout the university and has molded me into a better man.
Highlights of your time at Caldwell?
Some highlights are playing for the sprint football team, going to certain athletic events, becoming more in touch with my faith, making the dean’s list multiple times and learning what I want to do with my life.
Where are you headed? What are the next steps in life’s journey?
After I graduate, I am going to Rutgers University-New Brunswick to pursue a master’s degree in communications and information with a focus in public relations. Hopefully, I will also partake in an internship with the Rutgers football team and eventually make my way into coaching collegiate football.
What makes Caldwell U a special place?
Caldwell is special because it is a diverse place that gives you different views of life and helps you gain lasting friendships with great people. The small community has proven to be impactful in that it creates a family environment. Everyone from my freshman year to now has been so helpful and kind to me, and it is one of the most welcoming places. The university also has fantastic, caring staff and administrators who greet you with a smile and are always willing to help you no matter what. The university welcomes everyone and makes you feel at home no matter your background.
What were the main activities in which you were involved?
Member of the sprint football team, vice president and president of the Criminal Justice Club, field internship with Dr. (Lena) Campagna, worked partially for Admissions and the Athletic Department.
Any life lessons you feel you have learned during this pandemic?
Yes. I have learned to appreciate everyone and everything that is positive within my life. In a moment’s notice, everything can be taken from you, and with that you should cherish the bright spots in your life. It also taught me how to adapt to adversity. The pandemic provided adversity for everyone, and it has really taught me how to plan and maneuver around blocks in the road.
If you could do it all over again, would you still come to Caldwell?
Without a doubt. I have no regrets about coming to Caldwell and have only had a positive experience. Caldwell is a second home for me and will always have a special place in my heart.
Best of luck to all my fellow graduates and all of the underclassmen on their journey toward graduating and in the rest of their lives! God bless.
Nathan Dikwa-Nkrumah ‘21: Caldwell – A place to turn friends into family
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Sports Management
Hometown: Logan, Utah
What has Caldwell given you?
The school has given me the opportunity to turn friends into family. I am really appreciative of the welcoming staff and faculty. I want to give a very big shoutout to my football coaches. I also want to give a shout out to the dining hall staff, security guards, maintenance workers and residence life. Without the constant help and support from these individuals during my time, I would not be in such high spirits. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Highlights of your time at Caldwell?
Working to bring Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc. on campus, playing football, the connections. And last but not least, graduating as a first-generation graduate.
Where are you headed? What are your next steps in life’s journey?
My focus right now is to take all the skills I have learned throughout my time here and use them in the sports industry. My advisor and Professor Neil Malvone has had a wonderful impact on me. I have no doubt that I will make him proud in the near future.
What makes Caldwell U a special place?
The people in the community are what makes this school special. You are treated as a part of the community the moment you step on the campus. Being an out of state student I never once felt that I did not belong.
Any life lessons you feel you have learned during this pandemic?
Life is too short to not believe in yourself. Take risks and never remain content.
If you could do it all over again would you still come to Caldwell?
I was a member of the Black Student Union, Sports Management Club and African Caribbean Association. I was also a brother of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Incorporated.
Brittany Rose Gaule ‘21: ‘Blessed to be graduating from such a beautiful university’
Hometown: Vernon, New Jersey
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Human Resource Management
Brittany Rose Gaule of Vernon, New Jersey graduated from Caldwell University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Human Resource Management on May 23. But that isn’t all she is leaving Caldwell with.
When she reflects on her time at the University, Gaule is thankful for the opportunity to receive a great education and meet amazing people who she says she will remember forever.
“The people are so welcoming and make you feel included and important. The second you step on campus, you feel safe and happy,” Gaule says. “If I could do it all over again, I would definitely come to Caldwell. This school is such a special place and I cannot imagine going to college anywhere else. I feel blessed to be graduating from such a beautiful university.”
Gaule made a lasting impact at Caldwell. She served in Campus Ministry and was a part of the Caldwell University String Ensemble. She was a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success as well as Kappa Gamma Pi Honor Society. She also was one of the students responsible for getting the Psychology Club up and running again.
“I feel like I played a big role in starting up something so special to so many people,” she said of her role in relaunching the club.
In campus ministry, she took advantage of a number of programs including participating in the Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors Leadership Training summit in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. for three days one summer to learn about leadership on behalf of the poor and how students could take action on their campuses. On Sunday nights during the past year she and Anthony Pineros ‘21 set up the livestream for the Masses from the campus chapel.
Gaule was invited to speak at the baccalaureate Mass the night before graduation, which was the Liturgy for the Feast of Pentecost. “As Christ’s chosen ones, we are all called to spread the love and joy of Christ. Similarly, graduation marks the beginning of our mission in the world as we enter the career paths of our choice,” said Gaule. She reminded her peers that in order to accomplish this mission everyone has been blessed with different gifts from the Holy Spirit.
“As we enter the workforce and find jobs that we have always dreamed of, we know that God is looking out for us and He is always one step ahead of us. We have to be realistic and acknowledge that very few of us will land our dream job the minute we graduate from Caldwell, but no matter what, it is important to learn the job well and do it well.” She pointed out that the pandemic showed the world who the real heroes are–”the jobs so many consider menial” proved to be essential, underscoring that every job is important. “So just has the Holy Spirit came to each of the disciples, let us remember that God is guiding each of us on our path to serve and glorify Him in this world.”
After graduation, Gaule will use her human resources education as she joins ADP as an implementation specialist. It feels appropriate that she is entering the workforce conscious of the fact that human connections matter most. Reflecting on her time as a student during the pandemic, Gaule knows that relationships and community are key.
“Life is short and in the blink of an eye, anything can be taken away from you. Life’s greatest gifts are the people we hold close to our hearts. We need to cherish every second we have.”
-Nicole Burrell ‘09
Sophie Hicks: New Zealand native says Caldwell inspired her to step out with courage and work for success
Degrees earned: Bachelor of Science in Psychology with minors in neuroscience and medical humanities
Hometown: Christchurch, New Zealand
It takes fortitude to go to college 9,000 miles from home. Sophie Hicks, of Christchurch, New Zealand, will tell you that. “I knew that university was never going to be easy, especially on the other side of the world to home, but I loved every minute of it,” says Hicks of her years at Caldwell University.
She received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with minors in neuroscience and medical humanities on May 23 and watched the graduation ceremony via the livestream from her home in Christchurch with her parents, Debbie and Dave Hicks. She would have loved to be with her Caldwell friends but due to the pandemic could not travel.
Still, Hicks could feel only joy reflecting on her time at Caldwell and the people who inspired her to take risks to pursue her goals. “If it were not for the amazing faculty in the Psychology Department I would never have had the courage to conduct my own research and reach out to larger schools for internships.” She took advantage of opportunities inside and outside the classroom to be a leader, from becoming a peer educator to co-founding the neuroscience minor to serving as the Student Government Association president for event planning and management. “You have freedom and access to many opportunities,” says Hicks of Caldwell. These things are not handed to students; they must work for success and they need the drive and ambition to identify and pursue their dreams, says Hicks. She certainly showed that drive and ambition at Caldwell.
Following the death of George Floyd last May, Hicks thought about what she might do to combat racism. She met with University President Matthew Whelan and other members of the administration to present her ideas, which included starting an anti-racism speaker series. The idea came to fruition and the program featured numerous faculty and national speakers throughout the academic year.
At honors convocation, Hicks was presented with the prestigious Trustee Recognition Award and the new Saint Dominic Award, honoring a graduating student who has emulated the life and legacy of Saint Dominic through involvement and leadership in activities that reflect the four Dominican pillars of prayer, study, community and service.
Other highlights of her college career including playing in the CACC conference championships twice with the Cougar volleyball team and once with the track team and volunteering for Midnight Runs to New York City to reach out to the homeless, at a food bank and the Caldwell Street Fair. She has fond memories of experiencing her first Thanksgiving meal and Black Friday sales, “my first time watching the Super Bowl,” the NBA and March Madness, and snow around Christmas. “It’s usually summer in New Zealand,” she notes.
Like most university students, Hicks was disappointed that her time with her Caldwell friends was cut short due to the pandemic, but she sees the life lessons in the experience. “I’ve learned that you have the power to make anything as meaningful as you want it to be.” She recalls how she flew back to New Zealand in December 2020 and had to stay in a quarantine hotel at Christmas away from her family. “Instead of getting caught up in the wishful thinking of what Christmas would have been like pre-pandemic, I decided that I would make it special for myself, by myself. And it was. I think having this awareness and contentment is very important for life during and (hopefully) after the pandemic is over.”
Hicks would like to earn Doctor of Neuroscience and Doctor of Medicine degrees in New Zealand or Australia. “My ultimate goal would be to serve those who have been underrepresented in medicine while also conducting research on health differences and medical conditions that have been previously disregarded in the industry.” No doubt she will be calling on that virtue of courage while carrying memories of her university years with “some of the greatest people in the world,” including peers, faculty members and staff. “Everyone I’ve met at CU has made an impact on me and my life, and I will take that into my future and remember it with fondness.”
Molly Heller: Graduate says time earning her CU bachelor’s and master’s degrees were the ‘best five years of my life’
Hometown: Denville, NJ
Degrees earned from Caldwell:
Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Social Studies
Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction
K-6 Teaching Certification
Teacher of Students with Disabilities Endorsement
Current professional work: Special Education Aide in Pequannock Middle School
What has Caldwell given you?
Caldwell has given me so much. It has given me the opportunity to grow into a confident and outgoing woman and teacher. It has given me a loving support system and fun memories through the friendships I formed with classmates and coworkers. It has given me role models of caring and passionate educators through the relationships and classes with my professors. It has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith as a Catholic. It has given me a second home and family.
Highlights of your time at Caldwell?
· Working as a student ambassador in the admissions office
· Making my confirmation through Campus Ministry’s RCIA Program
· Completing my Honors/Scholars Program Project on a topic I’m passionate about– empathy towards women with reproductive disorders.
· Completing my social studies departmental outcomes on the Equal Rights Amendment
· Completing my master’s thesis on SEL
Main activities you were involved in at Caldwell:
· Campus Ministry
· Student Ambassador in the Admissions Office
· Clubs: Circle K, CUEA and Earth Club
· Peer Tutoring
Where are you headed? Next steps in life’s journey? I’m going to finish out the school year in my role as a special education aide and am hoping to be a full-time teacher in September!
What makes Caldwell U a special place? The Caldwell community. Everyone on campus, from professors, faculty and staff, and students are all welcoming and supportive of each other. Because of this community I was able to form lifelong friendships and gain another home and family that I will take with me everywhere I go.
Any life lessons you feel you have learned during this pandemic? Make time to relax and for your loved ones. I was always running around and doing something, whether it was class, homework, admissions, tutoring, or fieldwork and never made time for myself to rest. Rest is very important in the career I’m going into, so I learned how to make time for that. I also realized how invaluable time with your loved ones and friends is and making time for them is also important.
If you could do it all over again would you still come to Caldwell? In a heartbeat. These have been the best five years of my life and I would not trade my experiences at this school for anything.
Anything else? I want to shout out the professors in the School of Education for preparing me to be the teacher I have dreamed of being since I was 11, and to my professors in the History Department, especially my advisor Dr. Mullaney, for helping me grow as a student, for their constant support in all of my endeavors in my academic and teaching careers.
Keith Kyewalabye: Commencement speaker says ‘This end is truly just a beginning for something new’
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a minor in music
Hometown, Kampala, Uganda
Keith Kyewalabye first thought about becoming a neurosurgeon when he was about 11 years old. He was attending Scripture Union Camp in his native Uganda and saw the movie “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” No one in his family was in medicine but that film “sparked the fire,” says Kyewalabye, who was selected to give the commencement remarks at Caldwell University’s undergraduate ceremonies on May 23.
At the ceremonies, Kyewalabye quoted Julius Caesar, “Veni, vidi, vici,” and gave examples of the many ways the graduates lived out that saying, which translates as “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
“Even if we might not have known each and every other person in our graduating class, we were and still are connected—if not solely by our humanity, then also by our shared commitment to see this education through … by this desire to achieve. We came!” said Kyewalabye.
He pointed out that graduates made it through challenges like a global pandemic, Intro to Philosophy, being international or first-generation students, having low-income backgrounds or, more universally, “just being naïve to the maturity that success in a college education often requires. We saw!”
“We have been immersed in our core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence. We conquered!” said Kyewalabye, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology with a music minor, magna cum laude.
“Life, with its ebbs and flows, has given us another starting point just as we crossed the finish line … this end is truly just a beginning for something new,” said Kyewalabye.
As he reflects on his years at Caldwell, Kyewalabye is grateful for the many friendships and professional relationships—all stepping stones for success.
In between hitting the biology books and minoring in music, he was a member of the chorale and the marching band and was a residence hall director “not as a grad student,” he notes proudly. Kyewalabye also attended conferences, for instance in his freshman year when he was selected to go to the World Youth Forum Model United Nations in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
His next move will be heading to the University of California-San Francisco’s Brain Tumor Research Center to work as a junior specialist. He is ready. As he told his fellow graduates at commencement, “I could not be more excited for what the future holds because despite challenges and dark times, we will emerge as victors, just as we have today.” Quoting rapper and songwriter Kendrick Lamar, he said, “If God got us, then we gon’ be alright.”
Lesley Chung: Commencement speaker tells Caldwell University graduates they are “unbreakable, unbeatable, undefeated and unstoppable”
Lesley Chung was finishing up her paper for Dr. Joanne Jasmine’s Global Studies and Leadership class in the hospital after giving birth to her daughter. She had originally told her professor that she would not need an extension, but Jasmine, a mother of two, assured her that yes, “you’ll need that extension.”
“I remember filling out the paperwork at three in the morning, saying ‘Dr. Jasmine was right’” about that extension, said Chung, who delivered Caldwell University’s commencement remarks May 23 at the ceremony for master’s and doctoral graduates. “I feel very proud that all the years of my hard work and continuing my education, doing what I have to do for my students and my daughter, seem like they are actually paying off,” said Chung, who received a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership with a concentration in K-12 education from Caldwell.
In her graduation remarks, she commended her fellow graduates for the “momentous feat” of earning their doctoral and master’s degrees, especially during a year of historic racial injustice and mounting tension, a time when many had to work from home while juggling care for children and other family members. “This past school year taught us that we may indeed face trying times … however, with hard work and perseverance, nothing can stop us. We are unbreakable, unbeatable, undefeated and unstoppable.” She encouraged graduates to go even further in pursuing career paths. “As the late Kobe Bryant once said, ‘Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses.’”
Chung has always been a multitasker. While working as assistant vice principal of West Orange High School, she pursued her doctoral degree at Caldwell University, often working until 11 at night on campus or with her dissertation team in Jennings Library on weekends. One night she was having contractions and her aunt drove her to Caldwell for class and sat in the lounge in case Chung went into labor.
The daughter of immigrants—Chung’s mother is from Jamaica, her father is from Guyana and his family came from China—Chung has always loved to learn. “My father would give me books to read and I would have to do my own book report for him … he really did spark a love of reading that I have right now—that I plan to do with my own daughter.” She is grateful to her parents for sacrificing so she could be the first in her family to earn a college degree in the United States, a B.A. in psychology from Rutgers. Her parents have provided a wonderful support system from the time she was young working hard to make ends meet while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree. While going through the doctoral program she relied on the support of her sister, aunt and parents who would meet her halfway on the Turnpike to pick up the baby so Chung could study with her doctoral dissertation cohort.
Chung began her career as a kindergarten teacher in Newark, became a school counselor in West Orange and then moved into administration. Along the way she continued her education, earning a teaching certificate in early childhood education (pre-K-3) from Caldwell University, an M.A. in educational psychology with a minor in child/adolescent clinical psychology from Montclair State University, an expedited M.A. in school administration from the NJEXCEL program, and several other education certificates.
She set her sights on her next goal: to enter higher education, first adjunct teaching. Her experiences at Caldwell and talks with Dr. Barnes—“an awesome mentor”—sparked that interest. Caldwell was the right choice with “close-knit,” small class sizes, her “dissertation family.” With each milestone Chung hits, she knows her efforts are not just for herself but to help inspire the next generation of young people in finding their passions and pursuing their dreams. “Just knowing my nieces and nephew look up to me, reach out to me and see me as a role model, it made me want to do more so that they can see that ‘Hey, I did it. You can do it too.’”
Madison Perry: When One Door Closes, Another Opens
Hometown: Hawthorne, New Jersey
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Biology with Minors in Psychology and Theology
Madison Perry finished her time at Caldwell University with an adaptability she could have never expected to develop. After all, who could have predicted the challenges the Class of 2021 would face? As her college experience shifted during COVID-19, she learned never to take anything for granted.
“I feel that this is something that I have heard through my whole life,” Perry says, “But it really came to fruition this past year.” And while some doors may have closed, Perry can see that other doors opened in their place. “This past year has given me the opportunity to take advantage of local jobs hiring. Overall, I would say that while it may seem like all hope is lost when it comes to your future, it is important to take a step back and evaluate. There will always be roadblocks in our lives but with that comes new opportunities.”
Perry, a native of Hawthorne, New Jersey, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with minors in Psychology and Theology on May 23, has certainly made the most of the open doors she has discovered during her time at Caldwell. During the pandemic, she was able to take on a virtual internship that allowed her to teach science to students in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. She also participated in a Belize Immersion Trip during her time at Caldwell, both as an attendee and then as a student leader. She took part in the Dominican Youth Movement, served as a student ambassador for Catholic Relief Services and was an orientation leader.
In addition to her impressive list of accomplishments in the classroom and on service projects, Perry was also a member of the women’s bowling team, winning the Conference Championships and having the opportunity to bowl in the NCAA tournament in 2019.
Perry plans to take a gap year from school in order to strengthen her application to become a genetic counselor. She served as the vice president of the Health Professions Club at Caldwell and was a member of Beta Beta Biological Honor Society. She will add to that resume as she moves on to work as an applied behavior analyst aide in an elementary school, working one-on-one with students with autism spectrum disorder.
Perry graduates from Caldwell confident that if she could do it all over again, she would absolutely pick Caldwell University for her undergraduate education.
“Caldwell has given me a chance to not only pursue my academic and athletic goals, but also be able to serve others during my time. I was able to take advantage of various opportunities at Caldwell that I may not have been able to do at larger campuses.”
She also celebrates the atmosphere created at the University, which she knows contributed to her success.
“The community in general makes Caldwell so welcoming to others; more specifically, the professors and staff. The professors are always ready to help students when it comes to class or just life in general. I am proud to have called Caldwell as my home the past four years.”
- Nicole Burrell ‘09