Dynamic Duo

New Paltz will recognize two Valedictorians on the Old Main Quadrangle during the 2010 Commencement Ceremony this Sunday, May 23.

Nicole Hitner (Carmel, N.Y.), an English major with an environmental studies minor, and Darian Pucciarelli (Staten Island, N.Y.), who double-majored in political science and sociology, both achieved a perfect overall grade point average of 4.0 and will both address the graduate candidates.

Hitner, who was accepted to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, said she chose New Paltz because she knew it was a good fit.

“As much as Wellesley was alluring with its prestige, I chose New Paltz,” she said.

At New Paltz, Hitner said she was challenged by many wonderful professors in the English program and was also very involved in the student club Students for Sustainable Agriculture and her environmental studies program, saying that she sees both her English degree and environmental experiences blending into a career some day.

“Whatever I end up doing, it will be changing the way we live,” said Hitner. “It is something I will be proud of doing and willing to devote my time to. I can use what I’ve learned in the English Department to do that because it is all about communication.”

After graduation, Hitner will move to Regensburg, Germany, to be an au pair where the mother of the host family teaches English and German at a local university. Hitner said, “It is a great opportunity to live abroad without incurring too much debt.”

Pucciarelli said she was a sociology major at New Paltz first, but then took the American Government class with Professor Nancy Kassop (Political Science) and “absolutely loved it. Professor Kassop was a big influence and is the reason I am in political science. She is so extremely passionate about it even in an entry-level course,” she added.

Pucciarelli is also very involved in her sociology-related research on domestic violence against women in India. “I’m passionate about that kind of thing. It is something people should know more about and try to change,” she added.

Upon graduation, Pucciarelli will continue to study for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and apply to go to a top-tier law school in the fall of 2011. Although she is not sure about what she ultimately would like to do with her law degree, she said, “I was not certain about what I was going to do when I came to New Paltz, but it did a good job of pointing me in the right direction – I’ll let my experience at law school do the same.”