Margaret Hack ’15 (English), of New Windsor, N.Y., has been named the valedictorian for the 2016 Undergraduate Commencement at SUNY New Paltz. As the top student among the participating graduates on Sunday, May 15, Hack will address her fellow graduates on the Old Main Quadrangle on the New Paltz campus.
As an English major, Hack has used her writing as a tool for intellectual stimulation and professional development throughout her career at New Paltz. She said one of the most important experiences she enjoyed at New Paltz was a for-credit publishing industry internship at Valley Table magazine, which has given her a sense of direction as she considers possible career paths.
“I was an editorial intern and was able to write a lot, which is something I’d like to focus on after graduation,” she said. “It was great to know that the College supports these kinds of student internships.” Following her internship she was invited to continue working with Valley Table as a freelancer.
Hack established a balance between research-intensive writing, exemplified by her senior thesis on Czech novelist and non-fiction author Milan Kundera, and creative writing courses offered through the department. She will draw on this balance of compositional and rhetorical skill as she prepares her valedictory.
“It’s exciting to be speaking at the Commencement ceremony,” Hack said. “I’ve had wonderful experiences in and out of the classroom at New Paltz, and it’s important to take a moment to reflect on that before moving on. For me and all the other graduates, everything we’ve been working for comes to fruition at graduation.”
For this year’s salutatorian Jacob Zyskowski ’15 (Business Administration), of Altamont, N.Y., the support system of the Honors program, relationships with faculty, good friends and his involvement in many co-curricular activities have been highlights of his New Paltz career.
Zyskowski is a member of the Management Association, the Catholic Campus Ministry, Students for Sustainable Agriculture, and he volunteers in the campus greenhouse.
“The extra, non-academic side of things at college really helps you grow personally and professionally, in ways that classes aren’t always able to,” Zyskowski said.
He will graduate with the Class of 2016 at the Commencement Ceremony, but will remain at the College through the end of the year to complete the School of Business’s 4 + 1 Program, which lets students earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in just five years. He said the program has him feeling optimistic about future career prospects, thanks in part to the professional networks the Business faculty have welcomed him into.
“My professors have always been very helpful, and if there’s an alumnus they know in an area of interest they were always willing to put me in contact with them,” Zyskowski said. “Most of the Business faculty have experience outside of academics, and are willing to give you all the advice you could ever ask for. Anytime you get an opportunity to pick a professor’s brain and get to know them better is valuable, because they can help you throughout your entire life, not just while you’re in their class.”