SUNY New Paltz kicks off Commencement weekend with conferral of graduate & advanced degrees

The 2019 Commencement season at SUNY New Paltz began on Friday, May 17, with the Graduate Commencement Ceremony, a celebration of the hard work and dedication of students who have attained mastery in their disciplines and professions.

“Commencement is a centuries-old tradition to formally and joyfully acknowledge the close of one chapter in our students’ lives and the beginning of the next,” said President Donald P. Christian.

“Each of our graduates is here today because of parents, spouses, siblings, children, friends and other loved ones whose support made their education possible. We salute your success in meeting, and mastering, all of the challenges you have encountered on your way to this proud and happy day.”

[Click here to view full photo gallery from the Graduate Commencement Ceremony]

New Paltz offers more than 50 graduate degree and certificate programs in the fine arts, music therapy, sciences, humanities, education, communication disorders, computer science, engineering and business, all designed to prepare students to contribute at the highest level to their fields and to society as a whole.

“Completing a graduate degree is more important now than ever before,” said Provost Lorin Basden Arnold. “The pace of technological change, globalization and the emergence of a knowledge-based economy necessitate an unprecedented level of expertise in the 21st century.

“You leave New Paltz with a graduate education that arms you to make a difference in the world, and contribute to these cornerstones of our present moment, and our future.”

The Graduate Commencement Ceremony honored those who completed or will complete programs in August 2018, December 2018, January 2019, May 2019 and August 2019.

In sum, nearly 600 students received graduate degrees and other advanced credentials during these terms. Some took a moment before walking the stage to share their thoughts about their experiences at New Paltz, and what they’re looking forward to.

Basilio Cajigas ’18 (Management) ’19g (Business Administration) of Bronx, New York, enrolled in the College’s new five-year MBA program, staying an extra year to earn two business degrees.

“For me it was just convenient getting a masters in one year,” Cajigas said. “I figured it would help me get opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Some semesters were intense, but since I had already been here, I felt like I was acclimated to the work already, so it was just a matter of following through.”

A significant percentage of graduate students at SUNY New Paltz study in the School of Education, which prepares not only teachers, but school administrators, counselors and other education professionals.

“My program is pretty intense – 60 credits, summer classes, internships and practicum in just two years,” said Bryana Sewell ’19g (School Counseling) of Monticello, New York. “It’s really hands on, which is what I wanted – I got into this field to help students who are at risk or having struggles in their life. It’s so rewarding helping influence them to improve their lives.”

“I got my undergraduate degree from New Paltz, and now after 20 years I came back to school,” said Craig Brodhead ’93 (Political Science) ’19g (Adolescence Education) of Saugerties, New York. “The campus has really changed, they’ve made a lot of improvements, and it was also an adjustment sitting in class with 23 and 24-year-olds, but I learned what I came to learn and it was an exciting experience.”

“It’s been a marathon! The coursework is challenging, but being a special ed teacher is just what I want to do,” said Lauren Salvay ’14 (Early Childhood & Childhood Education) ’19g (Special Education) of Wallkill, New York. “I didn’t start grad school immediately after finishing my first degree – I’ve been working as a sub for four years now – and the more I’ve worked in special education rooms, the more I felt like this was right for me.”

The Graduate Commencement Ceremony was presided over by a stage party including academic deans, faculty members, the Student Association president, administrators, and College Council members.

The processional was led by Faculty Grand Marshal Glenn Geher, professor of psychology and founder of the College’s Evolutionary Studies Program. Geher is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activities, both SUNY-wide honors.

SUNY New Paltz Commencement 2019 continues on May 18 and 19 with the Saturday and Sunday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies. Complete coverage is available at