Joanie Quinones named Valedictorian of SUNY New Paltz’s Class of 2023

When Joanie Quinones ’23 (Communication Studies-Organizational) thinks back to her first time at SUNY New Paltz, during its Accepted Students Open House, what stands out is the positive energy on campus and the smiling faces of her future peers and professors. 

“I remember there were all these student workers dressed in orange and blue, and they were all lined up from the minute I took a right into the school up to where I parked, clapping and cheering,” she said. “Immediately, I got this sense that this was a happy and exciting place, and it was that day where I decided I felt right at home here.” 

Today, Quinones is the Class of 2023 Valedictorian, preparing to deliver the Student Address at the Saturday Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on May 20, and reflecting on a collegiate career full of hard work, lasting relationships and dancing. 

The Albany, New York, native first got involved on campus as a freshman, joining the New Paltz Dance Association, which offers regular, versatile dance classes to peer students and hosts a big performance called Dance Underground each year. Later, she joined the New Paltz Dance Team, which performs at Hawks athletics games and other shows on campus.

She then went on to serve as a resident advisor at Lenape Hall, and began a role as the Campus Food Pantry‘s first media intern this past year.  

Her time in dance gave her a creative outlet to express herself in varied genres from jazz to tap to hip hop. It also gave her opportunities to merge her cocurricular interests with her academic studies as a Communication Studies major.  

“Being a communications major is about expressing yourself, and so is dance,” she said. “In my major, I spend a lot of time trying to word something perfectly, or just making sure whatever point I’m trying to make is being expressed in the most effective way possible, but in dance, I get the opportunity to express myself in a completely different way. It’s a chance to use my body to express whatever emotions I’m feeling, without having to worry about choosing the perfect words.” 

That work culminated in a senior seminar project, undertaken with mentorship from Associate Professor Janice Anderson, that represents a true capstone of Quinones’s experience at New Paltz.  

She conducted a case study of the organization built upon a series of interviews with Dance Association members to examine how it has evolved over the years by becoming more active on campus in causes such as mental health and sustainability while continuing to host student-run, high-energy dance classes. 

“Since I have witnessed this culture change, develop, and strengthen over the last four years, being able to research, reflect and write on it has been a great way to end my senior year here,” she said. “You get more than a degree when you come here. There are so many ways to be involved on campus, grow as a person and forge lasting connections.” 

Her academic, co-curricular and internship experiences as a student have solidified her post-graduation plans. After Commencement, Quinones plans to continue her communications education in graduate school with the hopes of going into public relations and marketing, a culmination of her efforts to build relationships and her background as a writer and performer.  

“All the different people I got to work with on campus shaped my entire experience here,” she said. “I will always appreciate and remember the impact they made.” 

About Commencement 2023 at SUNY New Paltz 

This year’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, 2023, on the Old Main Quad on the SUNY New Paltz campus. Both ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. 

The Saturday Ceremony honors graduates of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the Sunday Ceremony honors graduates of the School of Business, School of Education, School of Fine & Performing Arts and School of Science & Engineering. 

The Graduate Commencement Ceremony will take place on Friday, May 19, at 6 p.m., also on the Old Main Quad. 

More information at