The Class of 2012

The Class of 2012

They are playwrights, beauty queens and activists. They row, run marathons and occasionally jump off cliffs in Zambia.

The Class of 2012 – undergraduate and graduate students whose diverse passions include the humanities, sciences, law and medicine among other disciplines – has exhibited determination and outstanding leadership on campus and beyond. They have completed military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and been champions for other worthy causes, including LGBT rights, students with disabilities and children who are victims of sexual abuse – all while carrying exceptionally heavy academic loads.

Many are committed to healing and empowering others following their own personal experiences with suffering. One student chose to study nursing after a childhood bout with typhoid fever; another wrote a one-man play following his father’s death by suspected suicide. After Commencement, they will pursue entrepreneurial ventures abroad, help seniors maintain their independence and begin graduate study at prestigious institutions, including Oxford.

They embody the qualities Rutgers seeks to develop in its students and are exemplars of this diverse and engaging academic community. We celebrate their academic and personal achievements and look forward to the bright futures ahead.

Nicholas Angelides

Nicholas Angelides Urges Athletes to Sign Pledge of Tolerance

Nicholas Angelides, co-captain of the Rutgers crew team, came out to his family at age 16. As an Athlete Ally, he encourages tolerance and acceptance of LGBT issues within the university’s sports teams. Acknowledging that the sports world hasn’t always been accepting of gays and lesbians, he has lobbied hard to have team captains and members sign a two-sentence pledge. Read more

Randall Arthur

Randall Arthur Seeks to Unify Caribbean-American Students

Randall Arthur can tell you that Malcolm X’s mother was from Grenada and Cicely Tyson’s father was from St. Kitts and Nevis. As vice president of the West Indian Student Organization at Rutgers, he knows this kind of cultural trivia. But in the past year, he has also pursued an important mission: to unify Caribbean-American students, who are often divided by ethnic, linguistic and cultural barriers. Read more

Barbara Aspin

Barbara Aspin: Twenty Years Later, a Degree - With Honors  

First, there was a solo music career straight out of high school followed by 12 years in computer programming and data administration. Next, came three children and a stint as a stay-at-home mom. Now, at age 50 and with a 4.0 grade point average, Barbara Aspin receives her bachelor’s degree in psychology this month through Rutgers' Off-Campus Program at Raritan Valley Community College. Read more

Prachi Baodhankar

Prachi Baodhankar Merges Medicine and Advocacy to Support Immigrant Women

Prachi Baodhankar decided to meld her interest in neuroscience with woman-centered advocacy to help South Asian women in the United States break free from lives of violence.  She finds helping women form India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka shift their own perspectives about culturally defined gender roles and abusive behavior the most challenging aspect of intervention. Read more

Victor Castaneda

Victor Castaneda Studies Economic Factors, Policies Impacting Interest Rates

Victor Castaneda was born in Colombia, but his family came to New Jersey to take advantage of the greater educational opportunities in the U.S. After high school, he spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. As a key member of the Rutgers College Federal Reserve Challenge team for three years, Castaneda spent months analyzing economics data.  Read more

Angela Centellas

Angela Centellas Combines Public Health and Planning to Help Senior Citizens 'Age in Place'

When her family moved to New Jersey from Peru, Angela Centellas realized there was a stark difference between the amenities available to the elderly.  In Peru, Centellas's grandparents were able to stay close to their families.  But in the United States, seniors often lack transportation, access to food and affordable housing.  Centellas wants to help towns allow seniors to maintain their independence. Read more

Brisa De Angulo and Parker Palmer

Brisa De Angulo, Parker Palmer Commit to Helping Child Victims of Sexual Abuse

When Brisa De Angulo broke her silence about being sexually abused, she wasn't just speaking for herself.  She was speaking for hundreds of Bolivian children suffering through the same nightmare.  De Angulo and her husband Parker Palmer founded Centro Una Brisa De Esperanza (CUBE), or A Breeze of Hope Center.  It is the only place in Bolivia that specializes in assistance for children who are victims of sexual abuse. Read more

Tim Dinh

Tim Dinh Takes a Second of Courage; Then, the Leap

Tim Dinh developed a set of experiments with a newly discovered gene - Programmed Cell Death II.  The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences honors student, who will begin a MD/PhD program at Stony Brook University in the fall, has taken some heart-thumping leaps during his time at Rutgers: into biomedical engineering, serious research, new cultures - and off a cliff in Zambia. Read more

Tracy Dobkowski

Tracy Dobkowski Races Toward Career in Nursing

Reenacting Rocky by sprinting up the art museum steps is a popular Philadelphia pastime.  But not even Stallone can say he ran all the way from Camden.  The eight-mile run from Rutgers' Camden Campus, over the Ben Franklin Bridge, is just part of Tracy Dobkowski's week. The captain of the Rutgers-Camden cross country, outdoor and indoor track teams is training for the Boston Marathon.  Read more

Mital Gajjar

Mital Gajjar Advocates for Students with Disabilities

Grappling with measurable hearing loss and visual impairment, Mital Gajjar arrived on campus determined to create a space where students with disabilities felt a sense of belonging.  That's how Rutgers Empowering Disabilities was born.  The organization combines advocacy, education and social justice programming for and by all students, not just those with disabilities. Read more

Daniel Naftalovich

Daniel Naftalovich, Mental Athlete, Strengthens Identity as an Israeli-American

A six-time competitor in the USA Memory championship, Daniel Naftalovich can memorize a deck of 52 playing cards in order - in five minutes.  A native of Israel, he came to the U.S. with his family when he was 9-years-old.  He will pursue dual interests in medicine and engineering in the MD/PhD program at the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology. Read more

Mikhail Naumov

Mikhail Naumov Traces Entrepreneurial Spirit to His Early Years in Russia 

As a boy, Mikhail Naumov liked nothing more than riding his bike through the Ural mountains to sell or trade his toys. It was the 1990s and Russians were suddenly going into business for themselves. That fervor took hold of Naumov as well. As an undergraduate, he started his own company, the Global Renewable Energy Education Network, which offers educational adventure tours of Costa Rica. Read more

Rachel Rogers

Rachel Rogers: Cheerleader, Turned Solider

Rachel Rogers started her military career on September 12, 2001, a day after the terrorist attacks.  For the first 63 weeks of her five years in the U.S. Army, she spent eight hours a day, five days a week, in Arabic immersion courses.  Once she tackled that, she decided to learn to jump from planes and served two deployments with the 82nd Airborne Division - a five-month tour in Iraq and 11 months in Afghanistan. Read more

Ashley Shaffer

Ashley Shaffer, Miss New Jersey 2009, Ready to Face the World

No matter the fame winning Miss New Jersey had given her, Ashley Shaffer knew she needed an edge to compete in the business world. The 25-year-old worked as Miss New Jersey for a year and also in sports media at the MLB Network and the College Sports Network. She joins 14 other Miss America or Miss USA contestants who have earned their MBA in the last decade, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek feature on MBA Beauty Queens. Read more

Yolanda Sime-Polanco

 Yolanda Sime-Polanco Credits Dominican Republic Nurses for Career Choice

After weeks in a Dominican Republic hospital recovering from typhoid fever, Yolanda Sime-Polanco knew she would like to assist others the way caring nurses helped her as a young child.  She will realize her childhood dream when she receives her BSN during the inaugural Rutgers School of Nursing - Camden commencement, a degree she began earning at just 16 years old.  Read more


Kevin Tobia

Kevin Tobia, One of 15 Students to Receive Ertegun Scholarship to Oxford 

You may consider Kevin Tobia a Renaissance man.  He is a classical pianist and graduates with degrees in philosophy, cognitive science and mathematics.  This fall, he will head to the University of Oxford in England after being named one of only 15 students in the world to receive a full two-year scholarship bequeathed in the name of the late music mogul Ahmet Ertegun. Read more


Michael Thomas Walker

Michael Thomas Walker Depicts Father's Lifelong Struggles in One-Man Show 

When Michael Thomas Walker's father died of a suspected suicide in February 2011, the actor did what came naturally: he conducted interviews in his native Huntsville, Alabama, and emerged with a dynamic one-man show about his father's life.  In March 2012, Walker premiered the show, an unsparing but affectionate portrait  called Bubba, at the university's Jameson Studio Theater. Read more