Education transforms and the tradition will continue this year at NJIT when graduates march at the Prudential Center to accept their diplomas. Women, more than ever, are making names for themselves. Consider this.
(ATTENTION MEDIA: To attend commencement and/or learn more about these grads, contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.)Shu Yi Tham, formerly of Malaysia, Heads for Stanford
Not quite five years ago, 17-year-old Shu Yi Tham, West Windsor and Lawrenceville, arrived from her native Malaysian shores with little knowledge of English, a slightly better grasp of Cantonese Chinese and a deep, deep thirst for knowledge and freedom. Her family who arrived with her and her older brother—he graduates this spring from Rutgers New Brunswick—came, too for better educational opportunities for her and her brother. But her parents had to rush back to Malaysia so her dad could sell his business. She and her brother lived with cousins for a year and enrolled at West Windsor Plainsboro High School South where both students had to start their senior years again.
“It was very tough in the beginning,” said Tham. “Everyone was very nice. Neighbors picked me up for basketball practice. But I couldn’t speak.” She says only when she arrived two years later at NJIT, did language begin flowing. Returning later to high school, people would say things like, “Wow, you talk now.”
This Tuesday morning as Tham picks up her diploma embellished with a major in civil engineering, she’ll be looking further west than the Delaware River. This fall she’ll enter a master’s degree program, also in civil engineering, at Stanford University. Not that she hasn’t had a remarkable run here academically, but also as a top female track star with a significant scholarship to prove it. In addition, there hasn’t been an engineering program or project she hasn’t devoured, including the back-breaking job of organizing and running NJIT’s recent and remarkable win of the 2012 Concrete Canoe Competition, the America’s Cup of Civil Engineering. NJIT will participate in the national race next month, representing this region. Today, her parents who eventually found work here—her dad works in a technical maintenance job at Newark Airport; her mom in a relative’s restaurant—live in Lawrenceville, where she and her brother reside for the time being.
Julianne Jones, Montclair, Graduate with a Heart; Volunteer Extraordinaire
Julianne Jones came to NJIT to make a difference and she has. As coordinator for NJIT’s “Learning To End Hunger program,” the School of Management senior helped 40 qualified Newark families sign up for food stamps. “It’s important to do this because 60 percent of people who qualify are not receiving benefits,” she says. “At least we made some difference and helped.” Now this soon-to-graduate wife, mother and job-seeker hopes to do more in the social services arena. “The experience taught me what people needed was the skills to get the job.” Her latest effort: Teaching basic computer skills at Newark food kitchens while searching for a full-time paid job as an analyst or manager.
Luz Angela Zidziunas, of West Orange, Scholar, Mother, Engineer
Luz Angela Zidziunas will graduate as the top-ranked student in the civil and environmental engineering department of Newark College of Engineering (NCE). More impressive, though, is that she’s the mother of three children, co-owns a Newark environmental consulting firm with her husband and if all that weren’t enough, English isn’t her native language. She immigrated to the US from a small town in Colombia, South America.
Nicole Antonicello, of Newark, Winner, 2012 Gary Thomas Doctoral Fellowship
Graduating senior Nicole Antonicello was born in Newark and hopes to remain here for a while. Of Hispanic descent, she says she was drawn to NJIT as a high school senior because of the opportunities for minorities in STEM fields. Enrolled in NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program, she’s gained skills for academic success. And so far she’s right. Recipient of the prestigious 2012 Gary Thomas Doctoral Fellowship, she now will be able to finance her graduate studies in neural engineering under the mentorship of her advisor NJIT Associate Professor Bryan J. Pfister, biomedical engineering chair. Her first goal is a doctorate in this growing field through NJIT’s joint program with UMDNJ. Then, she wants to share by teaching and mentoring. “If it weren’t for the support I received, I would not be where I am today,” she says.