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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

Five NJIT New Jersey Students Reach May 20 Commencement Ready to Excel

NJIT offers innumerable opportunities and the students who avail themselves of the many campus attributes ranging from 121 degree programs to an enviable 15:1 student-faculty ratio often leave NJIT to enjoy a rich, rewarding future.  Five inspirational stories below exemplify that if you stay in school and work hard, success follows.  

Vanessa Casteblanco, of South Plainfield, has reason to be happy.  She will be NJIT’s student speaker at the May 20, 2013 commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center. Graduating with honors and achievements, Casteblanco also soon starts work as a field engineer for FM Global.  Casteblanco’s accomplishments include graduating with a 3.5 GPA as a Chemical Engineering major with a minor in Business Management.  She’s senior class president and is an Educational Opportunity Program student with three scholarships.  She has received outstanding class awards from freshman through senior years. 

She’s served on the Student Senate since freshman year, was active in the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers and American Institute of Chemical Engineers and belongs to the Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority.  More importantly, however, she’s making her parents proud.  When Casteblanco was a girl, her parents, Colombian immigrants, both worked two and sometimes three blue collar jobs to support Vanessa and her two brothers. 

“I saw the struggle my parents went through to give my brothers and me a place to live and an education,” says Casteblanco, “so I did my best to make them proud.  My parents have been waiting for this moment – to see me graduate from college.  They can't stop talking about it, especially my dad.  I even have family from Colombia who will attend my graduation.”

Michael Anderson, of Hammonton, home-schooled through high school, has a dream job: He’ll work as a design engineer for the company that built SpaceShipTwo, the space plane now being tested for commercial space flight.  The company, Scaled Composites, designs the most revolutionary aircraft in the world.  One of its planes was the first to fly around the world without stopping to refuel.  Next year its customer, Virgin Galactic, will take people into space on SpaceShipTwo for $200,000 a person.

At NJIT Anderson was president of the Society of Automotive Engineers, a club that offered the chance to build Baja cars and radio-controlled aero planes.  Two year ago, the team entered a national aero plane competition in Texas.  The team came in fourth overall which caught the attention of recruiters from Scaled Composites.  When he sent the company his resume, he was invited in for an interview.  One week later, he was offered the job. 

Anderson is a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College and was recently named the Outstanding Honors College Student of 2012-2013. For him the Honors College is a family affair; his older brother graduated last year and two of his younger brothers are current students.   

Anthony Moussa, of Bayonne, majored in electrical engineering.  During his four years at NJIT, he worked two internships; one at PSE&G and one for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).  He also worked as a calculus tutor and as a teaching assistant for the mathematics department.  Additionally, Moussa was treasurer for the NJIT’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a student club on campus.  He has a 3.87 GPA and, recently, as a result of all his accomplishments, he was named the Newark College of Engineering Outstanding Senior in his major: electrical engineering.

As a first generation student -- his parents were born in Egypt -- Anthony attributes his work ethic to his father, who was trained as a mechanical engineer.  When he immigrated to America, he had to retake his engineering licensing exam.  His English wasn’t good, so it took him seven tries to pass.  But pass he did.

Not many college seniors turn down job offers from Google.  But Andrew Lam, of River Edge, did.  It was a tough decision, but it came down to following his passion.  Verizon Wireless offered him a job working on VoLTE, a next generation communication system that will seamlessly integrate phone calls, text messaging and video calling.  He accepted.

A week after he graduates, he’ll start working at Verizon’s corporate headquarters in Basking Ridge.  There, he’ll join the product development team that is designing VoLTE, a technology that, in his eyes, epitomizes cutting edge.

“It was really hard turning down Google,” says Lam, an information technology major. “But I wanted to work on cutting-edge technology and VZW gave me a better opportunity to do that.  It’s fun and challenging to work on something new and exciting like VoLTE, and I’ll help make technology easier to use and more accessible.”

Although Lam will graduate as a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College with a 3.91 GPA, at Riverdell Regional High School, by his own admission, he was only a B/B+ student.  But at NJIT, he ramped it up.  He found his groove, his passion, and now a job that he can’t wait to start.  

In the summer before her senior year, Nkem Okoye, of Nigeria, fielded job offers from two top investment banks: Barclays and Morgan Stanley.  Investment banks make early offers like that only to exceptional students.  Okoye is that.  It was a difficult decision, but Okoye, chose Morgan Stanley, where she’ll begin as a business technology analyst.

Morgan Stanley is a leader in cutting-edge technology, she says, and she’ll be part of the bank’s private wealth management division.  It’s a rigorous job that will challenge her intellectually, day in and day out, and that’s precisely why she took it.

“Some of my friends told me that choosing a challenging job is crazy,” says Okoye, an information systems major in the Albert Dorman Honors College.  “But I think being uncomfortable makes you grow.  Morgan Stanley presents a challenge and that seems exciting.”

She’s graduating with a near perfect 3.988 GPA.  At NJIT, she has three named scholarships and has won awards for student projects and for community building.  In the summer of her freshman year, she worked as a cluster coordinator for the freshman orientation program and as a teaching assistant for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).  For the Student Senate, she was a vice president and also worked as a tutor in the math department.

But perhaps most impressively, Okoye left Nigeria when she was 16 to enroll at NJIT.  She finished high school at home a year early.  When she arrived in New Jersey, she knew no one; she had no family or friends here.  Yet now, four years later, she’s graduating into the upper echelons of investment banking.

One of the nation’s leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT’s multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of 11,400 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering and cybersecurity, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $121 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com. NJIT has a $1.74 billion annual economic impact on the State of New Jersey.