Kean University Celebrates Academic Achievement at Honors Convocation

Harwood Arena was filled with energy and pride last week as the Kean University community celebrated seniors who are graduating with honors at the Honors Convocation.

About 480 of the 928 students graduating summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude attended the event on Friday, May 3.

An exuberant, proud, and at times boisterous crowd of family, friends, and supporters cheered as each graduate was recognized and received a certificate from the dean of their college.

“There was a lot of hard work and dedication, some sleepless nights, and outstanding professors who also helped me through,” said Gina Tartza of South Plainfield who is graduating summa cum laude with a degree in psychology. “It feels great. In high school, I didn’t have great grades, and in college, I changed it. I came out of my shell and realized I was pretty smart when I tried, and here I am.”

Tartza is one of several Kean students who will be part of the Disney College Program, a six-month paid internship at Disney World in Florida.

After that, she hopes to get an advanced degree in occupational therapy at Kean.

At Honors Convocation, the students and their families heard from keynote speaker Dr. Debbie Lin Teodorescu, a physician at Lifespan Healthcare and the founder of SurgiBox, an operating-room-in-a-backpack that can be used by doctors in the field. She called the honors students a “crowd of high achievers.”

Teordorescu said her anger over the unnecessary risk of operating in non-sterile environments, as well as the setbacks, failures, and disappointments she faced as she developed SurgiBox, served as motivation and an opportunity to learn and grow.

“The real doers who actually get things done — people like you — share their excellence in even mundane and exhausting things,” she said. “In this way, not just in the grand, big things, but in your everyday excellence, you change the world.”

Teordorescu encouraged students to enjoy themselves.

“You’ve got what it takes to map your own destiny, and what an amazing one it will be,” she said. “Take care of yourselves; make time to reinforce the parts of you and your love for those around you that keep you flying on. I wish you the joy of uncovering your own infinite strength and compassion.”

Students graduating summa cum laude achieved a grade-point average of 3.85 or higher, those graduating magna cum laude achieved a grade-point average of 3.65 to 3.84, and those graduating cum laude achieved a grade-point average of 3.45 to 3.64.

Board of Trustees Chair Ada Morell told the students that they will always be part of the Kean family.

“I have no doubt that as Kean’s newest alumni, you will make the Kean University community even more proud with your future endeavors. Take a moment to think of all of the people who helped you along the way and do not forget your connection to Kean,” she said.

Mike Ratti of Chesterfield, N.J., who is graduating magna cum laude with a degree in graphic design, said Honors Convocation was a time to take stock before finals and the push to Commencement.

“It feels great,” he said. “I’ve worked my whole college career towards this, just trying to get those grades and trying to balance that with the social life — it’s just overall a great feeling to receive this. It was fun and looking back, it was just an amazing experience.”

Ratti’s parents say it’s an emotional time for them and other parents.

“I didn’t expect to do this, but I’ve shed quite a few tears already, and we haven’t even done the actual commencement ceremony,” said Denise Ratti. “It was very moving to me because I realized the long path that it takes to get to this point and you sort of look back and go, ‘Wow, we got here.’”

Added Ratti’s father Dean, “The boy we dropped off as a freshman and the fear in his eyes and things, and then you see the confidence and everything now. It’s amazing.”