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Five Saint Rose Grads of 2019

The longest shortest time. That’s how Saint Rose students describe the moments between their first semester of college and graduation day.

We interviewed five graduating students who made the most of their years at Saint Rose. They joined clubs or created their own, gained valuable experience, and mapped out their careers.

They all realize graduation is bittersweet but not the end. It’s the beginning of infinite opportunities.

Victoria Olanipekun ’19

B.S. in Public Health, Co-founder Golden Vybz,

Hometown: Bronx, New York

Wendella Wilson ’19

B.S. in Biology with a minor in physics, Co-founder Golden Vybz

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

2019 Commencement Spotlight: Wendella Wilson and Victoria Olanipekun

When Victoria Olanipekun and Wendella Wilson saw another institution’s African-Caribbean dance team perform at Orgullo Latino, an on-campus event that celebrates Hispanic culture, they wanted to create one at Saint Rose.

Both grew up dancing to Afro-Caribbean music at home or in church. So they teamed up in 2018 to create Golden Vybz and brought to life a part of their identity they felt was missing on campus.

“I was born and raised in Guyana in South America. I grew up with Caribbean style of dance,” said Wilson.

“I felt as though Saint Rose needed a group like this. It was a safe space where we can go and forget about all of our worries,” Olanipekun added.

Some of their favorite moments at Saint Rose stem from creating Golden Vybz, from when they held auditions to their first performance.

The two friends have more in common than dance. Olanipekun is a public health major with aspirations to become an epidemiologist. Wilson is a biology major and physics minor with a goal of becoming a geneticist — during her last semester she worked side-by-side with Professor Ann Zeeh on genetic research.

They had mixed emotions about graduation. Wilson said she can still remember when she first moved into her room in Lima Hall. Olanipekun cannot believe the day has come.

“What is next? I mean, you know what is next, but you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out,” Olanipekun said.

Sarah Dworjan ’19

B.S. Music Education – minor in math –  recipient of the 2018 Presser Foundation Scholar Award – Flautist – student teacher – officer for NYSSMA

Hometown: Monroe, New York

2019 Commencement Spotlight: Sarah Dworjan

Music education major and mathematics minor Sarah Dworjan is certain she’s found the perfect career path: teaching.

“It’s everything that I want in a job,” she said. “It is everything creative that I want to give but intellectually challenging.”

During her time at Saint Rose, she’s had the opportunity to student teach, and now she’s eager to get back inside the classroom and lead students in an art she’s passionate about.

“I have made so many friendships and wonderful relationships with faculty,” Dworjan said. “But, I am ready to get out there.”

Dworjan said Saint Rose’s sense of community made it possible for her to get deeply involved with clubs and activities. She has served as an officer for the college’s chapter of the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA), participated in National Association for Music Education (NafME), and was the recipient of the 2018 Presser Foundation Scholar Award, an award that is given to an outstanding undergraduate music major.

A flutist, her Saint Rose memories are performing with others and the feeling of an audience’s applause. But if she had to pinpoint just one favorite, it was the time she auditioned for and won the Patricia Brady-Danzig Concerto Competition. This awarded her the opportunity to perform a solo with the Saint Rose Orchestra.

“It was great to go up there and play a solo with all my friends backing me up,” she said.

Vito Van Dunk’19

 B.S. Marketing – R.A. – SEB President – Former SA President – Support Manager at McDonald’s – Management Trainee at Enterprise

Hometown: Montague, New Jersey

2019 Commencement Spotlight: Vito Van Dunk

Personal development — that’s how marketing major Vito Van Dunk sums up his four years at Saint Rose.

Since arriving on campus, Van Dunk has served as Student Association president, Student Events Board president, a resident assistant, and an intern at Enterprise.

Outside of Saint Rose, he’s worked as a support manager at McDonald’s.

“The last four years have really been challenging, but they have been fun and given me different experiences and opportunities that made me grow into a better individual,” he said.

Van Dunk credits the College’s small campus for all the doors that opened for him. At a larger university, he said he would have been swallowed up in the crowd. At Saint Rose, he said, people care and motivate you to be the best you can be.

“It is very open, and anyone can be involved,” he said.

Van Dunk plans to attend graduate school next, working toward an MBA with a focus in human resource information systems. He dreams of getting a career in training management and traveling the country as a human resource consultant.

“We will see where the future takes me.”

Paul Groff G’19

M.S. in Childhood Education, Graduate Assistant

Hometown: Mechanicville, New York

2019 Commencement Spotlight: Paul Groff

Paul Groff was a sociology major at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts when he fell in love with working with children.

Groff was torn — should he pursue a career in education or continue with sociology? After he graduated, he applied to the childhood education graduate program at Saint Rose, but then decided to put off school and take a job as a legal assistant, working in the immigration department at a law firm.

“Then, I had this family come in and the kids were translating for their parents and doing such a wonderful job. I just missed that energy and helping people,” he said.

“I talked to the admissions counselors (at Saint Rose), reapplied, and got in.”

Groff has completed a rigorous program while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He has not once regretted his decision.

“I would never go anywhere else after being here for two years,” he said. “This is where I was meant to go.”

Groff was a graduate assistant for Elizabeth Yanoff, associate professor and department chair of teacher education, which developed his knowledge of the field and relationships with professors. Yanoff treats him like a colleague, he said, and assigns him work that is applicable to his personal interests and career goals.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said, looking toward graduation. “This is the last step before I enter adulthood and my career, but I have been dreaming of this for so long.”

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