Our Year in Review: 2020-2021
By: Carolina Silva ’16
We are excited to release our second annual “Our Year in Review” from your Wagner College Alumni Association Board of Directors President, Carolina Silva ’16, to give you an inside view of events and initiatives spearheaded by the Alumni Association, led by the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Our Year in Review is based off of the academic year, spanning from September 2020 to August 2021.
*=indicates a Board Member
The Fall: Bonding Together
Entering into a fully virtual academic year, we were excited to see one another virtually and find new ways to connect with our fellow Wagner alumni.
Welcoming seven new members: Keith Stith ’87, Stacy Trent ’94, Michael Barrett ’68, Darren Greco ’98, Robert Scalzo ’01 M’03, Adrian Adderley ’09, and Charlie Siedenburg '95, as our Faculty Representative, we kicked off the board year. Our first board meeting featured our college president Dr. Joel Martin, sharing our strategies and initiatives for the Association, in addition to gaining insight to Dr. Martin’s vision as the College welcomed back students in a shortened hybrid semester.
Our Homecoming at Home experience connected across generations and locations in a time when we needed it most. Although alumni couldn’t get together in-person for our traditional Homecoming, the Alumni Association found new ways to celebrate virtually. The weekend kicked off with “Chopped” hosted by President Martin and Jan Martin. Alumni and students joined us from their homes with their ingredients ready. We shared stories, laughed, and showed off each of our creative dishes.
The Alumni Association also hosted the kick-off social for the Black Professional Alliance (or BPA) at Homecoming. Committee leaders Andrea De Loney ’10, Marisa Correia ’20, Deyja Gentile ’19, and Philippe Lerebours ’19 moderated a panel discussion on the mission and goals of BPA and asked panelists Adrian Adderley '09*, Aquabah Gonney M'08 and Ruta Shah Gordon, Ph.D., Vice President for Internationalization, Intercultural Affairs and Campus Life, to share their experiences, lessons learned, and how the institution can promote equity, diversity and inclusion.
With a commitment to connecting alumni and students, Ellen Huffman Mathias ’14*, Cailin Kelly ’08* and Stacy Trent ’94*, hosted virtual lunch and learns for our Women’s Professional Network students. Levent Bayrasli ’90* and Alyssa Ahern ’13*, co-chairs of the Student Engagement committee, planned two Thursday Night Live alumni panels for our students. Recent Presidential Fellow Joseph Grillo ’20, moderated a discussion with Vinnie Potestivo ’99, VPE, Inc and Jason Baumuller ’05 M’08, Tapestry, on career networking advice, and challenges in the workforce. Recent Presidential Fellow Ruth Kupperberg ’20 led the conversation on their experience of transitioning from student to professional with Spencer Beyer ’18, Millennium Management, and Keith Stith ’87*, now retired from Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.
The board hosted our third annual Alumni Faculty and Staff Appreciation Breakfast virtually, with planning led by adjunct professor Claire Regan ’80* and Kenneth Nilsen ’88*. Alumni gathered together in their Halloween attire to learn new fall recipes from our very own dining Chef Michael Purpura. Our annual breakfast celebrates the unique community of alumni working at Wagner College. We are so proud of and thankful for our Seahawks who chose to serve their alma mater.
As the fall semester drew to an end, the alumni board reached out to our recent graduates from the Class of 2020. Caitlin Kelly ’08*, Ann Taranto Giordano ’69 M’70*, and Michael Barrett ’68* penned a digital postcard to our newest alumni, wishing them a healthy and happy holiday season. Seahawks also joined us in a Pass the Whisk challenge so alumni could swap as many recipes as possible with one another. Special thanks to alumni in our video: Kenneth Nilsen ’88*, Ruth Kupperberg ’20, Stacy Trent ’94*, Aurora Brennan ’13, Kyle Viti ’20, Deyja Gentile ’19, Jessica Vincello ’21.
The Alumni Association Board of Directors strives to support the advancement initiatives of Wagner College. This year, the school raised $348,423 on Day of Giving, with a 100% participation rate from the board. Your contribution to the school as an alumni, friend or parent helps us to further develop the current and future generations of Wagner Seahawks.
The Spring: The Strength in Our Connections
Cailin Kelly ’08* and Ann Taranto Giordano ’69 M’70* elevated our alumni-to-alumni programming. Together, they developed a new initiative called the Alumni Speaker Series, giving alumni a chance to learn from fellow Seahawks, hear about their journeys and make new connections.
Our inaugural Alumni Speaker Series in January featured California-based administrative law judge Jennifer Kaloper-Bersin '94. She was joined by fellow classmate and friend Stacy Trent ’94* for an engaging conversation on embracing change and lessons learned along the way.
The second installment of the Alumni Speaker Series was held in June with Katherine ‘Grace’ Smith ’08. Grace Smith is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author and the founder and owner of Grace Space Hypnosis. Her friend and classmate Cailin Kelly ’08*, joined Grace in a discussion on hypnosis, decreasing stress, building a bootstrapped start-up into an enterprise-level international corporation, and her journey from Wagner to now.
The Thursday Night Live alumni panel took a different approach for the spring semester. Olatunde Ogunlana ’10 M’11* noted the popularity of podcasts and envisioned using a similar model for our program. He brought in three of his close friends, all Seahawk NFL players, to work with him on his idea. We held a live online conversation about their Wagner experience, careers, and advice for current students. Olatunde Ogunlana ’10 M’11* moderated the panel with Julian Stanford ’12, linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, Jeremiah Brown ’12, former NFL defensive back and founder & CEO of The Lead LLC, and Dom Williams ’13, former NFL running back and founder & CEO of the Dominique Williams Foundation.
In honor of Women’s History month in March, the Women’s Professional Network held its first Leadership Panel. Co-chair Aurora Brennan ’13 moderated a panel featuring members of our Board of Trustees: Lisa De Respino Bennett ’85*, Mary Caracappa-Hurtado ’82, and Joan Nicolais, Chair of the Board of Trustees. These women shared what it means to be a Trustee of the College and their leadership journey.
Our annual Career Conversations event has always been the biggest networking event for our students. This year, the Office of Alumni Relations and Center for Academic and Career Engagement held a program for our students. Virtual Career Conversations featured a discussion on “The Value of Networking” by Keynote Speaker, Elizabeth Cabrera Dye ’03 from Johnson & Johnson. Her address was followed by a Live Alumni Panel Discussion and Q&A centered on "Vocation and Purpose: Mapping Your Wagner Experience to Your Career Journey.” Five alumni were panelists: Lisa De Respino Bennett ’85* (trustee), JPMorgan Chase & Co; Keith Stith ’87*, Hudson County Police Department; Dedrick Dye ’03, Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School; Dr. Joy Gallagher ’06 M'08, Dow; Lucy Wagner ’07, FADP Performance Manager, Merrill.
Students who attended received a unique networking list of over 300 alumni names who want to help our students with their career development. It is inspiring to know that Seahawks will always help another Seahawk.
We also held a Virtual Open House for all alumni to learn more about how to get involved with their alma mater. Nicolina Astorina, Director of Alumni Relations, spoke about the different affinities within the Association. I moderated a panel discussion with Ellen Huffman Mathias ’14*, Robert Scalzo ’01 M’03* and Cailin Kelly ’08*, sharing our experiences after Wagner, our motivation for giving back, and how we’ve all seen the evolution of growth within the Association.
Welcome to Our Newest Members
We would like to give a warm Seahawk welcome to our newest members joining the board for 2021-2022: Aurora Brennan ’13; Nicole Giammarinaro ’07; Sarah Braun ’14 M’18 M’20. Our new board members each bring a unique perspective and experience to the board and dedication for their alma mater. You can read more about our newest members here.
Thank you for your service
We salute our three board members who have completed their terms after serving six consecutive years. We are grateful for their dedication and contributions to the Association: Donna D’Ermilio ’75, Ellen Huffman Mathias ’14, and Christian Rautenstrauch ’13.
What can you expect to see for the upcoming year?
Currently, Wagner College is planning to start their fall semester on Monday, August 30. We will continue to evolve and grow our programming and events.
We are eager to launch our Alumni of the Alumni Board initiative, honoring those who have served our board in years past. Since the 1990s, alumni have been members of the Alumni Association Board and have given back extensively to the College. You can view our past board member listing here.
The fall semester kicks off with our biggest celebration yet on campus on October 1-2: Wagner Weekend, bringing together the best parts of our beloved Homecoming and Reunion traditions. Start getting ready and register now for the weekend of events. Stay tuned for more events on the calendar.
We are continuously proud of the great work, support and resilience of the Alumni Association and are excited for a new academic year. We hope to see you soon as we celebrate the past, present and future of Wagner College.
Carolina Silva ’16, Alumni Association Board of Directors President