Doctoral and Master’s Degree Graduates Celebrate During 2024 Campus Commencement Ceremonies

Nearly 1,000 William Paterson University doctoral and master’s degree graduates were celebrated for attaining their advanced degrees during two Graduate Commencement ceremonies on May 20 in the Sports and Recreation Center on campus.

Graduates of the College of Education and College of Science and Health were recognized during an afternoon ceremony, while those earning degrees in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Cotsakos College of Business participated in an evening ceremony.

College of Education and College of Science and Health Ceremony
CAHSS, and Cotsakos College of Business Ceremony

This year’s ceremonies included nine candidates who were the first to be awarded doctor of education in leadership degrees. In addition, six candidates were awarded doctor of nursing practice degrees and 11 students were awarded doctor of psychology degrees in clinical psychology. Approximately 865 were awarded master’s degrees. The students hail from 17 states and 42 countries.

President Richard J. Helldobler gave remarks at each ceremony. “You truly embody the William Paterson mission to educate and put degrees in the hands of the students who are changing the social fabric of New Jersey and our country,” he told the graduates. “Your successful pursuit of a master’s or doctoral degree speaks to a special determination to advance in your chosen field and have a greater impact on your career, your family, and your community.”

Pointing out that only about 14 percent of American adults have earned an advanced degree, he encouraged the graduates to use their new status for the benefit of their communities and their professions. “Colleagues and neighbors will look to you—as holders of advanced degrees—to help to make things better in your organizations and in your cities and towns.”

He advised them to pause and reflect on the path they traveled to this point in their lives. “Just what kind of impact do you want to have on the world? How will you leverage your degree to achieve it; not just in terms of your next job or promotion—as important as those things are—but also over the course of the careers and the lives ahead of you?” he asked. “You can be sure that the world needs the kind of talent and dedication that you have to offer—the Will. Power. that got you where you are today, along with the specialized skills you have acquired at William Paterson.”


Brittany Casares, a physical education and health teacher at Carl H. Kumpf Middle School in Clark, New Jersey, served as the graduate student speaker at the afternoon ceremony. She earned a master of education degree in educational leadership in January 2024.

Casares advised the graduates to savor this special moment. “We become so overwhelmed in our daily lives that we forget to stop and look up,” she said. “I hope today offers each of us a moment to be proud of how far we have come and to celebrate this achievement with loved ones.” 

She encouraged her fellow graduates to take risks, and possibly even fail. “I have learned more from failures than I ever did when I succeeded, and sometimes starting over is just what I needed to remember what I really wanted in the first place,” she said. “Embrace the feeling of being stuck and not knowing where things will take you. Continue to work hard, stay positive, and have faith that things will always turn out the way they are supposed to.”

Amirah Elayan, a 2022 graduate of William Paterson who earned a master of fine arts degree in creative and professional writing in May 2024, spoke at the evening ceremony. She spoke about being the first in her family to earn an advanced degree.

“Many of us come from immigrant families, or families who climbed their way out of poverty, maybe still are,” she said. “Many of us are breaking generational cycles…Yet, somewhere down the line came our own stories. We are a culmination of everything that came before us, and those who come after will be a culmination of us.” 

She told the graduates to be proud of their achievements. “All of us have fought for our education in some ways and forged our own paths,” she said. “Despite what the world has told us time and time again, we landed here tonight. We chose our education. We chose our careers, we put ourselves first. Despite the odds against us, we have made it here tonight to graduate with not just any degree, but with a graduate degree! How amazing is that?”

The graduates, including many who earned degrees fully online through the University’s WP Online platform, processed from tents in Pioneer Soccer Park through festive arches of black and orange balloons to the Sports and Recreation Center. More than 2,000 family and friends filled the venue for each ceremony.