Let’s hear it for the Profs!

Let’s hear it for the Profs!

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With a ceremonial torch-passing, the Class of 2023 officially joins Rowan’s campus
Freshman marketing major Nicholas Alexandros Mercado raises Rowan's Torch of Knowledge as Student Government Association President Arielle Gedeon beams with pride. The torch-passing is a long tradition at Rowan.

They hail from 19 states and 14 countries.

But when they all gathered on the University Green on Sunday, Sept. 1, for the President’s Welcome & Picnic, they had one very important thing in common: They officially became Rowan University Profs.

In welcoming the Class of 2023—approximately 2,800 students strong—President Ali A. Houshmand told freshmen they’ve chosen to attend a University clearly on the move.

“We are the fourth fastest growing research university in the country,” Houshmand said during a spirited, fun ceremony on a picture-perfect evening. “By the time you finish your studies, you probably won’t recognize this campus.”

The president reminded the class that the University Green is where Commencement ceremonies are held. He told freshmen that, when they graduate in four years, they’ll do so during Rowan’s 100th year.  

“Welcome to your new home,” he said. “I’ll see you (here) in four years.”

“Amen!” a member of the class responded, to laughs--and cheers--from his classmates.

Torch of Knowledge

During the President’s Welcome and Picnic, the Class of 2023 ceremoniously joined Rowan when freshman marketing major Nicholas Alexandros Mercado accepted the University’s Torch of Knowledge from Student Government Association President Arielle Gedeon, a junior radio/television/film major.

The Torch of Knowledge is one of Rowan’s longest traditions. Each year, the torch is passed from the SGA president to a member of the freshman class. The torch’s flame represents the passion for education new students will need to be successful at Rowan and in the future.

To the cheers of his classmates, Mercado took the torch and raised it aloft triumphantly.

Clearly, Rowan’s Class of 2023 means business…and is highly accomplished. Among admitted freshmen, their average high school GPA is 3.58, up from 3.55 in 2018-19, and the average SAT/ACT converted score is 1161, up from 1157 last year.

The class includes students from 19 states and 14 countries with the furthest domestic student coming from Los Angeles (2,394 miles) and the furthest international student arriving from Shenzhen, China (8,104 miles).

Gedeon told the newest Profs that they will make a difference at Rowan.

“I have no doubt you’ll achieve treat things, individually and collectively. Whatever your goals or dreams are, make a plan to achieve them,” said Gedeon, who, as a freshman, set a goal to become SGA president. “Two years later, here I am…the first black female SGA president in Rowan University history.

“Class of 2023, you are a very special class. It’s an honor for me to serve as your SGA president. We are so proud to welcome you as classmates, community members, future leaders and friends.’’

Model, inspirational speaker, humanitarian

In addressing the class during the President’s Welcome & Picnic, 2019 Distinguished Young Alumna honoree Rebekah Marine ’10 shared a bit of her own story. A model, inspirational speaker and humanitarian, Marine, born without her right forearm, was repeatedly told that she was not “model material.” She defied all odds and walked the runway at New York Fashion Week, while also modeling Tommy Hilfiger and other designers.

“I almost dropped out my very first year at Rowan,” said Marine, who now travels the country sharing her story and encouraging others to overcome their insecurities to live a life without the fear of rejection or failure. She finally found her passion, she said, when she became an advertising major.

“It was my seventh and final major that changed it all for me,” Marine said. Utilizing a skill she honed at Rowan, Marine wrote her first-ever press release to promote her modeling career.

The headline read: “Model with bionic arm to walk in New York Fashion Week.”

“What would your headline read?” Marine asked the class.  “The only quality you must possess today is determination.”

Marine accepted the Distinguished Young Alumna Award from Alumni Association Board President Anthony Marino. Rowan boasts more than 90,000 alumni.

“I encourage you to take advantage of all the opportunities Rowan offers to help you grow as a student, a person and a future professional,” Marino said. “Know that our strong alumni network is here for you now to help you along your path.”

After the torch-passing ceremony, the Class of 2023 gathered for a Welcome Picnic, enjoying Jersey fresh foods--and some impromptu dancing in Oak Grove.

The President’s Welcome & Picnic is a highlight of Rowan’s Welcome Week, a series of activities and events designed to welcome students to campus, meet classmates, and become engaged with campus activities, organizations, and services. View a gallery of photos here

Moving in

Freshman Move-In kicked off the week as roughly 2,460 residential freshmen got settled on campus.

Flat screen TVs, trunks of clothes, and plastic bins stuffed with towels, bed sheets, sweatshirts and snacks were some of the essentials during Move-In Weekend.

Of course, what was most essential was the support of parents, grandparents, siblings and friends as members of the Class of 2023 arrived--eager but anxious--to start their college careers.

“OK, I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous,” said freshman marketing major Merissa Runfeldt of Lincoln Park as she unpacked her things in Holly Pointe Commons, Rowan’s newest residence hall.

Runfeldt requested, and was approved, for rooming with Leila Hakooz of Boonton, her best friend since the eighth grade.

“We’ll be OK once we settle in,” Hakooz assured her.

Looking on, Runfeldt’s mother, Kristen, said she wasn’t nervous at all.

“Well, maybe a little,” she confessed. “These are new beginnings and you just hope for the best. But Leila’s like my third daughter and I know they’ll look out for each other.”

Some 2,000 volunteers, including students, staff, faculty, administrators and members of the public helped newcomers settle in throughout the weekend, meeting them curbside with shopping carts and personally showing them to their rooms.

“We try hard to make sure people don’t wait,” said Benjamin Taylor, a senior mechanical engineering major from Pemberton who serves as an assistant residential director at Holly Pointe.

Taylor, who is entering his third year living at Holly Pointe, said the facility, which houses more than 1,400 students, is warm despite its size.

“Living here is great,” he said. “You make a lot of friends.”

Residential director Dominique Pierson, a second year graduate students in higher education administration from Bordentown, said Move-in Weekend can be stressful but careful planning helps ease student – and parental – anxiety.

“The staff knows how to make it enjoyable,” Pierson said. “We just try to make everyone feel welcome.”

Altogether, roughly 19,500 students are enrolled at Rowan for the 2019-20 academic year, nearly double the enrollment of just a dozen years ago.