Celebrating the Class of 2024

We are proud of each of our #NazGrad24 graduates!

They are headed into careers, on for graduate degrees, and devoting time to service work such as disaster relief. They look forward to making their mark on their community and world as ethical business professionals and entrepreneurs, teachers, financial advisors, museum and library specialists, data analysts, performers, music composers, creators of sustainable systems, artists, designers, professors, myriad medical and mental health professionals, and more. Here is a sampling!

Shaddai Amore Simmons ’23, ’24G

Shaddai Amore Simmons ’23, ’24G

Studied: Master of Social Work, School Social Work Concentration

What's next: Hired as a school social worker at Odyssey Academy in Greece, New York.

Most looking forward to: "I am most looking forward to inspiring black and brown students to reach their goals as I serve as one of the few black and brown professionals within the Greece Central School District."

A lesson I take from Naz: "Build a community of multidisciplinary support. The relationships developed within this community will sharpen your skills and provide perspective on the situations that you come across."

Best experiences: "Out of many opportunities that I have experienced at Nazareth (presenting at CARS, hosting Dismantling Day, research projects with professors, traveling to present my work at various seminars, etc.), my most prized experience was participating with the Vecinos Unidos team under the direction of Professor Bobadilla. This opportunity allowed me to forge connections with a multidisciplinary team as we worked together to develop and teach social and emotional learning lessons to migrant youth and families living in Sodus, NY. This experience revealed my desire to work in the school setting and strengthened my confidence as I worked with a team and in a community that I was unfamiliar with. Those relationships have lasted to this day and have further developed my competence in the social work field."

Gratitude: "Among the many Naz professionals who've positively impacted me are Professors Bobadilla, Cole, Charlesworth, Primus, and Cummings. A special thanks to Professor Shirley Sharp, a trusted source of personal and professional advice and wisdom. I can go to her office knowing that I will leave refreshed, encouraged, and empowered to get back to work."

Jonathan Benn

Jonathan Benn '24

Studied: Music Education specializing in Vocal; minor in Piano

What's next: Hired as the general music teacher at Solvay Elementary School in Solvay, N.Y.

Most looking forward to: "Being able to make connections with students and create a space where they feel welcomed and look forward to taking part in."

Lesson I take from Naz: "It is never too early to start your professional development and make connections. Those connections are very important and can lead to opportunities that you may not expect."

Best experience: "A top experience was my choir tour with the Nazareth Chamber Singers in Poland in May 2023. My circle of friends strengthened during this trip and continues to strengthen even a year after the trip. I am very grateful that I was able to be a part of this and discover these close relationships."

Gratitude: "I had the privilege of taking individual choral conducting lessons with Dr. Eric Rubinstein (pictured) — where he also took the time to entertain any questions I had about job applications, the "real side" of teaching, as well as discussions about theater. Dr. Rubinstein is also the type of person who would be sitting in his office during the day with the door open and I would pop in with a ridiculous question and he would take the time to discuss what I was bringing to the table. He has helped me discover ways to be the most effective teacher I can be, and create an environment that bolsters student relationships while strengthening community. If I can make an impact on my students as much as Dr. Rubinstein has made an impact on me, I know that I am doing my job right."

    Julie Filipski '24

    Studied: Ethical Data Science and Math; minor in Business Leadership

    What's next: Hired full-time at M&T Bank's Operations Development Program in Buffalo, after interning at M&T.

    Most looking forward to: "meeting new people, making business and friend connections, exploring new challenges, and applying the knowledge I've gained from my time at Naz."

    Lesson I take from Naz: "It is okay to fail and not always know the answer to every question. Failing is always part of the process towards success. Working with others can often make difficult tasks much simpler."

    Best experiences: "Making meaningful connections with the faculty as well as making lifelong friendships with my classmates and teammates. I love Naz and I couldn't imagine myself at any other school."

    Gratitude: "(Professor) Wendy Norris has had a great impact on me during my time at Naz. She has always been very kind, approachable, and supportive, as well as understanding the difficulties of balancing academics, athletics, and life."

    Emily Perechov ’24

    Emily Perechov ’24

    Studied: Accounting; minors in Financial Planning and Analytics

    What's next: Hired as a tax accountant at The Bonadio Group

    Most looking forward to: "new opportunities so I can continue to grow and learn. I am also excited to meet new people and make a meaningful impact on my community."

    Lesson I take from Naz: "the importance of building strong relationships and the power of teamwork in achieving success."

    Best experiences: "I have had so many amazing experiences at Naz, mainly the activities and opportunities I participated in and creating meaningful relationships with professors and classmates."

    Gratitude: "So many faculty and staff members have had a significant impact on me and my time at Naz — Prof. Eileen Beiter, Elizabeth Degnan, Amy Fisher, Dr. Rose Hair, Dr. Wendy Norris, and many more."

    Sophia Caruana ’24

    Sophia Caruana ’24

    Studied: Ethical Data Science;  minors in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Psychology

    What's next: Researching modeling human behavior with biologically inspired systems as a Cognitive Science Ph.D. student at RIT

    Most looking forward to: "I am looking forward to making a difference in the world through my research, which relates to ethical and human-centered AI. Trying to stop AI from being a part of our lives is like trying to prevent galaxies from colliding. The future is here, and I will be using my ethics training from Nazareth to ensure we are using AI for human good."

    Lesson I take from Naz: "Be fearless: never be afraid to ask questions, make connections, and experience unconventional learning experiences. Not only will you make the most of your educational experience, you will stand out and make a difference."

    Best experiences: Presenting my research in CARS, getting into the University of Rochester REU through the help of my professors, and participating in the Cab formal! Being a part of the math club was also hugely positive for me, as well as living in the beautiful George Hall!

    Gratitude: "I am grateful for the many faculty members who have made significant contributions to my undergraduate experience. I have to thank Dr. Machessa Samz for her infinite wisdom, encouragement, and kind heartedness, Dr. Wendy Norris for her dedication to my growth as an ethical data professional, and Dr. Heather Lewis for supporting me in mathematics, tutoring, and knitting!"

    Nina DeMilta ’24

    Nina DeMilta ’24

    Studied: Music Therapy major; minors in Spiritual Care and Interdisciplinary Interfaith Studies

    What's next: Clinical music therapy internship at the Institute for Therapy Through the Arts in Evanston, Ill., working with clientele of all ages.

    Most looking forward to: "finding and creating connections with new people through music that will provide me with a continuing awareness of my own and other people's humanity. In my life's work, I am most excited to grow through the discomfort of new experiences by being open to the world around me."

    Lesson I take from Naz: "Accept that I am exactly where I need to be in any given moment, rather than comparing myself to other people's progress. In this same vain, I have also learned that in accepting where I am in life, I should also push myself to seek growth through discomfort."

    Best experiences: "The best experiences I've had are the ones I've made with my friends, especially my roommates and music therapy graduating class. I have learned so much about receiving and giving love and care in an authentic way that I would not have known without meeting them at Naz. I've experienced moments of joy in and outside of the classroom setting that allow me to live more fully and I'm forever grateful for meeting such amazing human beings over the last 4 years. I think the connections I've made with my peers in the music therapy class of 2024 have been some of the most fulfilling experiences in my life thus far and I am so thankful to them for allowing me to be their friend."

    Gratitude: "I've had such a wonderful support system at Naz, but if I had to choose one person, I think it would be Dr. Corinne Dempsey in the Religious Studies department. I took my religious studies PEQ with her during my first semester and she challenged me to think about life from a different perspective, which encouraged me to pursue more opportunities that I might not have originally chosen to participate in. Dr. Dempsey was one of the first professors to validate my own experiences while also challenging me to expand my worldview and unlearn my biases. She always engaged with me in a kind, compassionate, and open way that made me feel like I was being heard."

      Gabbie Pighetti ’22, ’24G

      Studied: Physical Therapy

      What's next: Hired by MVPT in Fairport, NY (Perinton Rec Center) with a focus on aquatic physical therapy.

      Most looking forward to: "making an impact on the local community and the lives of the people that I will be treating."

      Lesson I take from Naz: "Embrace it all! The smiles, the tears, the fun, the stress, etc. because you will never, ever get this opportunity again!"

      Best experiences: "I had a lot of great experiences in my Naz education, from winning an E8 championship with the women's soccer team to breaking records in track and field as a freshman, to meeting some of my closest friends that I will have for a lifetime. It is truly hard to pick just one!"

      Gratitude: "Season Bonino helped guide me through the 3 years of DPT school, whether that be on a personal level (family emergencies, heightened emotions, etc.) or through helping me learn how to study best and giving me a shoulder to lean on when I struggled most. She was more than just a professor to me. She was a second mom!"

        Grace Hunt '24

        Studied: Social Work and Spanish; minor in Dance

        What's next: teaching English in Spain through the Embassy of Spain's North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. "I will be a teacher's assistant, working with students on pronunciation, grammar structures, and North American cultures. And of course, live the Spanish lifestyle!"

        Most looking forward to: "learning and solidifying new languages, and making deep, meaningful connections with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life."

        Lesson I take from Naz: "Don't be afraid to be afraid! New experiences can fill you with so much fear before they can fill you with so much joy. Take the risk! Do the thing!"

        Best experiences: "studying abroad in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, being an orientation leader and having opportunities to connect with new students, and my community service work through Partners for Health!"

        Gratitude: "My social work professor Dr. Jed Metzger was the professor who pulled me out of my shell. I knew that he was there to not only support me, but to push my academic boundaries and mold me into a great social worker. Also, my Spanish professor Dr. Hilda Chacón has been with me every semester of my time here at Nazareth. She has taught me not only how to speak another language, but also how to advocate for myself and others, and to be comfortable making mistakes."

          Rita Veneziale '24

          Studied: Music Composition 

          What's next: Master's in Film and Media Scoring, Beal Institute at the Eastman School of Music

          Most looking forward to: "building a life I love"

          Lesson I take from Naz: "Everything comes with time. Don't worry, just do."

          Best experiences: Studying abroad in Austria and Italy and premiering my piece, "Chernobyl," with the Nazareth University Symphony Orchestra.

          Gratitude: "Dr. Vazquez has greatly affected me. He not only guided me into finding my sound as a composer but also gave great life advice right when I needed it."

          Madison Darrell '24

          Madison Darrell '24

          Studied: Triple major in Museums, Archives, and Public History; History, and French; minors in Dance and Honors

          What's next: attending Northeastern University in Boston for an M.A. in History with a concentration in public history.

          Most looking forward to: "exploring a new city and work opportunities there. Boston is full of history and I cannot wait to be a part of it!"

          Lesson I take from Naz: "Seek out new experiences and don't be afraid to take risks! It could turn into something wonderful!

          Best experiences: "When I studied abroad, I loved exploring new places and making memories with my friends! Studying abroad has made a meaningful impact on my approach to life and I want to continue to travel in the future."

          Gratitude: "Dr. Kneeland has had a major impact on my life. He is always encouraging me to seek opportunities and supports me on my journey."

          Katherine Markello ’24

          Katherine Markello ’24

          Studied: Dance Studies and Communications & Media; Honors minor

          What's next: "I'm embracing the excitement of many different paths and possibilities. I'm exploring careers in communications/public relations as well as in dance education, with the ultimate goal of melding the two along the way."

          Most looking forward to: "so many different avenues! I studied communications and look forward to the ability to use my skill set to support and spread the messages of causes or organizations I am passionate about. I'm ultimately looking forward to hopefully making a difference through my life's work in this way, in whatever capacity that may be."

          Lesson I take from Naz: "being a life-long learner, as Nazareth has taught me it's often the real-world learning experiences that have the greatest impact."

          Best experiences: A summer studying abroad in Florence, Italy was "undoubtedly one of the highlights of my Nazareth education. Other standout moments include teaching dance to the Sisters of St. Joseph, working in admissions as a Student Ambassador and then intern, dancing at the basketball games and competitions with the Dance Team, many special dance department performances, and above all, getting to do it with incredible friends."

          Gratitude: "There are truly so many wonderful people I'd love to give a shout-out to; I could talk about the faculty at Nazareth for days! Heather Roffe and Allison Thomashefski in the dance department are two who have had the greatest impact. Heather is one of the main reasons why I chose Nazareth, and from teaching to choreographing to dancing to now serving as co-chair of the department, she does it all with grace. She is never too busy to be genuinely engaged in and supportive of the lives of each of her students. Allison was kind enough to serve as my primary mentor for my Honors Capstone thesis, and I truly could not have completed my work without her guidance and support. She is one of the most thoughtful and sincere people I know, and I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with her in the studio, in the classroom, and beyond. These two women have had a profound impact on the dancer and individual I am today, and embody everything I could hope to be as an educator."

          Rheanna Barney '24

          Rheanna Barney '24

          Studied: History and Italian; minor in  Museums, Archives, and Public History

          What's next: Grad school for M.S. in Information and Library Science at either the University at Buffalo or Simmons University, to focus on archives, collections, and academic libraries.

          Most looking forward to: "I don't know exactly where my path will lead me (something I am still working to accept), but I just want to be able to help others and make some form of positive change in whatever life I make for myself."

          Lesson I take from Naz: "First, I am loved and supported, even on my worst days. Second, very few things in life are worth the stress that we cause ourselves, when so much can be fixed with compassion and communication."

          Best experiences: My study abroad experiences in the UK and Italy were amazing, but the best experiences and the memories that I will remember above all others are simply the days I would spend hanging out with my friends in the history lounge or the Casa Italiana, chatting with professors, making ourselves laugh until we cried while we worked on homework. I think my little group of friends and professors is the best part of me, and will always be what I cherish most highly from my time at Naz.

          Gratitude: "It is difficult to not list everyone in the history and Italian programs, but I have to say Dr. Thibodeau. I could write a book on the impact he has had on me and even though he is now retired, he continues to be one of the biggest supports I have as I navigate the future. I was a scared and undeclared freshman when I took his Western Civilization II course in the heavily social-distanced Colie's Cafe, where his teaching and kindness helped me realize that I could study what I wanted for no reason other than "it makes me happy." Over the three years that he was my advisor, he saw me at some of my best and worst moments and always knew how to help me, whether through humor, random facts about classic rock, or true consolation. Dr. Thibodeau taught my favorite classes and so much of my passion for medieval history has been fostered by his work, and I count myself so ridiculously lucky to have been one of his students. He is still my Profestie, and I'm excited to continue my education with his guidance after Naz."

            Austin Stroup '24

            Studied: B.M., Music Education

            What's next: Moving to North Carolina to start my music teaching career, as my wife starts her career in nursing, with our son, Samuel. I would also love to join a church's worship team and continue songwriting. Eventually, I will pursue my master's degree.

            Most looking forward to: "In my career, I look forward to building relationships with brand-new students and families and collaborating with colleagues, while making a difference making music."

            Lesson I take from Naz: "To make the right choice, you have to establish priorities."

            Best experiences: "making lifelong friends, being an RA my sophomore year, getting married, serving as president for State Collegiate NYSSMA, conducting the Wind Symphony, and traveling with the Wind Symphony. However, the most inspiring is having the strongest cardiac NICU baby born in February! The odds are stacked against him, but with God he is defying them left and right!"

            Hayley Peisher ’24

            Hayley Peisher ’24

            Studied: BFA, Studio Art

            What's next: Syracuse University Studio Art MFA program

            Most looking forward to: "being able to make art for the rest of my life and share that enjoyment and love for the arts with others, whether that be through teaching as a professor or through my paintings themselves."

            Lesson I take from Naz: "Nazareth has taught me just how important it is to make connections, not only with peers but with your professors. These relationships help you not only in preparation for your future career but also in establishing lifelong friendships with those in your career."

            Best experiences: "My best experiences during my time at Naz have to be the art gallery events, especially the student art shows. It is just such a fun and rewarding event that allows the whole art department to come together to socialize and admire each other's hard work. I also have been loving working on the BFA show this year, where the other Studio Art BFA students and I will set up a gallery show that displays our thesis work."

            Gratitude: "Ron Netsky is a professor who has helped me significantly in finding myself as an artist, allowing me to branch out and try new things while also applying a steady hand to move me forward towards my goals. I wouldn't be anywhere near the artist I am today without his guidance and expertise."

              Andrew Wicklum '24

              Studied: BFA, Musical Theatre; minors in Theatre Design & Technology, Communication & Media

              What's next: This summer I will perform as Squidward in The Spongebob Musical at The Quisisana Resort in Maine.

              Most looking forward to: "I am looking forward to hitting the ground running into the theatrical industry. I have never felt more ready for something in my entire life and with the knowledge I have learned in and out of the classroom at Nazareth, I have never felt more prepared for something."

              Lesson I take from Naz: "There is never a limit to the amount of knowledge you possess or growth you are capable of. The work for your craft never stops. Never."

              Best experiences: "I love making believe, telling a story, and above all, laughing. The productions I have been a part of here have allowed me to do this and more with my best friends."

              Gratitude: "Nicolette Hart is the reason I came to Naz and the reason I stayed at Naz. Her guidance and leadership in the Theatre & Dance Department is unmatched, I feel honored to be able to call her my mentor."

              Marina Michele Cornejo Monzón

              Marina Michele Cornejo Monzón '24G

              Studied: M.S., Global Business and Leadership

              What's next: Internship in human resources information systems at Constellation Brands.

              Most looking forward to: "applying my knowledge and skills, as well as international perspective to lead cross-cultural teams, solve complex business challenges, and make a meaningful impact in today's interconnected world."

              Lessons I take from Naz: "the value of embracing change and taking advantage of opportunities for personal and academic growth. As an undergraduate exchange student, living in a new environment taught me resilience, adaptability, and the importance of getting out of my comfort zone. Returning for my master's degree reinforced the importance of perseverance and determination to achieve my goals. These experiences have made me a more confident and capable person, ready to accept new challenges and contribute positively to my future projects."

              Best experiences: "Working in marketing and communications at the career center has provided me with invaluable opportunities to collaborate with professionals and develop my professional skills. As a Spanish tutor, I have had the privilege of fostering language proficiency and cultural understanding among students. Additionally, working as a business school assistant has given me valuable insights into academia and business operations. Being part of the golf team has not only allowed me to improve in this sport but has also promoted teamwork, discipline, and personal growth. Overall, the opportunity to meet amazing people on campus, from fellow students to faculty and staff, has enriched my experience and made my time at Nazareth truly unforgettable."

              Gratitude: "Mark Weber has been a significant influence on me. During my exchange year, Mark provided me with support and guidance as I navigated the challenges of adapting to a new environment. His mentorship was instrumental in helping me overcome challenges and excel academically. Now, while I study for my master's degree and work as an assistant in the business school, Mark continues to support me, offering mentoring and advice that has contributed significantly to my growth and success both academically and professionally."

              Sami Christmas

              Sami Christmas '24

              Studied: Communication Sciences and Disorders; minors in Pre-Audiology and Developing Child and Families

              What's next: University of Connecticut for a doctorate in audiology

              Most looking forward to: "spending every day helping people experience the world in new and improved ways!"

              Lesson I take from Naz: "Putting yourself out there is so scary but so rewarding. I never would have made friends or built connections with those around me if I had not learned to go outside of my comfort zone every once in a while."

              Best experiences: "Being involved on campus by attending events, living on campus, and meeting new people as well as getting to experience what Rochester has to offer!"

              Gratitude: "The professor who has had the greatest impact on me was Dr. Megan Tobin. She came to class every day excited to teach, willing to listen, and invested in what students had to say. She has always pushed me to think outside of the box in class and has taught me to not give up on myself. I am so thankful for all of the classes she has taught me, the conversations and laughs we have had, and the advice she has given me."

                Wren Heron ’24 

                StudiedCommunication and Media major; minors in English and Asian Studies

                What's next: Summer internship at LáLew Public Relations, a woman- and minority-owned public relations firm that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion in client work. "I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue DEI work after graduation. After the summer, I hope to pursue a career path that allows me to engage in DEI work and push for more inclusive and accessible language."

                Most looking forward to: "being able to bring my expertise in communications, specifically with inclusive and accessible language and design, to any project I work on, in order to advocate for historically marginalized communities. I truly believe that my coursework at Naz has given me the foundation of social justice-oriented thinking that will carry throughout whatever opportunities I find, and I can't wait to put what I've learned into action by working to fight for better, more accurate representation and more nuanced, inclusive language."

                Lesson I take from Naz: "Much of my coursework had some aspect of self-reflection incorporated into it, and through those experiences, I have learned that, while it may be incredibly uncomfortable and seemingly easier to sit in the comfort of the moment, it's necessary to engage in reflective work to learn and grow as an individual. But at the same time, I have had some of the greatest support from friends and faculty at Naz, and it showed me that self-reflection is not something that is always a solitary journey. Reflective work is necessary, and having the support systems in place to engage in the difficult emotions it brings up is crucial."

                Best experiences: "Some of my best experiences at Naz were class discussions, research opportunities, and the time I spent with the people who really matter to me. I can think of countless times that class discussions challenged me to think in ways that I hadn't thought before and how they pushed me both to move beyond my major and to consider interdisciplinary connections. The two independent studies I pursued in this past year, as well as very open-ended assignments in certain courses, opened up so many possibilities for research that I never would have explored otherwise. But if I were to rank my best experiences, the top ones would all be the time I've spent with the friends who I've made on campus. Nothing compares to the affinity we found with each other and the way we all supported each other in growing and learning about ourselves."

                Gratitude: "Dr. Phillip B. Guingona has had a tremendous impact on me as both a student and a person. His classes allowed me to pursue academic interests that I hadn't previously had the opportunity to explore, meet my closest friends, and start learning more about myself. As a professor, Phillip truly values the lens that I bring to the classroom as an interdisciplinary student, and he has wholeheartedly supported my research and academic endeavors, even when I haven't been confident in them myself."

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