Warner Celebrates 160 Graduates During 2015 Commencement

2015 Warner GraduatesThe Warner School of Education held its annual commencement ceremony on May 16 at Kodak Hall in Eastman Theatre. More than 160 students marked educational milestones on Saturday as they received their graduate degrees.
The ceremony began at 2:30 p.m. with welcoming remarks from University Board of Trustees Chair Edmund Hajim. Other remarks were given by University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Warner School Dean Raffaella Borasi.
Special student awards were presented by Associate Dean Brian Brent during the ceremony to the following eight Warner graduates for their exceptional academic performance and commitment to education:

The Walter I. Garms Award for Educational Leadership was presented to Vicki Elaine Rocha and Jenna Marie Tomasello. The Garms Award is named in honor of Walter Garms, professor emeritus and former dean of the University of Rochester’s School of Education, who was a leader in the study of both school finance and state funding in public schools. The Garms Award recognizes graduate students who show academic excellence and potential for excellence in educational leadership.
Rocha is from Dallas, Texas and graduated from the University of North Texas. She is currently an Alice Holloway Young Intern in Advisement and Graduation Services at Monroe Community College. Her experience in education comes from being a school teacher, and she now aims to positively impact college students. With her master’s in higher education student affairs, Rocha strives to become an academic advisor in the Rochester area.
Tomasello, with her master’s degree in educational policy, will begin a new position with the American Youth Policy Forum, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. dedicated to bridging the gap between research, policy, and practice around issues affecting education and vulnerable youth at the national, state, and local levels. She hopes to eventually return to the academy to pursue a Ph.D.
The Eleanore F. Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented Rachael Elizabeth Heltz Herman and Jillian Michelle Kramer. The Larson Award is named in honor of Eleanore F. Larson, an extraordinary professor who taught both undergraduate and graduate students in the University of Rochester’s School of Education. Larson’s passion for instructional excellence inspired her students to embrace a strong commitment to the education of children. The Larson Award recognizes graduate students whose commitment to teaching reflects Larson’s work.
Heltz Herman is a 2003 graduate of SUNY Fredonia with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in environmental science, with minors in geographic information systems and anthropology. She plans on using her master’s degree in childhood education to begin her teaching career in an elementary school in Monroe County.
Originally from Niagara Falls, Kramer is a 2014 graduate of the University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. With her master’s degree in chemistry education, she will begin her teaching career at East High School this fall.
The Tyll van Geel Award was presented to Aaron Robert Johnson and Christine Marie Sheffer. The award is named for Tyll van Geel, professor emeritus, who is a renowned scholar of education law and applied ethical issues in education. Professor van Geel was instrumental in designing the educational leadership program at the Warner School. The Tyll van Geel Award is presented to doctoral students in educational leadership who demonstrate Professor van Geel’s commitment to thoughtful, ethical leadership and decision making, and rigorous application of scholarship to practice.
Johnson is the junior/senior high school principal in the Byron-Bergen Central School District.  A Rochester native, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SUNY Brockport. He plans to apply his doctoral study in K-12 educational leadership, particularly his decision-analysis dissertation, to his current position in Byron-Bergen.
Sheffer has a passion for providing the highest quality education to students with complex disabilities.  A teacher since 1985, she became a school administrator to influence the work of the next generation of teachers.  Sheffer is currently the superintendent at Mary Cariola Children’s Center and an adjunct professor at Robert’s Wesleyan College.
The Harold Munson Counseling and Human Development Award was presented to Brianna Marie Vespone and Miguel Giovanni Fittoria. The award is named for Harold Munson, professor emeritus, who initiated the school and community counseling programs at the University of Rochester’s School of Education and developed the programs’ high standards recognized by school districts and community agencies. The Munson Award is given to graduate students who reflect the mission and objectives of the Warner School counseling program.
A Rochester native, Vespone returned home to pursue a master's in community mental health counseling after earning her bachelor's in psychology from Le Moyne College. Through her Warner program, she realized her true passion and will be pursuing a career in higher education and student affairs.

Fittoria was first introduced to psychology and development during his time as an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester. His work with professors in the psychology department has allowed him to give presentations at professional conferences and publish papers with faculty members. He hopes that he can take what he has learned over the years about human development and apply it into the classroom setting to support children and families.
Following the presentation of student awards, graduates were recognized and degrees were conferred as they made their way across stage one-by-one to accept their graduate degrees. A highlight of the ceremony was the reading of biographies of the graduating students—a tradition that began years ago.
The University of Rochester used the hashtag #UR2015 on its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram platforms throughout the event to celebrate festivities. Select photos, videos, and social media collections are featured on the University’s Commencement 2015 web page.
On behalf of the University of Rochester community, the Warner School congratulates its graduates and their families. View photos from the 2015 Warner School commencement ceremony.

Media Contact: Theresa Danylak
585.275.0777; 585.278.6273 (cell)

Tags: Commencement