Touro University Celebrates Graduate Division Commencement

Over 1,340 Graduates Gather at Coney Island Amphitheater to Honor Class of 2022 from Six Graduate Division Schools

June 16, 2022
headshots of six graduates wearing graduation caps
Top row, L-R: Shira Shapiro, Mollie Kahn, Katherine Zammit; Bottom row, L-R: Yana Senchylo, Shmuel Yudelzon, Susanne Trachtenberg

With the sun shining brightly on the beach and boardwalk nearby, Touro University welcomed over 1,340 master’s degree recipients from its Division of Graduate Studies to the Amphitheater at Coney Island on June 14, for the division’s first live commencement since 2019.

Touro administration, including Touro University President Dr. Alan Kadish, warmly greeted graduates of the six schools that comprise the division, along with their families and friends.

“You will look back on this time…as a time of great challenge but also a time where you’ve learned the skills of coming together as a community, and of perseverance. Those skills, in addition to the technical knowledge you obtained at Touro, will allow you to be extraordinarily successful both personally and professionally,” said Dr. Kadish. “Now more than ever the world needs you and I know you’re up to the task."

Students Speak

Student speakers from the graduate schools comprising the division - business, education, Jewish studies, social work, technology, and health sciences – each shared personal reflections:

Mollie Kahn, M.S. in Human Resources Management, who graduated with a 4.0,  shared that Touro’s evening classes helped her obtain her degree and secure a promotion at her full-time day job at Kuhne+Nagel, a global supply and logistics company.

“One of the reasons cited for my promotion was I took the initiative to pursue my master’s degree. They knew that the quality education I received at Touro would pay off for them as well,” said Kahn.

Susanne Trachtenberg, M.S. in Jewish Childhood Education and Special Education, finished with a 3.95 GPA. She teaches at The Shefa School, a Jewish community-based school in Manhattan for students with language-based learning disabilities. Now completing her fourth year at Shefa, Trachtenberg said she became a teacher because school was hard for her growing up.

“I often dreamt of a good teacher who would teach me in the best way for me, while also making me feel confident and happy in school. I strive to be that teacher,” she said. At Touro, she learned new curricular models and classroom management techniques, but more important, she was reminded of the student experience, “It has made me a better, more empathetic teacher, who knows I must continue to learn from my mistakes and triumphs,” she said.

Shmuel Yudelzon, M.A. in Jewish Studies, who grew up in the small Jewish community of Bulgaria, shared his thoughts on the importance of studying history. “It is before our eyes daily,” he said, using as an example an ongoing dispute over historical narratives between his native Bulgaria and neighboring North Macedonia that he said is shaping both international relations and internal national politics. “History matters. History is identity. We all seek it. It allows us to transcend the present. Our future is tied to it.”

Shira Shapiro, Master of Social Work, was selected by classmates to speak because of social work qualities she exhibited during the pandemic: creating an environment at school of inclusion, support and connectedness. She has accepted a full-time position at Sephardic Bikur Holim Counseling Center in Brooklyn, where she interned as a counselor to families and children during school.

In her remarks, Shapiro emphasized the value of connection. “It’s true when they say social work is a work of the heart,” she said. “The unconditional act of giving of your own heart to nurture and connect with the hearts and souls of others – what can be more beautiful than that?”

Yana Senchylo, M.A., Web and Multimedia Design, excelled in her studies while struggling to help family and friends in her native Ukraine. Senchylo immigrated to the United States seven years ago to realize her dream of attending college and graduate school here. In remarks that drew a standing ovation from many in the amphitheater, she expressed gratitude to Touro.

“The faculty and administration really care about the students and that makes all the difference for us,” she said. “My country is on fire. The cities are being turned into apocalyptic wastelands. The sounds of sirens and missile strikes are everywhere…Take a moment to appreciate where you are and what you can do with your lives. For me, I dedicate this special moment to Ukraine, to my family and friends, for peace to reign once again in my beautiful homeland.”

Katherine Zammit, M.S., Applied Behavior Analysis, also completed her studies with a 3.9 GPA. She and her mother, Laurie Zammit, were among the first graduates to complete the new degree program in ABA -- a data-based science that creates socially significant change for those with autism spectrum disorder. Katherine, whose brother was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, works at a private school on Long Island for children and teens with autism. “I saw what the services of this field did for him, and I wanted to help other families like my own,” she said.

At the podium, Katherine shared that her mom was her biggest supporter, and went back to school after raising three children and earning her MBA. “She was determined to further educate herself, better provide for my family and support the families who have been through the same process we have. She told me that if you want something you go for it, and we both wanted this degree strongly. We were inspired by the changes we’ve seen others in this field produce and the changes we could make.”