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Our long-awaited 123rd Commencement is just a few short days away, and the excitement is palpable here at Post University! We wanted to take a moment amid the buzz and preparations to congratulate two very special members of Post University’s Class of 2013 — our co-valedictorians, Jessica Curtis and Tina Pugliese. These ladies have worked hard to excel in their chosen fields of study, and their achievements are admirable. Round of applause, Jessica and Tina!

Over the last few weeks, I have gotten to know more about Jessica and Tina, and I have found their journeys to be truly encouraging and enlightening. We think you’ll see some of yourself in their stories, and hope they are inspiring to you. We’re looking forward to hearing more from these ladies during Commencement on May 4!

Meet Jessica Curtis, 2013 Valedictorian of Post University’s Main Campus

Jessica, 26, from Waterbury, Conn., is the valedictorian of our main campus, and will graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Science. But it took some soul-searching to find out that this program was the right one for her. After graduating from Sacred Heart High School here in town, she attended three colleges and tried her hand at a few different degree programs, including art and design, before discovering that none of them were the right fit for her.

Through it all, Jessica has had a strong interest in oceanography. One day as she was watching an ocean documentary, she had her “aha” moment: Why not explore this passion as a career? She thought about entering a marine biology program, but there weren’t any nearby. Then the environmental science program at Post caught her attention, and Jessica decided this broader approach would be better for her. She pursued the program as a commuter student, and hasn’t looked back.

She told us that one of the aspects of Post she enjoyed most was the hands-on experience. She and her classmates would regularly go out into the fields and ponds for lab work to “get their hands dirty,” as she told us. We were also pleased to hear Jessica’s feedback that Beth Johnson, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences (formerly Academic Program Manager for the Environmental Science program), really made her experience special because of the passion she exuded and the great learning opportunities she provided for herself and her peers.

Jessica looks back on her experience with fond memories of her Post family. “I feel like I got a great experience,” she told us. “At the academic level, I thought the small class sizes were great, and every teacher I had was awesome. They all knew my name and got very involved. And all the students, we all knew each other. When you walked through school, everyone was so friendly, and it was a very inviting place. It was a little bit like a family. I’ve been to a few schools — I’ve gone away to school, been to bigger schools — but I preferred this environment completely. [Going to Post] was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Jessica’s reaction to being named valedictorian really sums up what her Post education means to her: “I was very excited, especially because I’ve worked so hard. It’s gratifying because I’ve finally figured out what I want to do, and I’m good at it. After all this time, I’ve found my little niche.” Congratulations, Jessica!

Meet Tina Pugliese, 2013 Valedictorian of the Online Education Institute at Post University

Tina, 42, hails from Plantsville, Conn. She attended the Online Education Institute at Post University, and officially completed her degree program in December. She earned a dual Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and Business Administration, and also received a Forensic Accounting Certificate while at Post.

For Tina, her degrees and certificate were her first steps toward starting a new career. She was unfortunately laid off from her contracts administration position during a company-wide downsizing a couple years ago. When she had trouble finding a comparable position, she decided it was time for a career change. After much introspection and even some career counseling, Tina decided she wanted to turn her interest in accounting into a career. But she needed the degree to get the job.

Tina searched for an accounting degree program that would fit her life — one that would let her get back into the workforce quickly, give her flexibility, and offer supportive faculty and staff. She found the Online Education Institute at Post University, and felt the program was the perfect fit for her.

One of the benefits of the program Tina emphasized is something that we hear from many of our adult learner students all the time: “I really enjoyed the fact that it was asynchronous learning. I could get on in the middle of the night in my pajamas and could be working on homework or putting something up on a discussion board.”

She also credits the faculty, staff, and even her peers for making her experience a positive one. She told us, “I think it was the quality of the instructors as well as my classmates that made the experience so great. The professors understood that the students they were teaching were adults. We took our education seriously, we were dedicated to meeting course requirements, and we weren’t being treated like 18-year-olds. There was a level of responsibility you had to undertake for each course, and you weren’t going to get a free ride.”

Perhaps the best part for Tina, however, is that she’s been able to launch her new accounting career with her degrees from Post. She is now an accountant with Webster Capital Finance, a Webster Bank company. She told us that she believes she wouldn’t have been able to get the job without her Post degree, and that she’s using knowledge she gained while at Post in her career every day.

Commencement will be a special day for Jessica and Tina, and all of our graduates. Tina told us that her family will be there, including her mom, who completed her bachelor’s degree in her 50s and inspired her to go back to school.

Tina also mentioned one other thing that rings true for nearly all of our graduates — that Commencement will not only be a celebration of our graduates, but also a celebration of all the family members and friends who have supported and motivated them to reach their educational goals. A big thank you goes out to the Post families and friends, and a big congratulations goes to all our soon-to-be graduates. See you on Saturday!