SMLR Proudly Celebrates The Class of 2013


Above: Dean Susan J. Schurman addresses the Class of 2013.

After serving 22 years on active duty in the Army and working as a shop steward for Local 255, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Steven Stokes entered the Master of Labor and Employment Relations Program with aspirations of becoming a union representative. On May 18, he took to the stage at the Rutgers Athletic Center and spoke to approximately 370 of his peers about their collective achievement that day—receiving their degrees as members of the Class of 2013 during SMLR’s 10th annual Convocation.

Above: MHRM Graduates Jennifer Chiu and Meg Alexander.

“My path to graduate school was anything but typical,” says Stokes, who thanked and congratulated his classmates. “Your collaboration on group projects, involvement in study groups, advice on course selection, and friendships were invaluable.” 

Above: SMLR's Class of 2013
Above: Steven Stokes (right), one of the four student speakers, is introduced to SMLR's guest, Francis Zuccarello. Stokes was a recipient of the Anthony Zuccarello Scholarship, named after Francis' father, a longtime labor leader.
Above: Frannie Kenajian encourages graduates who were nontraditional or achieved high honors to proudly stand up.
Above: Alison Lawler states that she is honored to be a member of the HRM undergraduate program's second graduating class.
Above: Kay Sylla reminds her now former classmates to accept the challenges and bumps in the road during their careers.
Above (from left): Kevin Ruble, Professor Joseph Blasi, and Mary Ann Beyster. 
Above: Yusra Janajri meets the Schmidt family after accepting the Pamela Sue Schmidt Award.
Above: Professor Hazel-Anne Johnson receives the James R. Chelius Award.
Above: Bill Dwyer, MLER '97, president of the SMLR Alumni and Friends Association, addresses graduates.
Above: Dean Susan J. Schurman receives a gift of sunglasses from graduates who've taken her courses.

His sentiment was echoed by the room full of students who received their undergraduate or master’s degree in either human resource management or labor studies and employment relations.

Rutgers SMLR Dean Susan J. Schurman conferred the degrees and was joined on the stage by the school’s faculty and distinguished guests, who were honored earlier in the day for their support. Guests included Mary Ann Beyster, president of the Foundation for Enterprise Development, who endowed the first named SMLR professorship with her father, J. Robert Beyster. She was joined by fellow honoree, Kevin Ruble, president of the Circle M Foundation and founder of the world's first majority employee-owned railroad.

In addition to Steven Stokes, the four student speakers--two from each undergraduate program and two from each graduate program--included:

  • Frannie Kenajian, who received a joint bachelor’s degree from the School of Management and Labor Relations and the School of Arts and Sciences. She majored in both labor studies and employment relations and psychology. During this time, Frannie was a teaching assistant for SMLR, held an internship at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in New York City, and achieved a 4.0 GPA in the labor studies and employment relations major. Frannie plans to achieve her master’s degree in labor and employment relations.

Frannie Kenajian reminded students about the importance of their education. She said, “People can always take away the tangible items in your life; your car can be stolen; your entire neighborhood can flood; you can gamble all of your money away; you can even lose your job; but they can never take away your education.”

Did You Know?
Three members of the Class of 2013 were drafted into the NFL. Khaseem Greene is joining the Bears. Duron Harmon (graduated with honors) is joining the Patriots, and Brandon Jones is signed with the Patriots as a free agent. Each athlete achieved a bachelor's degree in labor studies and employment relations.
  • Alison Lawler, who received her Bachelor of Arts in human resource management and psychology. Alison worked as a research assistant for Professors Rebecca Kehoe and Jessica Methot, examining patterns of faculty collaboration and mobility across research universities. This past summer, Alison worked as the first HR Global Projects intern for Millward Brown in New York City. She plans to focus on recruiting, employee development, and information systems within HR and then to return to the prestigious Rutgers SMLR program to pursue her master’s degree in human resource management.

Alison Lawler acknowledged her HRM undergraduate class’ uniqueness. She said, “It is a great honor to be a member of the second class of undergraduate students to acquire a degree in human resource management from Rutgers. This program has grown so impressively over the past few years, and it has been a blessing to be a part of it.”

  • Morenike “Kay” Sylla, who received her master’s degree in human resource management. Kay has been heavily involved in the SMLR community through her service as president of Rutgers University Society of Human Resource Management (RU SHRM) from 2011 to 2012, achieving the Outstanding Student Chapter Award; serving as RU SHRM’s project manager of Operations from 2010 to 2011; and working as an honorary advisor to RU SHRM. She also serves as chair of the Community Outreach & Social Action Committee and Sustainability Board for Rutgers Graduate Student Association. Kay plans to pursue her professional human resources certification to further advance her HR career.

Kay Sylla encouraged graduates to embrace the inevitable bumps in the road following graduation. She quoted Winston Churchill, saying, “Success is not final and failure is not fatal.”


Among the ceremony’s highlights was the presentation of honorary awards. The recipients were:

  • Yusra Janajri, a SMLR junior, who was presented the 2nd Pamela Sue Schmidt Award. The award was created by the Schmidt family and friends in honor of former SMLR student Pamela Sue Schmidt, whose life was tragically cut short on March 13, 2011 and would have been receiving her master’s degree with the Class of 2013.
  • Professor Hazel-Anne Johnson, who received The James R. Chelius Award for Excellence in Teaching in the human resource management program. The Teaching Award was created by the Chelius family in honor of the late Professor James Chelius, an outstanding teacher, who taught in the human resource management graduate program for 15 years.

Dean Schurman thanked the faculty, students’ family members, friends, and special guests, who were seated in the audience, for supporting SMLR’s graduates. Guests included Melissa Daniel, MLER’01, chairperson of the SMLR Alumni and Friends Association and one of the day's gonfalon bearers; Dr. Coralie Farlee, a former Rutgers professor; Francis Zuccarello, who established the Anthony Zuccarello Scholarship; and Lydia Everitt, Peter Rabicki, and Nancy Grancell, who attended on behalf of BASF – The Chemical Company.

Bill Dwyer, MLER ’97, president of the SMLR Alumni and Friends Association who is joining the faculty in the fall, congratulated the graduates on becoming members of a distinguished group of alumni. As he stated, “This is the generation that will advance society and SMLR.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!