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Alumnus tells first-year students they can change the world during address at convocation
Posted 08/24/2017 03:01PM

With a processional led by a contingent of bagpipers, Misericordia University welcomed 436 first-year students, the third largest class in school history, during the annual convocation ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 24 in the Wells Fargo Amphitheater. Misericordia University received 2,397 applications for the first-year class, which hails from 13 states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

Members of the first-year class process to convocation.

The university also welcomed 75 transfer students. With the new class of students, the university expects to have between 2,750-2,775 undergraduate and graduate students in full- and part-time academic programs for the fall semester. Misericordia has 960 students scheduled to live in residence halls and townhomes on campus.

The convocation program included a welcome by President Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., and an address by alumnus Tariq Adwan '05, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Alpha Genomix of Lawrenceville, Georgia, a member of the Class of 2005. During the ceremony, the Misericordia University Alumni Association presented Dr. Adwan with the Young Alumnus Award. The award is bestowed, from time to time, to a traditional undergraduate alumna or alumnus who has graduated within the past ten years and who has demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and/or community or civic service.

In his address, the native of Palestine talked about how Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM, a member of the Misericordia Board of Trustees, was instrumental in his decision to make the 10,000-mile trip from his home on the West Bank to the Misericordia campus in 2001. Dr. Rittner, a chaired scholar of Holocaust studies at Stockton State University, had met Dr. Adwan's father, who with a colleague of the Jewish faith, was working in support of the Middle East peace process.

Tariq Adwan '05, Ph.D., delivers keynote address.

"Although my interaction with Sister Carol at the time was relatively brief, she expressed enough compassion, selflessness, acceptance and respect that it did not take much thought before I decided that Misericordia was where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life," Dr. Adwan said of his decision. He was a student at Misericordia for only three weeks when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11.

"Being the only Muslim student on campus at the time, I was devastated. I was afraid and I even contemplated going back to Palestine for fear of retaliation. Much to my surprise, by the evening of that day, my dorm room was filled with fellow students where we gathered in solidarity with the victims and their families as we tried to make sense of what just happened.

"Needless to say, what I experienced that night left a lasting impression on me, and the friendships I have made were nothing like I have ever experienced before or since," he stated. "I realized that day, that changing the world was possible, but that I needed people to do it with.

"So as you embark on your journey I encourage you to get to know as many people that are different from you as possible. Engage in face-to-face interaction with them and you will find that the people that are most different from you are those that will inspire you the most. You will also find that even though these people may seem different from you, they are, after all, people just like you."

First-year students assemble in the Wells Fargo Amphitheater for convocation.

He added, "Share your story; it matters. You might be a first-generation college student or a first-generation immigrant ... Whoever you are and whatever your story might be, it is a chapter in the American story that makes us who we are. When we know who we are, we realize that we are a nation of all creeds, colors, races and national origins. It is then that we become less threatened and more welcoming of the stranger. For we, once upon a time, were the strangers."

As a Misericordia sophomore, Adwan participated in designing and helping prepare an experiment that was placed on the 16-day Columbia shuttle mission. "Growth of Bacterial Biofilm on Surfaces During Spaceflight" was done under the direction of the Israeli Aerospace Medical Institute and Johnson Space Center Astrobiology Center. It combined a proposal from Adwan, submitted from his Misericordia residence hall, and another from Yuval Landau, a student at Tel Aviv University. Sadly, the shuttle broke up on re-entry and all members of the crew, including the first Israeli astronaut, were killed on Feb. 1, 2003.

Adwan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry with honors from Misericordia, and a Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado, specializing in stem cells and development. As chief scientific officer at Alpha Genomix, he oversees all scientific, technological and research operations, and helps identify new opportunities for growth with industry partners. Alpha Genomix is a personalized medicine testing and molecular diagnostics laboratory for pharmacogenetics, the field of research on how a person's genetic makeup affects that individual's response to medications and drugs. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Georgia Gwinnet College, Lawrenceville, Georgia, where he teaches biology.

Convocation marks the beginning of the academic year.

The annual convocation ceremony welcomes first-year students and their families to Misericordia University, and acts as the official start to the new academic year. Orientation begins later in the afternoon and continues until the first day of class on Monday, Aug. 28. The orientation program includes the Orientation Days of Service on Aug. 26-27 in which first-year students and other members of the campus community volunteer in the region.

Misericordia University Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall

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