History Made by First Graduating Class

Twenty-six Students Earn the Katz School’s Associate Degree

Even though the skies were overcast, the Sky Café radiated warmth and pride as friends, family and staff gathered on July 18, 2019, to honor the first graduating class of the Associate of Science in Management at the Katz School of Science and Health.

Dr. Paul Russo, dean of the Katz School, reflected the enthusiasm and deep satisfaction in the room when he said that “over the last two years, I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by these enterprising students—the young men and women who built YU’s associate program. They are smart and hardworking and bring to life the best of Yeshiva University. In addition to a full load of academic and Jewish studies courses, they integrated into campus life and found time for community service.”

Jacob Finkelstein speaks with Dr. Paul Russo about the program.
Jacob Finkelstein speaks with Dr. Paul Russo (left) about the program while his grandmother Barbara Vogel and father Stephen Finkelstein listen.

The AS in Management is a full-time, residential program completed over two full years, including two fall semesters, two spring semesters, and two mandatory summer semesters. This first cohort of 26 students started in Fall 2017, and their achievements two years later are quite impressive: over 75 percent of them maintained a cumulative grade point average above 3.0; 19 students plan to transfer to Yeshiva University bachelor’s programs, while five students will attend bachelor’s programs outside the University.

This cohort was also active outside the class. Several student leaders founded the Katz Undergraduate Student Government (KUSG) and held their first elections and hosted their first on-campus event in Spring 2019. Eight men and two women played on the YU basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball teams.

Students also availed themselves of the opportunities to speak with key entrepreneurs as well as cultural, business and government leaders in places like the New York Federal Reserve, Hudson Yards, Saks Fifth Avenue and The Jewish Museum as well as with judges in their chambers.

More important than their educational and cultural achievements, however, was the personal transformation the program brought to each of them. Jacob Finkelstein, who is vice president of KUSG, said it well: “This program made us all better people, and I am ready for the ride. It will be incredible.”

Kyle Harris agreed. Surrounded by his mother, Joanne, and his rabbi, Rabbi Avi Utler, both of whom flew in from Las Vegas to be at this ceremony, Harris spoke with emotion about how completing this program “made me feel accomplished and ready to move forward with my life.” He plans on pursuing his studies in education and history, with the goal of becoming a teacher of American history.

(l-r): Joanne Harris, John O’Malley, Kyle Harris and Rabbi Avi Utler
(l-r): Joanne Harris, John O’Malley, Kyle Harris and Rabbi Avi Utler

The faculty were as touched by the students’ accomplishments as were the students themselves. John O’Malley, who taught Intro to Business, Principles of Strategy and Ethical and Legal Environment of Business, complimented them all for their hard work, and Lori Allen, who taught mathematics, described how the students’ triumphs over many obstacles inspired her to work harder and reach higher to help them succeed.

Simon Jaffe, adviser to the program, summed it up well when he said that, now that the students have demonstrated their “intelligence, academic capability and grit” by completing the degree requirements, “nothing should hold you back from achieving whatever goal you set for yourselves in the future. Your cohort has been incredible, and I wish for you all the best.”

The students also received a special key chain from Malka Sigal, Student Services Coordinator, as a symbol of the many “keys” in life that they will use to open life’s opportunities for themselves.