Class of 2021 Graduates Pt. 1
Friday, May 28—The Class of 2021 has proven resilient despite the challenges they have faced over the last year, and now they are being celebrated for their achievements. Students from across the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, School of Science, and the School of Communications and the Arts are highlighted below because of their immense academic and personal achievements. This selection of students are baccalaureate recipients who have excelled while at Marist and been active members of the Marist community.
Read about Murray Coueslant, who moved from Scotland to pursue a role on the Swimming and Diving team; Alexandra Best, who recently won the MAAC Women’s Basketball Championship; and Elena Reyes, who started her Marist experience in Florence, Italy, and ended it in the Hudson River Valley.
Computer Science major and Information Technology and Information Systems minor
The Dr. William Cadden Achievement Award for Excellence in Computer Science
Coming to Marist from Aberdeen, Scotland, Murray Coueslant ’21 stumbled onto Marist after touring institutions in the North East looking for an opportunity to join a Swimming and Diving team. “It worked out that I had an extra day at the end of my trip. I emailed every swim coach at institutions which I could drive to from where I was at the time and make it back in time for my flight home, rather fortuitously Coach VanWagner was the first to respond,” Coueslant said.
After a quick call with his mother back in Aberdeen, Coueslant’s father noted the deciding factor in attending Marist. “He told her that he ‘would feel comfortable leaving Murray here’ and traveling home, and I think that was the moment that really solidified the decision for me,” Coueslant said.
Coueslant was involved in various organizations on campus that allowed him to succeed and grow as a student and a person and instilled many values into his everyday life. “The largest influences for me here have been the Athletics Department and the Honors Program. They have provided the structure to my experience as well as offering opportunities which I could not have obtained otherwise,” Coueslant said.
He also notes the drive and effort made to make Marist a better place for those who come after him with the skills learned at Marist. “Do with your skills as much as you can, and leave where you are a better place for those who come after,” Coueslant said.
Reflecting on his time at Marist, Coueslant can’t pinpoint a single time or instance, but rather the students he met along the way that shaped him. “I realize that it was not the place, or the task, or the time and date which made them special, but rather the individuals with which I was sharing them. Marist is a special place; I am so very lucky to have been able to discover it in its entirety,” Coueslant said.
Leaving the College to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Stony Brook University, Coueslant gives a sincere thank you to the Athletics Department, Honors Program, Student-Athlete Advisory Council, and a few faculty and staff leading those organizations. “My most heartfelt thanks go to all involved in each of those organizations, especially to Elizabeth Donohue, James Snyder, and Carolyn Matheus.
Biology major and Mathematics minor
The Barnes & Noble College Bookstores Award for Excellence in Biology
Walking off the court this year for the last time, Alexandra Best ‘ 21 and the women’s basketball team had just won the MAAC Championship, a moment she will not forget. “I was so proud of my team pushing through each hardship that came our way. It was extra special to have individuals, specifically faculty members, reach out over the course of the season to wish us luck or congratulate us on our success,” Best said.
From a small town in New Jersey, Best was drawn two hours away to the Hudson River Valley from Glen Gardner because of the women’s basketball team and decided to enroll. “I vaguely knew about the school, but I really started to look into when the coaches began recruiting me. I fell in love with the campus immediately and the beautiful view of the Hudson River,” Best said.
Pursuing a degree in biology, Best was able to take advantage of the small classes Marist offers and created personal connections with her professors that benefitted her academic journey.
“One of my favorite things about Marist is the relationships that I have been able to build with numerous faculty members. I really lucked out in that I am in a rather small department, biology, so I had the benefit of getting to know multiple professors at Marist,” Best said. Specifically, she notes Dr. Raymond Kepner, Associate Professor of Biology and Best’s advisor, and Dr. Victoria Ingalls, Professor of Biology, for their help academically and professionally.
While being a student-athlete can be challenging at times, Best always had the support of her teammates and coaches to balance the two demanding activities.
During her senior year, Best was able to present her work in biology to her peers and professors, highlighting her time at Marist. At the Celebration for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (CURSCA), Best presented on “the research I completed on equine biofilm wounds with Dr. Kepner. This was the first time I was able to talk about the work I was doing with my peers, and I think it showed me that I wanted to pursue a career within science, specifically biology.”
Following graduation, Best will follow her passion of working with animals during graduate school at UNC-Wilmington where she is going to pursue a Marine Biology degree and work with the local wildlife. “I will be studying swamp sparrows in the Wilmington area hoping to determine a better management plan for the species by looking into their nesting habits,” Best said.
Media Studies and Production major with a concentration in Film and Television and a double minor in Music and Spanish
Award for Excellence in Media Studies & Production
Starting her time at Marist in Florence as part of the Freshman Florence Experience, Elena Reyes ’21 sees that year as one of the fondest of her college experience. “My year in Florence was an experience that changed my life, and I am forever grateful that I had that opportunity,” Reyes said.
After coming to the Marist Poughkeepsie campus following her year in Florence, Reyes immediately joined the Marist Singers and hasn’t left since. Music was a big part of Reyes’s time at Marist, and she looks back at her time with Marist Singers and The Enharmonics fondly, but also with the realization that her time with them has come to an end.
“I’ll miss making music with them after I graduate,” Reyes said.
The Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership gave Reyes a way to develop professionally and collaborate with individuals she may not have had the opportunity to interact with within her major. “I worked at the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership, which allowed me the opportunity to work with faculty outside of my major and with the Poughkeepsie community. I like to be able to take an interdisciplinary approach in my professional development,” Reyes said.
Throughout her time in Florence, work in the Center for Civic Engagement, and the Honors program, Reyes takes note of professors who have helped her grow academically and professionally.
“Dr. Joseph Campisi, Chair of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, and Dr. Georganna Ulary, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, were my first Marist professors while in Italy,” Reyes said, reminiscing about their constant presence during her four years. “Working with Dr. Melissa Gaeke, Director, Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership allowed for professional growth and exploration. Moreover, Dr. Eileen Curley, Chair and Associate Professor of English, was my Honors thesis advisor, and writing the thesis under her advisory was one of the most enriching experiences during my academic career.”
Reyes also credits Marist College Television (MCTV) for the experience she was able to gain working with other like-minded students in a collaborative and professional setting. “MCTV is a club that helped me grow immensely in my professional development in media and entertainment,” Reyes said.
Hoping to continue her professional path in the entertainment industry, Reyes wants to focus especially in the film and television industry. Still, at the moment, she looks back at “spending time and experiencing college with my friends, reminiscing, and creating new memories especially when watching the beautiful sunsets over the Hudson River.”