The College of New Jersey
Online Magazine

Autumn 2007



Student Center

Class of 2011 defined by more than just numbers

The Travers 5 residents pictured above were proudly displaying their floor's banner, which they created as part of Welcome Week activities, before Convocation on August 27. © Lors studio

The cofounder of a long-board company …a Miss Teen New Jersey winner who competed in the Miss Teen USA pageant… the president and co-founder of a student playwrights’ association…a 14-year-old who plans to study chemical engineering…a nationally ranked BMX racer…a ballet dancer who has performed at Lincoln Center. These are just some of the 1,316 exceptional students who the College welcomed as members of the Class of 2011.

TCNJ’s Office of Admissions saw a surge in applications, receiving 8,597 this past year —400 more than last year and the most TCNJ has ever received. The increase might be directly linked to an increase in out-of-state interest in the College. Despite having to cut a large portion of its out-of-state scholarship program, the College experienced a 29.4 percent increase in applications from non-New Jersey natives, and a 27.7 percent increase in enrollments from out-of-state students.

The admitted students boast an average SAT score of 1279. Fifty-three percent of the incoming students were National Honor Society members in high school, and nine percent are Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholars.

In the area of athletics, 45 percent of the Class of 2011 were varsity athletes; of that percentage, 19 percent were captains of their teams.

Service is also an important characteristic of the Class of 2011. The class features a full-time patient care physician in the emergency department at Princeton University ’s Medical Center, as well as the only female member of her local volunteer fire department.

Student group seeks to educate peers on a controversial topic

My grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, my uncle has diabetes, and a friend of mine died from cystic fibrosis when he was just 16. Stem cell research could lead to possible cures for these diseases that people I love have suffered or died from, ” said Krysta Johns-Harris ’08, a biology major at TCNJ. These occurrences in her life influenced her decision to pursue a passion. Along with Natalie Cedeno ’08, another biology major, Johns-Harris cofounded a chapter of the Student Society for Stem Cell Research (SSSCR.) Other board members include Regina Sommese ’08, treasurer, and Jennifer DeSousa ’08, secretary.

Both Cedeno and Johns-Harris, the president and vice-president, respectively, studied at a pre-medical summer program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. After attending a graduate lecture on stem cells, the presenters invited the two TCNJ students into their lab and discussed SSSCR. Johns-Harris credits Cedeno with initiating the idea of instituting
an SSSCR chapter at TCNJ.

A great deal of responsibility and pressure come with maintaining an organization dedicated to such a controversial topic; nonetheless, the SSSCR board is busy raising awareness and educating the campus community about the cause. Last semester, 10 SSSCR members visited Jefferson Medical College to meet with top stem cell researcher Lorraine Iacovitti, PhD, and discuss her research. The SSSCR members hope that with the information they learned, and with more invitations to stem cell researchers to lecture at TCNJ, their group will help students “learn more about stem cell research and make their own decisions on how they feel about it based on the facts, ” said Johns-Harris.

Madeline M. Patrick ’10

Preparing for a Martian landing

Students at The College of New Jersey are not solely involved in researching and contributing to the community — they’re doing so for the solar system, as well.

Since last semester, students at TCNJ have been collaborating with NASA on a project to investigate methane gas on Mars and the diffusion of this gas. Last year, John Gannon ’07 and Justin Nieusma ’09, a physics and mathematics double major, were supervised by Thulsi Wickramasinghe, associate professor of physics. The three had the opportunity to work with Michael Mumma, director of the Institute for Astrobiology at NASA ’s Goddard Space Flight Center (NGSFC), and Geronimo Villanueva, a main associate of Mumma ’s, at the NGSFC in Virginia.

Justin Nieusma's workspace at Goddard.

For the project, the students “were to learn as much about [methane gas on Mars] as possible and then design and create a program that would simulate the diffusion of methane from a surface vent on Mars into the atmosphere, taking into account the variety of planetary and atmospheric conditions, ” Nieusma said. The project should be useful in locating vents on Mars to prepare for possible landing sites on future trips to the planet.

Nieusma is the only student still working on the project, since Gannon’s graduation in May. As one of nine interns in the 10-week Summer Undergraduate Internship in Astrobiology, Nieusma worked directly with Villaveuva.

Upon his return, Nieusma was pleased about his time at NGSFC. “It was really a positive experience in many ways,” he said. Nieusma also studied carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at different latitudes and “thus determined the air pressure at
the surface as it changed with latitude.” His research will be included in an atlas of the Martian spectrum that is being compiled by the institute.

Although Nieusma enjoyed his research, “There was perhaps even more importance in the other summer accomplishments and experiences. ” Most notably, he and his peers had their research presentations broadcast via the Internet to different Web sites, including the National Astrobiology Institute and Cornell University. The students were also allotted a two-minute question-and-answer session with the Web sites ’ audiences.

Madeline M. Patrick ’10

Making his city better, one issue at a time

In a world of continual injustice, a few strong individuals choose to fight inequality, violence, and other problems. One of these individuals is Paul Harris Jr. ’07, a political science major at the College.

Harris has dedicated himself to improving life in Trenton. He was inspired to become more active in the community by Stuart Koch, associate professor of political science, whom Harris credits for his guidance. Harris took Koch ’s New Jersey Government class, and the more Harris researched government issues, the more he realized he wanted to improve Trenton and its current condition.

Due to the influence of Koch, Harris spoke to local Councilman Jim Coston. “I said to him that I wanted to run for mayor, and he advised me that that was a grand step, and that I should start small, by attending city council meetings, ” explained Harris.

Paul Harris Jr. '07

So, in March of this year, Harris started doing just that. At his first council meeting, Harris brought to the council members ’ attention the issue of 23 children who died while under Division of Youth and Family Services care.

After the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled it was legal for citizens to tape public meetings, Harris, in his “first public project for the city of Trenton,” started videotaping all of the council’s meetings. He has taped nearly every meeting he has attended, and posts the videos online on his blog at

Harris’s new project deals with Trenton housing and inspection issues. He is fighting to ensure that every property in Trenton meets basic standards, at the very least. Once that is accomplished, he will try to get these properties upgraded from there.

“How can we expect any man or woman and their children to enter into the world and be able to exchange in civil manner when they go home to what amounts to substandard conditions? I would be angry at work and school as well if I went home daily to a landlord who was overcharging, and fought me and my family at every chance when we addressed flaws within the physical property. ”

Although he cares about the people and the condition of Trenton, Harris admits, there is another motive for what he does. “There is a 2010 election for the city of Trenton, and it is no secret that I wish to serve on the city council. My general disgust with the state of our social and political culture prompts me to seek the tools used by this system to mold it into something new. And as an individual man, I cannot do it; therefore, I seek to know the people, build their trust, and represent them in matters near to their heart. ”

Madeline M. Patrick ’10

History's best

TCNJ’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the History Student Honors Society, was named “Best Chapter” by its national headquarters. The award, which was earned through outstanding accomplishments in community service, consists of a $250 grant toward the purchase of history books for the College library.

The College’s chapter sponsored a “Books for Africa” drive last year, collecting over 500 college textbooks to benefit institutions of higher learning in Africa. It also partnered with local historical institutions, including the Ewing Township Historical Preservation Society, the Trenton Historical Society, and the William Green Farmhouse. These partnerships were accompanied by contributions to several historical sites in the area, such as the establishment of a history internship program at Ewing ’s Benjamin Temple House and the writing of a self-guided cemetery tour for the historic First Presbyterian Church in Trenton.

TCNJ’s Phi Alpha Theta chapter was active in the campus community as well, sponsoring history faculty lectures, organizing an international dessert night, and establishing a freshman-mentoring program. Members also volunteered at local community events including the Colonial Sampler and the Stop the Wrecking Ball, a gala to support the Trenton Historical Society.

“The chapter at TCNJ had been dormant for some time,” Executive President Otto Katt ’08 said. “Last year was a revival year for us, and we accomplished a great deal.”

The College’s chapter is advised by faculty members Cynthia Paces and Alejandra Irigoin and consists of nearly 50 student members.


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