Celebrating the Class of 2024

With bright futures, graduating students reflect on their time at Jefferson.
Group photo of the Class of 2024
Graduates from the Class of 2024 include (clockwise from top-left) Satchel Smith, Auriel Lewis, Silpa Thomas, Andrew Maksymov, Anna Morgillo and Alex Sosa. “I’m excited to get started and put into action everything I’ve learned at Jefferson,” Thomas says. (Photos by ©Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services)

The time has arrived. Thousands of world-changing Jefferson students will graduate this month. Shortly before Commencement, nine members of the Class of 2024 reflect on their time here and what the future holds for them.

Natalie KilkennyNatalie Kilkenny, BS in Business Management
After earning her associate’s degree in respiratory care and working for years as a respiratory therapist, Natalie Kilkenny realized she wanted a career change, one that better aligned with her schedule.

She returned to school in fall 2022 with her husband, a Marine veteran, to earn her accelerated BS in business management. Kilkenny graduated summa cum laude in December 2023 but will walk in May, a few weeks after she started a position in logistics management at the Naval Supply Depot.

Jefferson’s program provided valuable leadership skills and insights in statistics and chain management to propel her job search, she says. Kilkenny also thanked the University’s continuing and professional studies faculty and staff for their guidance and support.

She can understand why some people may be reluctant to go back to college after being away for a bit. Her advice? Don’t hesitate.

“A year will pass whether you’re in school or not,” Kilkenny says. “You might as well do it because you could be done by this time next year.”

Auriel Lewis, Bachelor of Architecture
When Auriel Lewis started at Jefferson, she knew she wanted to study color theory and the psychology of architecture. So, along with her architecture major, she created a custom minor in human behavior, perception and the built environment. This path allowed her to take courses in psychology, sustainability, ecology, textiles and more.

“I wanted to focus on the people aspect of sustainability and how spaces in architecture affect our mental health,” says Lewis, winner of the Architectural Excellence Student Award from the American Institute of Architects Pennsylvania.

For her final (and favorite) architecture project, she used trauma-informed design to turn an abandoned school in Camden into a wellness and community center. “Materials and forms in a building can aid in reducing stress,” Lewis says.

Among her other memorable experiences at Jefferson, she points to two study away trips to Italy: a spring break in Milan and a full semester in Rome.

“It gave me a broader global perspective on architecture, design and people and cultures in general,” Lewis says. “I took that back with me, and my outlook on design changed. I became more interested in different international projects.”

After graduation, she will work at the Washington, D.C.-based firm Studios Architecture.

Andrew Maksymov

Andrew Maksymov, BS in Health Sciences
Following graduation, Andrew Maksymov will continue at Jefferson in the doctor of physical therapy program; however, he didn’t exactly take a straight line to get here.

Maksymov entered school as a business student but switched to health care as a freshman. He debated between nursing, occupational therapy and physician assistant studies until he shadowed physical therapists at Jefferson Moss-Magee Rehabilitation near the end of his second year.

“Helping everyone out, establishing a sense of trust and communication—it all felt so fulfilling and came so naturally,” Maksymov says. “I liked the hands-on approach and lifting their spirits while they’re recovering.”

Outside the classroom and hospital, he spent much of his time working with the Office of Student Engagement as an orientation leader, student event coordinator, peer mentor and building manager.

“Getting involved as a commuter student on campus was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Maksymov says.

Anna Morgillo

Anna Morgillo, BS in Accounting
Women’s tennis team captain Anna Morgillo calls Jefferson a second home. In fact, she has loved her time here so much she will pursue her MBA with an accounting concentration.

“I couldn’t see myself being done this year,” says Morgillo, a tennis player since age 6. “I’m happy I’m staying another one.”

Her acceptance to Jefferson marked the first time the Italian native visited this country, a potentially tough adjustment because she couldn’t travel with her family due to pandemic travel restrictions. However, instantly connecting with her tennis teammates extinguished any jitters and cemented the fact that she made the right choice.

“That really helped,” says Morgillo, who plans to work at a major accounting firm after grad school. “It was always a dream to come to the U.S. for college.”

Tanisha Rutledge

Tanisha Rutledge, BSE in Mechanical Engineering
For as long as Tanisha Rutledge can remember, she has loved solving problems and pushing toward the next challenge. These traits prepared her well for Jefferson’s mechanical engineering program.

In one of her most memorable projects, Rutledge worked with a research team to see if mycelium—the root structure of mushrooms—could be used as a sustainable alternative to Styrofoam. When the team struggled to maintain consistent moisture levels with a humidifier that needed to be filled daily, she helped build a makeshift humidifier modeled after a toilet tank that only needed to be filled weekly.

Rutledge recently presented this mycelium work in front of state leaders at a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development conference on innovation in manufacturing.

For her senior capstone, she partnered with the Philadelphia Water Department to develop a sustainable, affordable microplastic filtration system using hemp.

With this interest in sustainability, Rutledge will stay at Jefferson to earn her MS in engineering and continue her research—and solve whatever problems that may lie ahead.

J. SchererJ. Scherer, MS in Adult-Gerontology: Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
During the pandemic, J. Scherer decided they wanted to advance their nursing career. Scherer began Jefferson’s acute care program, but after a few semesters, they felt it didn’t quite line up with their career goals.

Scherer’s adviser suggested talking to Dr. Jeannette Kates, director of the adult-gerontology: primary care nurse practitioner program. That conversation helped Scherer discover their next passion in nursing.

“I felt lit up and excited to learn and see what the future held for me,” they recall. “I want to encourage whole health care rather than fixing problems that already exist.”

Scherer plans to stay in the Philadelphia area after graduation, focusing on primary care in LGBTQ+ communities.

Satchel Smith

Satchel Smith, BS in Fashion Design
The past four years zipped by for award-winning student Satchel Smith. “It’s crazy,” he says with a laugh. “I feel like I just graduated high school.”

The prestigious Fashion Scholarship Fund twice named Smith a Virgil Abloh Post-Modern Scholar, honoring him for his work. Last year’s winning project—a sustainability-minded, gender-neutral streetwear collection—took on special meaning.

“It was personal to me,” he says. “I had never tapped into that aspect of my life and my design capabilities.”

The fashion design program’s red dress project also became one of his favorites. It helped him better understand fit and marked the first time he made a dress and worked with satin.

This summer, Smith will intern at Centric Brands in New York City, working in boys’ sportswear for Calvin Klein. He thanks the fashion faculty and his classmates for pushing him and creating an environment to thrive.

“We support each other,” Smith says. “We’re a tight-knit group.”

Alex Sosa

Alex Sosa, Doctorate of Occupational Therapy
For her capstone, Alex Sosa worked at the Hub of Hope to boost the emergence of occupational therapy for those in community health settings. Implementing trauma-informed care, she provided one-on-one services like goal setting, job searching and anger management, as well as group programs on mindfulness, money management and more.

“I loved working with the staff and clients,” Sosa says. “I learned so much from them. I’ve always prioritized empathy in occupational therapy. Being there expanded that.”

With one Hub of Hope project, she taught her clients how to make essential oil roll-ons for pressure points to reduce stress and manage pain. Growing up with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Sosa says she knows how inflammation can impact a person’s quality of life.

After passing the boards, Sosa hopes to work in community mental health or an inpatient acute setting. “They’re very different,” she says, “but I love them both in their own ways.”

Silpa Thomas, MS in Health Data Science
After studying psychology and public health as an undergrad, Silpa Thomas decided she wanted to transition into the health technology space instead of the clinical field. She felt the University’s health data science program would allow her to integrate her undergrad education and growing interest in the tech field.

“It was a great opportunity, and Jefferson was the perfect place that had all that packaged into one,” says Thomas, a business data analyst at software startup Curasev.

For her capstone, Thomas is building a dashboard for Curasev that helps durable and home medical equipment companies track inventory and expedite claims to payors so they can quickly get paid.

With the health data science program fully online, Thomas says she could balance her full-time job and school—and still be connected to both.

“I felt like I was practically on campus. The professors were always there for me checking in,” says Thomas, stressing students shouldn’t shy away from online courses or programs. “I’m in India right now, and I still can complete my work. I’m excited to get started and put into action everything I’ve learned at Jefferson. I’m grateful for my experience.”

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