Undergraduate Commencement Speaker
Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.
Roger Ferguson Jr., president and chief executive of TIAA, one of the largest finance firms in the United States, will deliver the Commencement address for Stevens Institute of Technology on Wednesday, May 23 at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. Ferguson will also receive an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree.
“Dr. Ferguson’s path is particularly relevant to this year’s graduates, who will be leading their generation with the technological foundation and critical thinking skills needed to thrive in a highly dynamic environment of changing markets, emerging technologies and an increasingly interdependent global financial system,” said Stevens President Nariman Farvardin. “We are so fortunate to welcome such an accomplished leader who will excite and inspire our graduates as they go on to change the world.”
In 2008, Ferguson signed on as the president and chief executive of TIAA, a financial services firm with more than $950 billion in assets under management that serves 80 percent of the higher education 403(b) market. With Ferguson at the helm, TIAA continued to place individual investor interest front and center in the funds management process.
Prior to joining TIAA, Ferguson was head of financial services for Swiss Re, chairman of the company’s holding corporation and a member of its executive committee. He earned a reputation as an expert in the operations of banks and financial institutions, an important specialty in the year leading to the turn of the century, also known as Y2K.
As the former vice chairman of the board of governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, he was a lead figure in conducting the nation’s monetary policy and providing financial services to the U.S. government and to the nation’s banks. He served on key committees, including payment system oversight, reserve bank operations, and supervision and regulation.
Ferguson also led the Fed’s initial response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, taking actions that kept the U.S. financial system functioning while reassuring the global financial community that the U.S. economy would not be paralyzed.
Before joining the Fed in 1997, Ferguson worked at the international management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, becoming a partner and director of research and information systems and an expert on the banking industry and operations.
Ferguson started his career as an attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell, a New York law firm. He received degrees in economics and law, both with honors, from Harvard, where he later received a doctorate in economics.
Ferguson is a member of numerous boards, including the board of regents at the Smithsonian Institute and the advisory board for New York State Insurance. He also serves on the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Alphabet Inc.; General Mills Inc.; and International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.
During the 2007-2013 global economic recession, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Ferguson to serve on the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, as well as its predecessor, the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He also co-chaired the National Academy of Sciences’ committee on the long-run macro-economic effects of the aging U.S. population.
Currently, he is a fellow of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, where he co-chairs its commission on the future of undergraduate education. He is also a member of local, national and international groups that aim to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, including the Group of Thirty.
Graduate Commencement Speaker
Seifollah "Seifi" Ghasemi
Seifollah "Seifi" Ghasemi, president and chief executive of Air Products, one of the most profitable industrial gas companies in the world, will deliver Stevens Institute of Technology’s graduate student Commencement address on Wednesday, May 23 at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, N.J. Stevens President Nariman Farvardin will also present Ghasemi with an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree.
“Throughout his career, Mr. Ghasemi has embodied values that Stevens holds dear, particularly the role of technological innovation in the advancement of his company and of society. Mr. Ghasemi has positioned his company as a global leader in industrial gas products with a clear and decisive strategic plan,” said Farvardin. “His visionary leadership and effective management provide an inspiring example to our graduates as they pursue their own careers.”
Ghasemi became chairman, president and chief executive of Air Products in 2014. Under his leadership, he streamlined the multiple lines of business, successfully divested parts of the operations, and restructured Air Products to focus on its core mission.
Prior to joining Air Products, Ghasemi served as chairman and chief executive of Rockwood Holdings for more than a decade, leading the inorganic specialty chemicals and advanced materials company that was acquired by Albemarle Corporation in 2015. He also held leadership roles at GKN, a global industrial company, from 1997 to 2001, including those of chairman and chief executive of GKN Sinter Metals and Hoeganes Corporation.
Earlier in his career, Ghasemi spent nearly two decades with The BOC Group, an industrial gas company which is now part of the Linde Group. He served as director of the Main Board of BOC Group; president of BOC Gases Americas; and chairman and chief executive of BOC Process Plants and Cryostar.
Ghasemi is a member of The Business Council, an association of chief executives of the world’s most important business enterprises. He also was the recipient of the 2017 biennial International Palladium Medal from the Société de Chimie Industrielle for his distinguished contributions to the chemical industry.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Abadan Institute of Technology, holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lafayette College.
First in Class Speakers
Marko Djapic of Goshen, New York will receive a bachelor’s in chemical biology. After graduation, Djapic will pursue a career in dentistry and attend Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in the fall. It’s a career choice that was inspired by his mother, who practiced as a dentist in her native Serbia.
“What I like about dentistry is that it’s technically challenging work, but it has a significant artistic component to it as well.”
He gained valuable insight into the profession while working at Innovation Dental Studio in Jersey City, New Jersey and job shadowing Dr. Tomas Torres, a dentist in his hometown.
As a student researcher, Djapic worked extensively with Stevens professor Sesha Alluri synthesizing analogs of physovenine with the goal of producing novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
Djapic is not the first in his family to attend Stevens. That distinction belongs to his older brother, Luka Djapic ’15 M.S. ’16.
He is a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national health pre-professional honor society, and the Stevens Health Professions Club. His involvement in a wide range of campus activities outside the classroom reflects his varied interest in art, culture and sport.
He served as president of the art club and played intramural basketball.
A food enthusiast, Djapic says one of the best things about living in Hoboken and the greater Hudson County area was exploring the diversity of the region’s eclectic dining scene. He shared this passion with the Stevens community as a regular contributing writer for The Stute’s food column “Cuisine Corner.”
He is also passionate about jazz and was a member of the Stevens Jazz Band. Citing jazz greats Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus among his favorites, he says his love for the “expressive genre” began when he picked up the bass at 13 years old.
“With jazz you can bend the rules to create something you want. What comes from that flexibility is great, not just individually, but when you’re playing with other people.”
After graduation, Djapic plans on traveling to Serbia and enjoying his summer with family.
Katrina Guido of Macungie, Pennsylvania will graduate with a bachelor’s in physics. After graduation, she will pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Ohio State University, with a research focus in brain implants for the treatment of epileptic seizures and other movement-related disorders.
Her research interest stems from a fascination with the human thought process. She says she wants to work on research that will help contribute to society, whether it’s in academia or industry.
Guido gained valuable work experience from summer internships at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, working on graphene detectors for terahertz radiation, and at Penn State University, where she built an apparatus to determine the electromagnetic properties of various materials.
She thanks Stevens faculty for helping her identify her post-graduate goals.
“Professor Harry Lenzing taught my first upper-level electromagnetics course and was instrumental in helping me get the Penn State internship. It was through that experience that I became serious about getting a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.”
Guido will become the second member of her family to earn a Stevens degree. Her uncle, Anthony LiCausi, graduated with his master's in systems engineering in 2009.
She is also a scholar athlete, having competed on the Stevens women’s tennis team for three years. Outside of academics, she cites her activities as a resident advisor for freshmen and upperclassmen as her most profound campus experience.
“Being an RA introduced me to many of my friends, and gave me the opportunity to become more involved on campus than any other activity or organization could have.”
Guido belongs to two honor societies that recognize academic and non-academic achievements: Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, and Rho Alpha Sigma, the residence life honor society. Citing the importance of having a community for women who support other women, she co-founded the Alpha Phi chapter at Stevens.
After graduation, but before beginning her Ph.D. career at Ohio State, Guido plans to delve into her passion for baking by working at a bakery this summer, either near her home in Pennsylvania or in Columbus, Ohio.
Roger Kleinmann of Hamilton, New Jersey will graduate first in the Stevens Class of 2018. He has earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering with a 4.0 GPA. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in robotics technology, potentially in the area of defense, additive manufacturing or healthcare.
Kleinmann grew up with a strong interest in art and an affinity towards math and science. While he had planned on attending school for illustration, his focus shifted to engineering when he joined the robotics club in high school. He still practices art, and credits this background for helping him become a better engineer.
“People may not realize that art is very important to effective engineering. It brings a certain amount of creativity to the table, and that creativity, I find, is indispensable to what I do as an engineer.”
Kleinmann was a Stevens Scholar and a recipient of numerous scholarships, including the American Bureau of Shipping Scholarship, the Society of American Military Engineers Scholarship, the Edwin A. Stevens Scholarship and the FIRST Robotics Scholarship.
He is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Pi Tau Sigma and Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.
He has built an impressive portfolio of work experiences, but considers his experience as a student teaching assistant as perhaps his most meaningful.
“I came away from my two years as a TA broadening my knowledge of electrical design and contributing to the education of students. So that was very valuable and rewarding for me.”
Having suffered from plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis, he counts among his notable research experiences his involvement in the design and construction of a cable-driven ankle exoskeleton to aid in the rehabilitation of stroke patients.
For Kleinmann, engineering is not only a career but a passion. Even in his free time, he takes on design challenges, from designing an experiment that was launched in a NASA rocket to building his own 3D printer.
As his Stevens journey comes to a close, he is thankful for the broad support and encouragement from faculty in the mechanical engineering department.
“They really helped me figure out my path and made a difference in my education.”
Ian Porada of Evergreen, Colorado will graduate with a bachelor’s in computer science. After graduation, he plans to pursue graduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada with a research focus in artificial intelligence, machine learning and reinforcement learning.
The computer science talent is a Stevens Scholar and a member of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the international honor society for the computing sciences.
As a Stevens Scholar, Porada was afforded graduate-level research opportunities. Among his student research experiences, Porada worked closely with Stevens faculty in research areas involving stereo vision and 3D computer vision technologies.
Those research experiences, together with a stellar academic record and a strong interest in artificial intelligence, helped Porada win a prestigious scholarship named in honor of Google Research Director Peter Norvig, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and machine learning research.
In addition to winning the scholarship, Porada had the chance to meet Norvig.
"It was kind of surreal," he says, "He wrote our textbook, the AI textbook almost every school uses. He’s a major figure in the field."
Porada gained valuable work experience from a summer internship at Amazon, working in the company’s Seattle headquarters as a member of the demand forecasting team. It was an experience that gave Porada an insight into the workplace culture at the behemoth retailer.
“They try to have each team function as a startup, and that’s why they have a lot of small, really cool projects, like Amazon Go.”
Outside of class, the Colorado native has enjoyed experiencing the endless cultural and entertainment options in the Hoboken-New York City area, especially its music scene.
“I could go to a different concert every weekend. I feel like Hoboken has to be one of the best locations for a college. It’s as close as you can get to New York City while still having a true campus experience.”