Purple and white balloons
April 14, 2021

NYU SPS Celebrates the Accomplishments of its 2021 Graduates on May 20th with Virtual Convocation Ceremony

Madeline McIntosh, CEO of Penguin Random House US, America’s Largest Publisher, Will Give the Convocation Address

Student Speakers Will Tell Their Stories of Facing Life’s Challenges with Resilience: The Undergraduate Student Speaker Spent 14 Years in Prison Before Turning His Life Around Through Education; The Graduate Student Speaker Immigrated from Ukraine and Overcame Language and Cultural Barriers to Acquire a College Education and a Master’s Degree

NEW YORK, April 14, 2021—In the face of the ongoing global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) will acknowledge the achievements of its graduating students during a virtual Convocation ceremony, which will be held on Thursday, May 20, starting at 9 a.m. This year, 1,509 graduate students and 395 undergraduate students will graduate.

“We are incredibly proud of the students who are graduating this year,” said Susan Greenbaum, EdD, dean of the NYU School of Professional Studies, who will preside over the ceremony. “Through an enormously difficult period, they have achieved so much. Each of their stories as well as those of our convocation speakers illustrates the point that resilience and determination are critical for success no matter what the obstacle.”

This year’s Convocation speaker is Madeline McIntosh, chief executive officer, Penguin Random House US, America’s largest book publisher. Over the years, McIntosh has successfully led the company with unwavering resilience, tremendous foresight, and a focus on emerging technologies. According to a 2020 New York Times article, in the face of the many pandemic-related crises, Penguin Random House rose to the challenge and even flourished. During a period marked by deep uncertainty, McIntosh’s steady and calm leadership, and her embrace of the online market, helped her colleagues and their books to survive and thrive. She is a longstanding supporter of the NYU SPS Center for Publishing and served on its Board of Advisors from 2012 to 2018.

The Convocation ceremony also will feature two student speakers, who overcame their own challenges, ultimately acquiring the education they needed to change their lives and move ahead.

The Undergraduate Student Convocation Speaker, John Gargano, is an ideal example of the power of education in turning a life around. Arrested for narcotics violations and sentenced to 30 years as a nonviolent first-time offender, he was granted clemency by President Obama after serving 14 years in prison, and has since become an advocate for prison reform. He will receive a BS in Leadership and Management Studies from the NYU SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies.

The Graduate Convocation Student Speaker, Roksolana Sheverack, a Ukrainian immigrant who spoke little English when she came to the US with her family at the age of 10, will graduate with an MS in Management and Systems from the NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business. She plans to pursue a doctorate, which will enable her to work in institutional research within a university setting.


NYU School of Professional Studies Convocation Speaker
Madeline McIntosh, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Random House US

Madeline McIntosh has been CEO of Penguin Random House U.S. since 2018. She has worked in publishing for almost three decades, and in that time has held positions in publishing, sales, operations, and audio, and was a pioneer in the early development of online sales and in the digital transition. She serves on the Board of Directors of Poets & Writers, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to serving creative writers, and of Sourcebooks, in which Penguin Random House is an investor. She lives in New York with her husband Chris Pavone, a writer, and their twin sons.

Penguin Random House publishes more than 70,000 digital and 15,000 print books annually across hundreds of disciplines and almost 300 imprints worldwide (nearly 100 in the US).


NYU SPS Undergraduate Student Convocation Speaker
John N. Gargano, Jr.
NYU SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies
BS in Leadership and Management Studies

This year’s Undergraduate Student Convocation Speaker, John N. Gargano, Jr. is a great example of the power of education and second chances to turn a life around. Growing up on a family farm in New Jersey, he learned the value of hard work and dedication at an early age. After high school, he moved to Philadelphia, and worked his way up from washing dishes to captain at Le Bec Fin restaurant. His life took a downturn, however, when he started using recreational drugs and then selling them. He was arrested in 2002 for narcotics violations and sentenced to 30 years as a nonviolent first-time offender.

“When they are at the lowest low, human beings are extremely capable of digging deep,” Gargano said.  “I felt that in order to turn the corner and redeem my life, I needed to prepare myself through education.” He took courses through the Ohio University College Program for the Incarcerated and was the first inmate to receive a scholarship from the WKBJ Foundation. While in prison, he also turned to teaching other students to help them prepare to take the GED.

In 2017, Gargano was selected for clemency by President Barack Obama from a pool of 50,000 applicants, and was released to a halfway house in the Bronx. Gargano was accepted into Hostos Community College, where he earned an AS in Business Management, with a 4.0 GPA. His academic credentials afforded him an NYU School of Professional Studies CCTOP Scholarship and entry into the School’s Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies (DAUS) BS in Leadership and Management Studies program.

For Gargano, 52, the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies was the most nurturing community he had ever experienced. “They welcomed me, even with my previous history, and did not define me by my past,” he said. In particular, he expressed appreciation to professors Donatella Delfino, who taught precalculus, and Sherry Busbee, who taught a class on critical thinking, for helping him to understand different perspectives and separate truth from fallacy.

While earning his degree at NYU SPS, he participated in the Leadership Fellows program, and is part of a cohort group working on prison reform and developing a website for reacclimating individuals who are being released from prison back into everyday life. In addition, he worked as director of hospitality and service at two restaurants: Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark and Andrew Carmellini’s Locanda Verde.

Upon learning that he was named the undergraduate student speaker for the NYU SPS Convocation, he said, “Having spent 14 years in prison, there’s not a whole lot that can make me cry with good emotion—only my mother, President Obama, and the day I heard that I would be the undergraduate speaker for NYU SPS.”

After the pandemic, he hopes to resume working at a restaurant, and continuing with his advocacy efforts. He already has testified before prosecutors about changes that should be made to the prison system. He hopes to advance criminal justice reform by being an example of what individuals can accomplish post-incarceration.

NYU SPS Graduate Convocation Student Speaker
Roksolana Maria Sheverack
NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business
MS in Management and Systems, Concentration in Database Technologies

Graduate Convocation Student Speaker Roksolana Maria Sheverack, who will earn an MS in Management and Systems (MASY) from the NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business, has always embraced challenges with optimism, curiosity, and a growth mindset—qualities that have served her well in her life and her academic pursuits. The Ukraine native immigrated with her family to the US in 2000, speaking little English. She entered the fourth grade as an ESL student, an experience that shaped her aspirations to help other language learners.

Since 2014, she has worked as an admissions counselor at the City University of New York (CUNY) - Welcome Center, where she engages with students from countries around the world. She often shares her personal experiences and memories as a way to connect with them, encouraging them to reach beyond their comfort zones and immerse themselves in the English language through the plethora of media that surrounds them.

Sheverack completed her undergraduate studies at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University (LIU), where she was part of the Honors program. She graduated with a BA in English and political science. While there, she was actively involved in the LIU community, serving as a mentor and a student ambassador. That’s also where she fell in love with higher education as a future career path. Interested in pursuing institutional research as a means to help colleges and universities make data-driven decisions to benefit students, she enrolled in the Division of Programs in Business MS in Management and Systems, which provided her with leadership, management, and technical skills.

Coming from a liberal arts background, she described her experience in the program as challenging but “beyond amazing,” touting the deep industry experience of her professors. “The case studies were incredibly relevant to what I was learning, and the projects mirror many of the same issues that companies face on a regular basis,” she said.

While earning her degree, Sheverack has been actively involved in the SPS community. A Dean’s Graduate Scholar, she has served as public relations chair of the Management and Systems Student Association, an orientation leader, and a student mentor for the NYU SPS High School Aspire Program. As a mentor, she has met regularly with three high school seniors over the course of 10 months, helping them to navigate the college admissions process, by researching schools and academic programs, reviewing their college essays, and encouraging them to apply for scholarships.

Upon graduation, Sheverack hopes to pursue a career in the field of research oversight and data integrity, and further continue her studies to attain a doctorate.

For media inquiries, please contact Alka Gupta at aag13@nyu.edu or Michael DeMeo at michael.demeo@nyu.edu

The NYU School of Professional Studies – Celebrating 86 Years of Excellence in Applied Professional Education

For 86 years, the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) has been a deeply respected institution of higher education that is grounded in applied learning. From its early years, training returning World War II veterans to fulfill the nation’s urgent need for skilled technical workers, it has evolved into a professional education powerhouse that offers 20 graduate degrees, 13 bachelor’s degrees for traditional and post-traditional students, four associate’s degrees, and a plethora of non-degree courses and credentials.

NYU SPS is a thought leader, and serves as an incubator for new ideas in industries that are constantly changing, including real estate, real estate development, and construction management; hospitality, tourism, travel, and event management; global affairs and global security, conflict, and cybercrime; global sport and sports business; publishing; marketing; public relations; project management; executive coaching and organizational consulting, human resource management and development, and human capital analytics and technology; management and systems; translation; and professional writing. It is focused on building skills that open doors to opportunities in emerging fields and global markets. NYU SPS faculty members are leading experts in their areas of discipline, with a hands-on approach that encourages students to push beyond their limits and to break new ground.

Home to some of the largest and most prestigious industry conferences in the world, including the Schack Institute of Real Estate’s Capital Markets Conference, REIT Symposium, and National Symposium of Women in Real Estate; and the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality’s International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, the School’s invaluable connections to industry leaders is a truly distinguishing factor in the education that it provides. Through career development services and resources provided by the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development at NYU SPS, guest lecturers, site visits, participation in numerous conferences and events, and Global Field Intensives, students benefit from an NYU education that will set them apart. In addition, they have the opportunity to learn from and network with more than 30,000 NYU SPS alumni who live, work, and contribute to innovation in industry around the world. To learn more about NYU SPS visit: sps.nyu.edu.

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