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NJ Secretary of Higher Education to Speak at MCCC Commencement May 23



WHEN:  Thursday, May 23 at 5:30 p.m.  Students will begin lining up in cap and gown between 4:30 and 5 p.m.
WHERE:  The college’s central quadrangle on the West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road.  (In the event of rain, ceremonies will be held in the Physical Education Building and telecast to Kelsey Theatre and the Communications building.)


  • The college estimates that more than 1,150 students will be graduating this year.
  • The keynote speaker will be Rochelle Hendricks, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education
  • The student speaker will be Chynna Taylor of Ewing, an Honors Program student who graduates from Mercer with an associate degree in Biology.  In addition to her Honors classes, Taylor was an active member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and several clubs, and has served as a peer mentor for freshmen.
  • During the ceremony one of Mercer's faculty members will receive the MCCC Distinguished Teaching Award. Each year the name of the awardee is kept secret until the presentation.

Honors:  Also on May 23, an Honors Convocation begins at 3 p.m. at Kelsey Theatre for approximately 100 top graduates who are receiving scholarships and awards. 

Background on Keynote Speaker Rochelle Hendricks

Rochelle R. Hendricks was named the first Secretary of Higher Education for the State of New Jersey in May 2011.  As secretary, she is responsible for policy and program development to enhance the capacity and competitiveness of New Jersey’s higher education institutions.  She has engaged the agency in the national higher education reform agenda while focusing on advancing the blueprint for reforming higher education recommended by the Governor’s Higher Education Task Force.

Prior to her position as Secretary of Higher Education, she was the Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education and was instrumental in helping the Governor’s education reform plans, including the creation and appointment of the Educator Effectiveness Task Force. Having joined the Department of Education in 1987, she has served in various capacities, including Acting Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner overseeing the Offices of Board Development, Small Learning Communities and School Culture, District Schools, Turnaround Partnerships, Inter-District Choice and Opportunity Scholarships, Charter Schools, Career and Technical Education and Online Education.  She has also served as Director of the Professional Development Office, Manager of the Office of Policy and Planning, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner.

Background on Student Commencement Speaker Chynna Taylor

Student speaker Chynna Taylor came to Mercer for the usual reasons after graduating from Ewing High School: proximity to home and affordable tuition. But what she found here was far from usual.

Taylor said she wasn’t especially motivated when she began her studies, but was strongly encouraged to explore her potential.  She credits her professors for caring and being available. “The support system at Mercer is amazing.  My professors saw things in me before I saw them in myself.  They really opened up doors to what is possible.

After taking an Honors Sociology class, Taylor was hooked and has been taking Honors classes ever since.  She notes that these small seminar-style classes encourage student input.  “Everyone contributes.  We are allowed to express ourselves in a new way.  It’s more about what you think, not just what the professor tells you.”

In addition to her Honors classes, Taylor became active in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society as well as several clubs, and has served as a peer mentor for freshmen.

“It’s not all about the schoolwork,” she says.  “The most enriching thing is the community I have built up here.  You build yourself up by being grounded in your community. These connections are key to success.”

Mercer is a place about which Taylor cares deeply.  “Mercer gives you a chance to improve and re-create yourself.  Because of the relationships I have developed here, I have a real sense of connectedness to this school.”

Taylor will transfer to a four-year school to pursue her bachelor’s degree, with a goal to become a wildlife biologist.

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