Class of 2020: What Have They Been Up To?

Composite of 2020 graduates

May 22, 2021

After their time at Susquehanna was abruptly cut short by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, approximately 300 members of the Class of 2020 will return to campus May 22 to finally celebrate their long-awaited Commencement ceremony.

Find out where a few of Susquehanna's River Hawks landed over the past year.

Valedictorian Lands in Oregon Forest

Valedictorian Kara Eckert ’20 recently moved across the country to work as a botanist assistant for the U.S. Forest Service in La Grande, Oregon, where she will be conducting range monitoring in riparian areas as well as more forested mountainous areas in the Wallowa-Whitman Forest. 

“I'll be helping with many wild plant surveys to assess the health of the ecosystem, determine if invasive species are taking over, if actions need to be taken to remove those species, and if certain native plants are at an adequate stage of maturity to be grazed by cattle,” she said.

Eckert, a biology and Spanish studies major, was on tour with Susquehanna’s choir when the university announced an extended spring break in response to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic, but Eckert knew in her heart things were going to get worse. Saying goodbye to her fellow choir members, Eckert said, was the hardest part of 2020.

“I realized at that moment that I wouldn't be able to sing in a special senior quartet at the end of the year, I wouldn't be able to finish my plant research project that I had designed myself, and I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to many of my friends that had left earlier on break,” she said.

Given her recent relocation to Oregon, Eckert won’t be able to attend the Class of 2020 commencement ceremony in person but does plan to tune in virtually.

“Attending is important to recognize our perseverance and determination in trailblazing the first pandemic virtual school,” Eckert said. “Watching the ceremony virtually is my way of giving a huge hug and high five to all my peers who pulled through and have accomplished some amazing feats.”

'Outstanding Senior' Eager to Reunite with Alumni

Since graduating, Donovan Gayles ’20 has worked as an organizer on the 2020 presidential campaign and participated in a highly selective, highly competitive graduate level fellowship called Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, which develops emerging leaders to work and lead across different sectors by equipping them with knowledge, skills and networks to accelerate positive change.

Gayles, a political science and public policy major, is eager to rejoin his fellow alumni at their long-awaited commencement ceremony. He won the Outstanding Senior Award last year from Susquehanna University's Alumni Association.

“There was no doubt that the reasons behind postponing the Class of 2020 graduation were in the best interest of all students, faculty and parents in order to keep them healthy and safe,” Gayles said. “However, I was excited to learn that we would have a chance to reconvene as a class one more time to commemorate the completion of our Susquehanna undergraduate degrees together and am looking forward to seeing my classmates again.”

Gayles is currently conducting his Coro Fellowship remotely from New Jersey and will begin graduate school in the fall at the University of Michigan as a Rackham Master's Fellow.

2010 Alumna Becomes First Master of Education Graduate

Oriana Auman ’10 became the first graduate of Susquehanna’s Master in Education program when she earned her graduate degree in curriculum and instruction in 2020.

Auman’s undergraduate degree is in early childhood education PreK-4. She is currently a teaching in the Shikellamy School District. 

“I decided to pursue my master’s because I wanted to better serve my students and better understand how curriculums are designed and implemented,” Auman said. 

Taking 12 credits a year over a total of two and a half years, Auman learned how to balance her personal and professional lives with becoming a student again. During her time back in a college classroom, Auman even had a baby and said she learned to work during her baby’s naps and to rely on her husband.

Auman said her experience with Susquehanna’s Master’s in Education program as “hands-on and beneficial.” She spoke highly of her advisor, Chris Tiday, director of teacher interns and auxiliary programs, praising her willingness to meet via Zoom or in-person.

Auman is currently completing a second master’s degree through Wilkes University.

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