Image of students in caps and gowns.

Commencement 2024

This ceremony is for all students graduating from the Graduate School of Education. We recognize this accomplishment requires a tremendous amount of dedication, sacrifice and extraordinary perseverance in the face of setbacks that happen along the way. You should feel immense pride and recognition for this achievement. Thank you for your hard work, dedication to academic excellence, and for everything you have contributed to the university and our GSE community. 

Congratulations, GSE Class of 2024!

Friday, May 17, 2024

Time: 9 a.m.
Location: UB Center for the Arts

Ceremony Livestream

2024 Commencement Ceremony for the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo.


An accessible PDF of the commencement program for the UB Graduate School of Education Ceremony, including a listing of all graduates in the class of 2024, is available for download.  

2024 Commencement Ceremony Video

2024 Commencement Ceremony for the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo.

Commencement Program

An accessible PDF of the commencement program for the UB Graduate School of Education Ceremony, including a listing of all graduates in the class of 2024, is available for download.  

2024 Photo Gallery

Photography: William Belz; Nicole Mehlman-Davidow; Onion Studio.


This ceremony is intended and scheduled only for master's and doctoral graduates of the Graduate School of Education who have applied for graduation (degree) indicating one of the following graduation terms:

  • Summer 2023  (Aug. 2023 degree conferral)
  • Fall 2023  (Feb. 2024 degree conferral)
  • Spring 2024  (June 2024 degree conferral)

Students should check with their advisors to make sure all degree requirements have been met.

If you have questions about your eligibility to graduate, please email

Register to Participate in GSE Commencement

All eligible students received an email invitation to participate in the ceremony. All students that wish to participate will need to register. Be aware that registration to attend commencement is different than/separate from applying for graduation. Once you have registered, you will receive an email detailing ticketing instructions.

Tickets the morning of commencement will be on a first-come first-serve basis. There is no guarantee tickets will be available.

Special Accommodations
Do you or your guests have special needs that require assistance during the ceremony? Please send an email with specific details of your needs to

Have questions?

Event Coordinator

Caroline Hurley
716-645-1320 |

2023 Commencement Ceremony Video

Commencement Program

Commencement Activities

Showcase your school spirit, creativity, and imagination. Create your cap and submit it to our Trick Out Your Tassel Competition for the chance to win a prize! Now through May 13.

The cap contest has closed.

Bring your #UBClassof2024 celebration to the next level with these easy-to-use and adora-bull printouts. Use one or use all to show your True Blue pride!

Take part in UB’s annual graduation tradition and leave your legacy. Now until May 10, visit the Sign-A-Bull in 150 Student Union, Monday thru Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2024 signings are now complete.


Twitter, Facebook & Instagram  #GSEGrad, #UBClassOf2024, #UBuffalo


Dean's Service Award

Steven Graser

Director of Professional Development and Instructional Technology Resources at Erie 1 BOCES
Steve Graser.



Born and raised on the east side of Buffalo, Steve attended Buffalo Public Schools, and graduated from Hutch Tech. Steve also attended Buffalo State, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Elementary Education, master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and a certificate of advanced study in school leadership.

Initially, Steve dedicated a decade to counseling as a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor, specializing in adolescent substance abuse and cocaine addiction. For the past 24 years, he has served in various capacities within the educational sphere, from teaching to professional development coordination, supervisor, and currently he is the Director of Professional Development and Instructional Technology Resources at Erie 1 BOCES.

Steve works every day to leverage his relationships in the WNY educational community to elevate and respond to student voices.

Delbert Mullens “Thinking Outside the Box” Award

Finune Shaibi

Educational Psychology and Quantitative Methods, PhD '23
Finune Shaib.

Finune is a doctoral candidate in the Education Administration program. In addition to her studies, she serves as the Director of Human Resources for the Sweet Home Central School District in New York, where she has dedicated over a decade to serving young people and families.

Her dissertation examines a crucial issue in education: creating more equitable outcomes for all students and families. Finune explores strategies for recruiting educators who reflect the sociocultural diversity of the communities they serve and are committed to equity-oriented practices. Her research focuses on the linguistics of job postings and their role in attracting diverse educators, a critical factor as demographic and migration patterns shift. Through her position at Sweet Home, she actively contributes to transforming recruitment processes to foster a more representative and equitable teaching workforce.

Finune's career spans several leadership roles, including Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Chief Information Officer, Supervisor of Curriculum, Assessment & Instruction, and Multilingual Supervisor. Her extensive expertise and impact in educational equity have earned her local and national recognition. Notably, she was featured in Buffalo Business First’s 40 under 40 list for her influential leadership and contributions to educational equity in Western New York. She also serves as a mentor in the Leadership Initiative for Tomorrow's Schools (LIFTS) program and is a member of the Policy Board of the Western New York Teacher Center, promoting high-quality, equitable educational practices.

Finune's dedication extends beyond her district. Her doctoral work at UB emphasizes the importance of developing school systems that support culturally responsive classrooms and bridge the gap between theory and practice. Recognized as a Barbara L. Jackson Scholar, she is celebrated for her ability to inspire equitable leadership throughout the region and beyond.

Regarded as an exemplary educator by peers and the communities she serves, Finune is committed to advancing socially just education systems and enhancing educational policies and practices at multiple levels. Through her work, she exemplifies the ideals of the UB EdD Educational Administration program, aiming to nurture educators who can lead transformative change.

Distinguished Alumni Award

David T. Cantaffa

Interim Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs SUNY System Administration
David T. Cantaffa.

David Cantaffa is Interim Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs within System Administration of the State University of New York. At SUNY, he leads the office charged with supporting all 64 SUNY campuses in their development and registration of academic programs. Beyond program development, Dr. Cantaffa is a key participant in policy development and implementation for a range of academic matters, such as general education, prior learning assessment, and transfer. Prior to his current role, he focused on educator preparation programs and policies for SUNY.

Before joining SUNY, Dr. Cantaffa served as Assistant Dean for Teacher Education and Director of the Teacher Education Institute for the Graduate School of Education within the University at Buffalo. He also served as an adjunct instructor for several education courses.

Prior to UB, Dr. Cantaffa began his career in education as a high school biology teacher. His graduate studies were all completed at the University at Buffalo, where he earned a PhD in social foundations of education, EdM from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, and MA in biochemistry, as well as completed the post-baccalaureate initial teacher education program. His undergraduate studies were completed at Muhlenberg College, where he studied biology and philosophy.

Dr. Edwin D. Duryea, Jr. Higher Education Memorial Award

Sara Robinson

Higher Education, PhD ‘24
Sara Robinson.

Sara’s dissertation, titled “Is Pharmacy Even for Me? Aspirations and Persistence of Black, Native American, and Latine Pharmacy Students,” is a testament to her meticulous and diligent research approach. In her work, Sara interviewed twenty students of color in a pharmacy program, exploring how they narrated their experiences and achieved success. Utilizing Tara Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth framework, she investigates the diverse resources these students employ on their educational paths, emphasizing the assets they bring to higher education and how they strategically use these resources to advance their healthcare careers. Sara’s research highlights the critical role of students’ agency in their educational and career choices, as well as the influence of their peers and families.

Her dissertation committee was extremely impressed with her work, commending its organization, clarity, and thorough research.

Sara’s dedication to her dissertation reflects her deep commitment to authentically capturing the narratives of the students she studied, accurately presenting the literature, and skillfully integrating data and theory to enhance our understanding of the experiences of students of color in pharmacy school. Throughout her PhD program—from coursework and qualifying exams to her active participation in scholarly conferences like the GSE Student Symposium and her mentorship of fellow graduate students—Sara has exemplified the qualities of an outstanding PhD student in our Higher Education program.

Excellence in Community Outreach and Engagement Award

Marcus Deveso

Learning and Teaching in Social Contexts, EdD ’24
Marcus Deveso.


Marcus Deveso has made significant contributions to enhancing educational opportunities for high-achieving young people of color in Buffalo through his innovative leadership and impactful research.

Marcus's work has been pivotal in addressing and reshaping the educational landscape at Buffalo Prep. He recognized early on the detrimental effects of curricular practices that failed to reflect or value the cultural and life experiences of students. His critical insight led to a comprehensive review of the institutional practices, revealing the presence of both micro- and macro-aggressions within the existing pedagogy and curriculum.

In response, Marcus spearheaded transformative efforts across the organization. He led his team in designing and implementing a series of strategic interventions aimed at preparing students both academically and socially-emotionally, and positioning educators as committed advocates and allies for their students.

His approach was methodical and research-driven, integrating findings from his own doctoral research. As chief program officer, he instituted a year-long research cycle for faculty and staff, focusing on transitioning from a standards-based to a culturally relevant and sustaining curriculum and pedagogy. This included partnerships with national experts, attendance at key conferences, and engaging with theoretical and practical learning aimed at actual classroom implementation.

The interventions designed under his leadership covered three critical areas. In the realm of Academic/Programming, Marcus spearheaded the adoption of culturally relevant pedagogy across all levels of Buffalo Prep, introduced innovative assessment methods like "Ungrading," created a Student Success Program, and integrated community engagement initiatives. For Social-Emotional/Wellness, he established a House System to foster relationships, hired full-time social workers, implemented nutritional support programs such as the Prep Market and the Go Green Initiative, and provided training in Racial Trauma Healing Circles. In the Organizational domain, he led the revision of the mission statement, formed strategic partnerships with schools, reorganized leadership boards, and created an internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. These comprehensive efforts reflect a deep commitment to enhancing both the educational environment and the broader community impact.

Marcus's visionary leadership has not only redefined educational practices at Buffalo Prep but has also significantly influenced the broader educational community. His dedication to integrating theory with practice has transformed traditional pedagogies into a dynamic, student-centered learning environment that emphasizes lived experience, experiential learning, and critical inquiry.

Excellence in Equity, Diversity, Justice and Inclusion Award

Hifza Nasar

Early Childhood Education, EdM ’24
Portrait of Hifza Nasar.

Hifza Nasar has demonstrated exceptional qualities as both a student in the Early Childhood Education professional master’s program and a teacher within our academic community. One of her instructors, David Jackson, says she is a standout among her peers and notes she is one of the most caring, thoughtful, and humble students he has encountered, particularly in her sensitivity to issues of diversity and inclusion.

A racially and religiously minoritized individual herself, Hifza cares deeply not only about matters of gendered identities and racialization, but also about neurodiversity and achievement gaps. In her teaching, Hifza has devoted tremendous time, energy, and deliberation to addressing and redressing inequities with second graders receiving special education services. Though she tends to focus on reading and literacy, Hifza has shown exceptional growth in her pedagogical content knowledge for science, proving her versatility and commitment to comprehensive educational excellence.

Her collaborative classwork further exemplifies her commitment to inclusivity. Hifza has developed an effective partnership with a classmate who is in many ways an outsider to Hifza’s educational setting. She worked diligently to include her group partner, whose perspective was rooted in an international educational context with an interest in later/older grade levels. This further showcased her ability to bridge educational and cultural differences in pursuit of enhanced learning outcomes.

Already Hifza has demonstrated proficiency as a researcher, and her intersectional approaches show potential for extensions of her current study in the course, Action Research to Improve Teaching and Learning.

Hifza is a truly exceptional emerging scholar whose academic and professional endeavors make her a deserving candidate for this award. Her ongoing work and future potential indicate a bright future in further educational research and possibly doctoral studies, where she is expected to continue breaking ground and influencing the field positively.

Excellence in Research Award

Madilynn Rutherford

Counseling/School Psychology, PhD ’24
Portrait of Melodie Baker.

Madilynn Rutherford joined the combined doctoral program in counseling psychology and school psychology in 2018. Since then, she has showcased an unwavering commitment to equity, diversity, justice, and inclusion, specifically with the often-underserved trans and gender diverse (TGD) community.

Under the guidance of her dissertation advisor Amy Reynolds, Madilynn has pursued research focusing on the TGD community. Her dissertation, titled "The Impact of Internalized Transphobia on the Sexual Assertiveness and Sexual Satisfaction of Transgender and Gender Diverse Adults," employs a community-centered quantitative methodology—a rare approach in traditional research paradigms, which often overlooks marginalized communities. Her approach is meticulously designed to uplift the voices it seeks to study.

Recognizing her positionality as a cisgender individual outside of the TGD community she studies, Madilynn has conscientiously involved TGD scholars and community members throughout her research process. These advisors have played a critical role in ensuring that her methodology, recruitment materials, and overall research direction honor and accurately represent the community. Their input helps safeguard the research against biases that might arise from her outsider perspective, ensuring that the work is affirming and genuinely reflective of the TGD experience.

Furthermore, Madilynn compensates these advisors for their invaluable contributions, exemplifying her commitment to equity and respect for the expertise within the community. This collaboration highlights her dedication to fostering a research environment that is not only inclusive but also reparative, acknowledging past harms inflicted by psychological research on marginalized groups.

Madilynn aspires to integrate her research insights into a profession as a sex therapist. She is particularly focused on addressing the gaps in therapy and support available to the TGD community, aiming to enhance sexual health and well-being through an informed, empathetic, and inclusive therapeutic approach. Her goal is to create therapeutic spaces where TGD individuals feel genuinely seen, understood, and supported, leveraging her research to inform her clinical techniques and interventions.

Madilynn is committed to disseminating her findings and methodologies not only in academic circles but also in practical, therapeutic settings. Her poster was accepted, and she will present at the upcoming American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists conference in St. Louis. 

PhD Excellence Award

Laureen Cantwell-Jurkovic

Information Science, PhD ’23
Portrait of Margaret Manges.

Laureen embodies the concept of PhD Excellence through her research, her publication, her service, and her leadership as a doctoral student.

Her dissertation, How Reference and Instruction Academic Librarians Engage in Caring Labor: A Mixed-Methods Study and Proposed Theory of Coactive Caring is a model for research that develops theory that is both grounded in and useful to practice. Her work is groundbreaking for library and information science and will have a great impact on research, practice, and professional education for librarians.

Laureen used a mixed method design, demonstrating her skill with both quantitative and qualitative methods. She overcame some hurdles during the dissertation process, sometimes reaching out for guidance from the staff in GSE’s QQDAL. Laureen plans to work on publishing her dissertation research this summer and has already proposed a poster on her work for the Association of Library and Information Science Education Doctoral Student Poster Competition.

In addition to writing her dissertation, Laureen has published regularly during her doctoral work. Among other papers and book chapters, she published a paper with fellow Information Science doctoral candidate, Heather Ball. Another of her papers won the Medical Library Association’s 2021 Ida & George Eliot Prize.

Laureen is actively involved in serving the scholarly and professional community. Among other activities, she has attended the annual meeting of the Association of Information Science & Technology (the major international association for the discipline) and serves as the Communication Officer for one of the association’s special interest groups. Laureen is thinking ahead to editorial opportunities by serving as a copyeditor for the journal Communications in Information Literacy.

Laureen has been an engaged student and has helped create an active learning community among doctoral students. As one of the first students in the new Information Science PhD program, she helped to build a culture of support and engagement. Newer students rely on her experience and expertise.

PhD Mentorship Award

Alexandra Schindel

Associate Professor of Learning and Instruction
Alexandra Schindel.

Dr. Schindel has epitomized what it means to be a mentor in the field of Science Education within the Department of Learning and Instruction. Her commitment to her students transcends the ordinary; she is a mentor who profoundly influences their academic and professional paths, nurturing their growth with a dedication that is both rare and inspiring.

Dr. Schindel's approach to mentorship is uniquely holistic. She is not only a guide but an advocate who actively seeks out and secures opportunities for her students. For instance, she has been instrumental in obtaining scholarships for students to alleviate their financial burdens, enabling them to focus fully on their research and studies. She also works closely with students on their academic papers and presentations, enhancing their profiles and preparing them to contribute significantly to the academic community.

Moreover, Dr. Schindel's ability to connect her students with influential networks is remarkable. She facilitated a student’s first experience as a peer reviewer and has opened doors to numerous publishing opportunities, significantly impacting their careers. Her efforts to include students in prestigious institutes and encourage connections with scholars outside the university underscore her commitment to providing comprehensive support.

Her mentoring extends beyond academic and professional guidance; Dr. Schindel offers personal support that is tailored to the needs of each student. She exemplifies a balance between professional ambition and personal well-being, encouraging her mentees to find a harmony that fosters both academic success and a fulfilling personal life. Her empathy and understanding during challenging times, such as the stressful periods of dissertation writing, have been crucial in helping students persevere and succeed.

Dr. Schindel’s influence is not limited to direct interactions. Her strategic guidance in assembling dissertation committees and fostering broader academic relationships has greatly benefited her students’ intellectual development and research quality.