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Nursing Grads Rock The Today Show

Red Hawks shine during surprise-filled live Pinning Ceremony at Rockefeller Center

Posted in: Homepage News, Nursing, University

Nursing graduates, faculty and President Koppell with the hosts of the Today Show
Photo: Nathan Congleton.

This year’s graduates of Montclair State University’s four-year bachelor’s in nursing program experienced a once-in-a-lifetime graduation moment on Wednesday, May 11: a special, live Pinning Ceremony on NBC’s The Today Show as part of the program’s Nurses Week coverage. 

The program’s 22 graduates, nursing faculty and Montclair President Jonathan Koppell appeared on the national broadcast, which is seen by more than three million people each morning. 

Set against the backdrop of The Today Show Plaza in Rockefeller Center, the Red Hawks received their nursing pins in a ceremony befitting an extraordinary college experience – one that included them participating in the vaccine initiative – that took place amid a global pandemic. 

But that wasn’t all the program had in store. As part of the event, students received special gifts including espresso machines and sneakers to wear on the job; and, to cap the unforgettable morning, event sponsor Johnson & Johnson honored the School of Nursing and its students with a $15,000 donation. 

“Today was truly a special moment for our students, the School of Nursing, and for Montclair,” said Koppell. “This ceremony was a testament to all they have accomplished, and all they will continue to achieve as they enter the healthcare industry. We also want to thank Johnson & Johnson for their donation, and look forward to building a relationship that gives future nurses the opportunity to learn and thrive at our University.”

Graduating students from the BSN program at Montclair State University during the pinning ceremony at Rockefeller Plaza.
Graduating students from the BSN program at Montclair State University during the pinning ceremony at Rockefeller Plaza. Photo: Nathan Congleton.

“This is a dream come true”

As part of the broadcast, three members of the Class of 2022 – Aminata Coundoul, Carin Adler and Alexander Ng – were featured in a pre-ceremony story, shot on campus in the weeks leading up to the event. 

In the piece, the trio shared why they wanted to pursue nursing, their chosen specialties after graduation and how the pandemic has brought them closer together as a class and only strengthened their determination to become nurses.

“To be part of something like this was incredible,” said Ng. “We have come so far as a class and been through so much together, we have become like a family. To share our story and show the world who we are and how far we have come, and do it on live TV in New York City, is a dream come true and an amazing experience I will never forget.”

“I could not be happier for our students, faculty and staff to have this moment on a national stage,” said School of Nursing Dean Janice Smolowitz. “What they have accomplished these past four years has been nothing short of remarkable. They deserve all of the accolades and attention they receive, and I have no doubt they will make an impact in the field from the minute they begin their careers.” 

For more information on Montclair’s School of Nursing, visit

Hosts from the Today Show on stage with President Koppell and Dean Smolowitz
Hosts from The Today Show joined President Koppell and Dean Smolowitz on stage for the special Pinning Ceremony. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Photo of Montclair State nursing graduates on stage with the cast of The Today Show
Carin Adler, one of the students graduating from the BSN program, shakes hands with The Today Show host Hoda Kotb. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Student shaking hands with Today Show host
Hoda Kotb joined her Today Show co-hosts and the University in congratulating the graduating students. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Photo of Al Roker and representatives from Johnson & Johnson
Al Roker (in the hat) interviews a team from Johnson & Johnson about the donation they gave to the School of Nursing. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Dean Jan Smolowitz on stage, with President Koppell and Today Show hosts standing beside her.
Dean Janice Smolowitz led the students in reciting the International Council of Nurses’ Pledge. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
President Jonathan Koppell standing at the podium
President Koppell commended the graduating nursing students for persevering through extraordinary circumstances to get their degrees. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Student receiving their pin during the ceremony
After reciting the International Council of Nurses’ Pledge, graduating students from the BSN program accepted pins from the School of Nursing faculty. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Alexander Ng receives his pin during the ceremony
Alexander Ng was one of three students profiled for the special segment that aired on The Today Show. Photo: Nathan Congleton.
Student Aminata Coundoul receiving her pin
Twenty-two students from the School of Nursing, including Aminata Coundoul, took part in the live pinning ceremony. Photo: Nathan Congleton.