Photo of College Hall Bell Tower
University News

Inaugural White Coat Ceremony Marks Milestone for Montclair Audiology Students

A dozen students celebrated their transition from audiology students to professionals

Posted in: College for Community Health, Homepage News, University

Eleven students wearing white lab coats pose for a photo in front of a bronze red hawk statue.
Audiology doctoral graduates pose for a photo after participating in Montclair’s inaugural White Coat Ceremony, marking their transition from students to professionals. Front, L to R: Salvatore Paporto, Erin Douglas and Debby Walkin Wajsbaum. Middle L to R: Gita Balser, Marala Mackarey, Deborah Rivera, Cindy Fernandez, Elise Miguel, Helen Rubio and Shauna Puccio. Back: Sean Kleczkowski (Not pictured, Karina Diaz-Cintron).

A dozen Montclair State University Audiology doctoral students were honored by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders during its inaugural White Coat Ceremony on May 8.

Montclair offers one of only 75 doctoral audiology programs across the nation, and the only program in New Jersey. Accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, Montclair’s program prepares students as clinicians; they work with people who have difficulty hearing or understanding speech, processing auditory signals or have balance disorders. Montclair’s Audiology clinic is the only university-based program on the East Coast to have a virtual reality balance system available to clients and to assist students with research.

Started in 1993 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the White Coat Ceremony “signifies the transition from student to health-care professional,” Audiology Program Director Maryrose McInerney told attendees gathered for the event at the John J. Cali School of Music’s Leshowitz Hall. “White coats symbolize the professionalism expected of individuals in clinical professions and underscore our institution’s commitment to providing the education and training necessary for licensure and certification.”

Amy Aiello speaks at a lectern before a rack of white lab coats.
Amy Aiello, interim dean of the College for Community Health, congratulates students on their achievement.

Amy Aiello, interim dean of the College for Community Health, congratulated the graduates as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. “As you don your white coats for the first time today, I encourage you to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that come with this symbol of professionalism. Let it serve as a constant reminder of your commitment to the highest standards of ethics, patient care and lifelong learning. May your white coats be a source of pride, a symbol of service and a reminder of the noble profession you have chosen.” After being presented with their white coats by McInerney, each inscribed with their names followed by “Doctor of Audiology,” Audiology Clinic Director Faith Mogila administered the Audiology Oath to the students.

Faith Mogila administers an oath to audiology doctoral students before ceremony attendees.
Audiology Clinic Director Faith Mogila, left, administers the Audiology Oath to doctoral graduates on May 8 as family and friends look on.

At a reception held in their honor afterward, graduates said they were thrilled to be the first to experience the ceremony and be celebrated with family and friends.

“It feels really great to be celebrated for four years of really hard work,” said Erin Douglas, who will open a private practice in Wilmington, North Carolina. “We all really deserve it, and I’m so glad that our program is starting a new tradition.”

Sean Kleczkowski, who will be joining a private ENT and audiology clinic in Englewood, New Jersey, said he was honored to be in the inaugural ceremony. “This whole journey has been one that was full of highs and lows but this is what we work for, this big moment where we can celebrate all of our hard work and all of our research and finally being able to put our amazing degree into practice. It’s an honor.”

A closeup of the white coats presented to Audiology students.
A closeup of the white coats that Audiology students were presented with to signify their transition from students to professionals.

Deborah Rivera echoed Kleczkowski’s sentiments, saying, “We’re so happy that [the ceremony] finally happened.”

Rivera, who will be working at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, was accompanied by her proud parents, Maria and Roberto Rivera, and other family members.

“I’m very proud,” said her husband, Fermin Sorto. “She’s come a long way and gotten through this year. I’m so happy and can’t wait for what this holds for her future.”

Gita Balser said she officially felt like a doctor of audiology. “I really had a lot of like impostor syndrome,” she said, “and then all of a sudden like when I walked across the stage I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is really real.’”

She said she appreciated that family members were able to get a more personalized ceremony before Commencement on May 13. Balser, who has a job lined up with Hearing Life in Westfield, New Jersey, said she’ll be conducting hearing screenings and hearing aid checks for people in nursing homes and adult daycare centers in northern New Jersey. “I’m really excited about it,” she said.

McInerney told the students: “I speak for all the audiology faculty who have worked with you, we are so proud of you and are so happy that you joined our village. Each of you has made a lasting impression in our department, and we are proud to have you represent our program and call you our colleagues.”


Students wearing white lab coats read an oath onstage.
Students recite the Audiology Oath during the department’s inaugural White Coat Ceremony.

A hand holds a phone showing Audiology students on stage.
An audience member captures Audiology students on her phone camera.

Gita Balser and Erin Douglas hold copies of the program, which includes the Audiology Oath.
Audiology graduates Gita Balser and Erin Douglas onstage.

Wearing her white coat, Deborah Rivera poses for a photo with family members.
Deborah Rivera, center, celebrates post-White Coat Ceremony with family members.

A man hugs Helen Rubio.
Audiology graduate Helen Rubio is congratulated by a family member.

Story by Staff Writer Sylvia A. Martinez. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.

You May Also Like:

Spring Commencement 2024 Recap, Photos & Highlights

Montclair Mascots Unveil Secret Identities at Commencement 2024

N.J. Quintuplets Make History as They Graduate from Montclair State University

Montclair’s ‘Jersey Joe’ Dances His Way to Commencement

Montclair Football Stars Score Big in Business

From Childhood Tragedy to Commencement Triumph

Montclair’s SGA President Advocates for Change from Campus to Capitol Hill

N.J. Grandmother Earns Her Degree After Five Decades