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YU Valedictorians Reflect on College Experience

This year's YU valedictorians remember the vibrant Jewish life that shaped their undergraduate years at YU.
First Publish: 5/24/2014, 12:03 AM

YU valedictorians 2014
YU valedictorians 2014
Yeshiva University

More than 600 students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools were awarded degrees at YU’s 83rd Commencement exercises, held on Thursday.

Nine received the distinction of valedictorian, an honor that reflects exceptional academic achievement. As these new graduates begin the next stage of life and apply their talents to pursue a range of careers, they remembered the vibrant Jewish life and rich academic and extracurricular experiences that shaped their undergraduate years at YU.

“YU afforded me the unique opportunity to enhance my scientific pursuits with Torah knowledge,” said Bella Wolf of Woodmere, the valedictorian of Stern College for Women. “I feel that as a Jewish student majoring in the sciences, there is no other university that could better meld together my religious beliefs with my career goals.”

Wolf, an aspiring ophthalmologist, will attend YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the fall.

“YU has an amazing science department which helped me in my pursuit to attend medical school,” she said. “I received incredibly valuable skills both in the research and medicinal field, as well as in life in general, from my four years at Stern.”

Eli Grunblatt of Brooklyn, the valedictorian of Yeshiva College, also credited YU’s stellar science program -- and specifically the intensive biomedical research opportunities he took part in -- for helping him achieve his goals.

“I chose YU primarily because of the small, tight-knit environment that it offers,” he said.  “I found that the small class sizes allowed me to build close relationships not only with my fellow students, but with faculty members as well. This enriched my learning experiences and also led me to develop strong mentor-student connections particularly with professors in my chosen field of biomedical research.”

Next year, Grunblatt will begin an MD/PhD program at the University of Washington/ Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Malia Weiss of Edison, who received the Sy Syms School of Business Dean Harold Nierenberg Memorial Valedictorian Award, recalled the unique opportunity she had at Sy Syms to take stimulating business courses together with inspiring Judaic studies classes.

“We have spent the last few years not only engaged in secular studies, preparing for our careers, but also grappling with Jewish studies, and at particular times with Jewish texts that provide ethical and religious underpinnings to guide us as we seek a foothold in the world of business,” said Weiss, who will be heading to University of Pennsylvania Law School next year.

“YU’s philosophy is the archetypal model by which I live my life and I feel so fortunate to have attended a university that was molded to my lifestyle as a Jewish Orthodox student, living in the modern world, and entering the world of business.” 

For Eli Shavalian of Los Angeles, valedictorian of the Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program, involvement in a multitude of extracurricular activities made his undergraduate experience uniquely enjoyable. As a head Resident Advisor and co-chair of the Student Life committee, Shavalian was able to meet and interact with many students. He also hosted a weekly radio show, served as president of the psychology club, director of marketing for the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society and as a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions.

“YU has given me the skills and experiences I need to be able to handle any obstacle that comes my way,” said Shavalian, who will be working as a Research Assistant in a psychology lab next year and ultimately plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology.

“The unique dual curriculum has taught me how to manage my time properly and efficiently. In addition, I've learned how to interact with a variety of different types of people on campus.”

Other valedictorians include Benjy Lebowitz, Sy Syms School of Business Dean Harold Nierenberg Memorial Valedictorian Award; Natan Koloski, Isaac Breuer College; Avi Levinson, Yeshiva Program/Mazer School of Talmudic Studies, Devorah Levinson, Stern College for Women Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies; and Yitzi Markel, Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)