Abigail DeBel Named Valedictorian of the William Paterson University Class of 2018

Abigail DeBel of Lincoln Park, New Jersey has earned the title of valedictorian for the William Paterson University Class of 2018.

DeBel, who is graduating with a bachelor of arts in communication disorders and a minor in psychology, is a member of the University’s Honors College. Under the mentorship of psychology professor Amy Learmonth, DeBel pursued the cognitive science track of study in the Honors College, where she researched college students’ reading comprehension on mobile screens versus paper. She presented that work at the 2017 annual conference of the Eastern Psychological Association.

DeBel has been a member of the University’s chapter of the National Student Speech Language & Hearing Association throughout her four years on campus, and during her senior year, she served as the group’s vice president.

The valedictorian says her father, Richard DeBel, who graduated from William Paterson in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, was “a great example to follow” when it comes to tenacity. He put himself through school, attending classes at night while he worked.

Between the fact that William Paterson is one of a few institutions in New Jersey that offers a degree in communication disorders and her father’s stories of the University, WP was a top contender for DeBel’s college career. After learning more about the University at a campus tour, she says was sold on becoming a Pioneer.

“When I was looking at colleges, one of the things that I really liked at William Paterson was the small class sizes. It really does make a huge difference,” she says. “I only have good things to say about William Paterson. Well, maybe around finals that might not be true,” she adds, laughing. “Truly, the community here is awesome.”

As a result, DeBel will continue her studies at William Paterson. She is already enrolled to pursue her master’s degree, also in communication disorders.

“The professors are very involved. They care a lot about the students and how you’re doing, overall, not just in their class. If you’re stressed out because you have something else going on, or if you’re on a sports team, they’ll ask,” DeBel says.

She subsequently credits her academic success, in part, to “the involvement” of WP’s professors. “I know I can go to them and ask questions. On the other side, I’ve even had professors who would come to me and say, ‘I saw you missed these two questions on the same concept; is this a concept you would like to review?’”

DeBel has her heart set on working as a speech language pathologist in the future, and plans to further explore different areas of the profession during her graduate studies. She has served as a teacher’s aide in a daycare and can see herself working with children someday, but says working with the geriatric population or in a hospital setting are also of interest to her.

For now, though, DeBel is very much looking forward to commencement albeit some nerves about her valedictory speech. “It just seems like the most fun way to close out this experience. You put so much into these four years. As valedictorian, alongside other students who are being honored that day, for us to be able to sit up on the stage with the University president when it comes time to turn the tassels – it’s very exciting.”