Alumni: 84,000   Students: 17,500

Alumni Testimonials

There are moments. And then there are moments that change your life. We all had that “moment” – an event, conversation or self-discovery that drove us to achieve more, be more, earn our degree. Maybe yours was the moment you decided to pursue a lifelong dream. Maybe it was a career change. Or maybe your moment was more personal.

Whatever your moment, we’re glad it led you to ESC.

Help our prospective students walk a mile in your shoes. Tell them what inspired you to earn your degree, who encouraged you to keep going, obstacles you overcame…and how your life changed because of it. Click here to provide your testimonial.

Linda Makson ’17

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Linda Makson ’17

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Four words: Never give up inquiring.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
The desire to learn and add to my current secular knowledge.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
ESC ‘fits’ because I was able to study when I was free to do so.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My family, (husband and children) and the mentors all helped and encouraged me.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
I had to put my continued learning ‘on hold’ for 17 years while helping my parents gracefully age and my granddaughter gracefully grow up.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Never give up.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Hopefully to help others who are searching for a school that allows a person to be who they are.

Anything else you would like to share?
Empire may not be for everyone, but if you are able to study on your own and do not need to adhere to a schedule Empire is for you. Empire offers freedom to learn when and where you are able.

Carol Machowski ’14, ’17

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Carol Machowski ’14, ’17
Program Coordinator
Baker Victory Services

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Determined. Dedicated. Thorough.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
The inspiration to earn my MA was self-fulfillment; I was not a strong student in high school, and I found success at ESC which propelled me forward. I wanted to achieve that higher level academic accomplishment to enrich the professional work that I am already doing. Also, serving as a model for my two daughters to finish what they start and to immerse themselves in knowledge of the things they have a passion for. My “moment” was during the period of my undergraduate study at ESC when I realized that “I could actually do this”.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
After completing an AAS, and several false starts in other college environments for Undergrad, ESC offered the right mode of study for my learning style and busy life.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My family and friends were extremely supportive, and as I moved through my MA Program, my colleagues were also intensely supportive.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
Academically, I have always struggled, and the anxiety of a large campus has added to that. With ESC, I was able to go at the pace I needed to in order to gain confidence to show my academic strengths. The Final Project for my MA posed several technical obstacles as well, and with support from faculty, colleagues and with time, everything worked itself out.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
You get out of it what you put into it. The supports are there if you need them.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because I would like others to experience the same success I have.

Jeremy Whorf ’18

Jeremy Whorf ’18
Production Coordinator
Angiodynamics

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Ambitious. Dedicated. Intelligent.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
Way back when I graduated high school (2002), I set a personal goal to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. It didn’t happen right away but in the process I obtained an Associates degree in Business Administration from SUNY Adirondack in 2007. Overall it took me 16 years to achieve my goal of earning a Bachelors Degree in Business, Management, and Economics with a concentration in Finance

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I needed to attend classes online and I really liked the idea of “creating” my own personalized degree.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My mentor Himanee Gupta-Carlson was extremely helpful throughout my studies at ESC.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
I overcame several obstacles in route to earning my Bachelor’s degree including 3 DWI’s. These poor decisions kept delaying my goal of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Time-management is essential to perform well when taking online classes. I would also suggest to maintain an open line of communication with your mentor to assist with registering and planning your degree.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
The college helped me achieve a personal goal of mine that was 16 years in the making.

Anything else you would like to share?
Quality teaching and learning experienced at ESC.

Hope Stanger ’16

Hope Stanger ’16
Holistic Health Counselor
Therapy Beyond Walls

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Emphatic. Committed. Advocate.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
My moment came when I attended an art exhibit at the ESC Gallery by a friend who went back to finish her degree. Standing and viewing her powerful images, I knew I wanted to go back and complete a journey started and stopped long ago. I went into the office of a guidance counselor to ask about my next steps, and she inspired me to believe I could do it.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
Everything about the school made sense for me. ESC was on my radar for a number of years but the timing was not yet there until that “aha” moment. I wanted to be able to give myself all the advantages that would allow me to get my degree in psychology (which I had started 31 years before!) while still feeling balanced and soaring in the rest of my life.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
I love having the opportunity to ‘name names’ as I answer this question: Marianne Arieux – my first mentor and eventual professor. Mara Mills – my professor throughout. Jen Spitz -my mentor. All of whom I now consider friends. These 3 women were my tribe of support. They saw who I was and encouraged my greatness.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
The first took place right before I was about to start school; I was hit by a car while walking. I had 3 broken bones in my face, two in my leg and the trauma from the accident. I was told I needed surgery immediately, but instead decided to go home and heal my body and spirit from a holistic perspective, which I did – fully and completely. The only other obstacle was a lifetime of believing I couldn’t do it; that there was no way I would be able to finish school with my degree because there was no prior proof I ever had. Not only was my GPA at ESC a 4.0, but I also wrote a series of PLA’s that were granted for my prior learning.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Believe you can, because this is your time to shine! Reach out for support – ESC is holding arms wide open to help you succeed. Pause, breathe and do something you love each day.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because I think SUNY Empire is the most extraordinary college and I want everyone to know this!

Anything else you would like to share?
Gratitude!

Laura vonKampen ’18

Laura vonKampen ’18
Director of Human Resources
JD Beauty/WetBrush

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Mom. Hard-worker. Resilient.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I was laid off from my job. I interviewed with a recruiter for another position. The recruiter thought that my 20 years of experience would make me the perfect fit for the job. I learned a few day later that the firm would not even consider me because I did not have my degree. I also felt a little bit like a hypocrite, telling my children how important a college education was while not having one.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I knew that at ESC I would receive credit for what I had learned throughout my career. ESC also offered flexibility of classes and class types, along with a mentor who helped guide me along the way.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My biggest support was from my friends and family. I credit one of my friends often, as I would say to her, this is going to take me years to complete. Her reply to me was always the same. The time will pass anyway. Whether you do it or not, but if you do it, at the end of those years, you will not still be saying, its going to take me years to complete…It will be complete!!

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
I was a newly single mom. I had to continue to work full time along with raising my children, my youngest was still in high school when I began.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
JUST DO IT!!! I now give the same advice that I received from my dear friend. Time will pass anyway. Why not have an accomplishment to feel good about? It is worth the work!!

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I feel it is important to encourage others to reach for their goals. Maybe my story will encourage someone else.

Anything else you would like to share?
Just GO FOR IT!!! As I put on my Graduation Cap!! GOT IT DONE!! FINALLY!!!

Toneisha Colson ’18

Toneisha Colson ’18
Administrative Assistant
Jerome Belford’s Landscaping

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Tough. Saved. Quiet.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
28 years ago I had a baby girl and when she was born I decided to go to school so I enrolled at ESC in 1990 but then she passed away a year later and I was lost after that. Losing my daughter was devastating. Finding the will to get up and take a shower was depressing. But then God gave me three more reasons to live, Justin, Jonathan and Aliyah. I had a horrible divorce from my ex-husband. I was verbally abused as well as raped twice. That part of my life was just as low as when my daughter passed away. I had to tell myself “get up and stop feeling sorry for yourself”. I did and when I let go and let God take over things fell into place. Well in 2014 I was diagnosed with Lupus. Its not a death sentence but it threw me for a loop. I also had two sons in college and a daughter in high school. I decided to get up shake the devil off and finish what I started. Well since November 2015 I have been enrolled in ESC non-stop. I have taken classes every semester!! I received my AS in 2017 but started classes for my BS in 2017 as well. Well I will getting my BS December 2018 which means I will have received my BS in a year and three months. January 2019 I will start Graduated school online at Towson University in Maryland.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I chose ESC because they use your life experience towards your degree. Also I have had the most amazing mentor Dr. Erin Young. ESC is a school that cares and want you to succeed.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My children and my parents. My mother has a Business Degree and My father is a professor at SUNY Stony Brook and holds two Master’s Degrees, also my first cousin Dr. Jamal Colson P.h.D is a school principal. Education is deep in my family and I want to achieve.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
My age, I am now 47, divorced, I have three children and a house to take care of. I had to overcome my illness, sometimes with Lupus you just can’t get out of bed. I had to overcome depression and trying to please everybody almost losing sight of God but he was there the whole time.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Take your time! Choose a major that you love. Learn as much as you can, share as much as you can. It’s never too late to learn and grow. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t understand, make it fun, life is too short.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because I feel that SUNY Empire gave me my life back, gave me a new purpose. So I need to pay it forward.

Anything else you would like to share?
I love this school and others should give it a try. Learning is fun especially here. One day I would love to work here but as for now let’s see where these degrees will take me.

Emily Sussman ’18

Emily Sussman ’18
Graduate Student – MS in Major Rehabilitation Counseling
SUNY Buffalo Graduate School of Education

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Old. Passionate. Goal-oriented.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
My daughter who has High Functioning Asperger’s inspired me. That moment was when I was assigned my first essay and got an A. At 55, an individual with learning disabilities and being told I was stupid all my life. I finally knew that they were the ignorant ones.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
It was because of the success that my daughter was having online. I decided that since I knew how she learned and how I learned weren’t so different that this was the the place for me.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My family, some professors and my mentor, Ginger Knight.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
Being a different learner you tend to work three times as hard as your fellow classmates. What I learned is that if you keep asking the questions, most professors will answer and clarify. Once I learned how to work the program and how it worked I did well.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Online learning is not what you think it is. It is hard and wonderfully rewarding. You connect and are much more interactive with your classmates and professor then you would ever be in a lecture class. They also have some of the most amazing professors and mentors. Take a chance and try ESC.

Eric Zwieg ’18

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Eric Zwieg ’18
Graduate Student
Self-Employed

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Persistent. Accepting. Mindful.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
Sitting across from Maria Patrick Oakley from Acess-VR and being told the options I had to continue successfully with my rehabilitation. The “moment” was when I believed it was possible, thanks to her encouragement and my willingness to change.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
A program was made available through state initiatives for my rehabilitation and I felt it was a good fit.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My sister Liza Alm and her family. My daughter Jessica La Falce and her family. My counselors Jose Ortiz (Big Popi) and Charlene Grimm. Bill and Lucine Kauffman. Also, the many new friends and associates I have met through First Presbyterian Church of Batavia and the numerous volunteer agencies I have worked with over the past two years in the community.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
Constant day to day struggles of addiction, homelessness, poverty, and negativity that is all to common in society.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Commit 100% of your passion towards completing something. A class, a semester, a calendar year, a degree and never look back.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Paying it forward.

Claire Neher Vignola ’18

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Claire Neher Vignola ’18
Clerk/Typist
Rockland Community College

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Determined. Caring. Likes challenges.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I decided to earn my degree because I was caring for my mom and only had a few classes to take to graduate. I felt since I would be with Mom evening and week-ends going to college would be a good idea instead of watching TV.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I liked being able to be at home and study at my own convenience.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My husband and coworkers.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
I was caring for my mom, and it was at times difficult when she needed to be admitted into the hospital to keep up with my studies, but I kept myself on track by realizing getting a degree would lead to a better position.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
If you have the determination and realize that taking on-line classes will mean being able to work from home, but also there are many assignments and reports that you will have to focus on, then I would say give it a try. The classes are very interesting.You will be very happy to receive your degree and advance your career.

Anything else you would like to share?
I am very thankful that I received a letter from ESC telling me about Empire State College on-line programs. I also found my mentor Heather, to be very helpful. A big THANK YOU to her!

Anthony Sanseverino ’18

Anthony Sanseverino ’18
Training Instructor
Norfolk Naval Shipyard

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Determined. Motivated. Patriotic.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
My inspiration is a direct result of my time spent in the military. The old Army motto was “Be all that you can be” and I live that motto everyday of my life. I see the value in education and the doors that can be opened as a result.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
Empire State College afforded me the opportunity to attend classes on my schedule and at my own leisure. As a busy working professional, I figured it would be difficult to attend an “in-seat” school. This was the main reason I chose ESC.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My family was an inspiration from the beginning. The support I received from them motivated me to finish school and be successful at it as well. Towards the end, when I met my fiance, she really encouraged me to stay in school. She would always tell me “only a few more classes to go or only a few more weeks left this semester”. This helped boost my morale. The support I received from my mentor and the staff at ESC was also a reason I hung in there and finished my degree. Anytime I had an issue or needed something, no matter who I called at ESC, I was always provided with encouragement and an ear that would listen to my problem

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
The hardest thing for me was attending such a hands-on and technical program. In some classes, I found that attending school for Information Technology in an online format was difficult. If I didn’t understand something or was confused, I really didn’t have anyone to turn to. In these situations, I hired a tutor to help me in the areas I was lacking. Being that I was an adult student who worked full-time and had other commitments I realized that going to school online is difficult and you really need to be disciplined and dedicated in achieving that degree.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
If I had to give a prospective student advice, I would tell them that time management is truly important when studying online. Dedicate at least 3 hours a day (depending on course load) to stay caught up and give yourself time to learn and understand the coursework. Try not to rush things and treat every assignment like it is a reflection of you.

Anything else you would like to share?
I really enjoyed my time spent at ESC. From degree planning to commencement I learned a lot and interacted with some great people. After I finished my last class, I debated whether or not I would participate in commencement. I made the decision to walk and I am glad I did. I was truly humbled and impressed regarding the organization of commencement and how special the school made veteran students such as myself feel during the ceremony. I would recommend ESC to anyone and I thank the teachers and staff for providing me with such a detailed, interactive, and rigorous education!

Melissa Petrovsky ’18

Melissa Petrovsky ’18
Video Editor
Student – Pursuing MFA in Cinema Arts/ Post-Production

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Productive. Committed. Intuitive.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
After finishing my Associate of Science degree in Visual Communication Design in 2006, I worked as a Graphic Designer at a leading media house in Trinidad. I worked alongside another graphic designer and video editors, from whom I learned a lot with regards to the use of non-linear editing software. Working in the media industry ignited my passion to update and broaden my level of education. I sometimes helped the video editors whenever there was a good deal of work, which opened my creative thinker to research for this study. My journey as a Graphic Designer and my involvement in video editing motivated me to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Production.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
A bachelor’s degree in media production will give me the flexibility to influence and move around within the design field in the media. Wanting to further my education in the field of media and film, ESC allowed me to customize my degree plan to reflect my interests within that field, where I can focus on Post-Production (Bachelor of Arts degree with a Registered Area of Study in the Arts, and a concentration in Media Production).

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My husband supported and encouraged me.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
I overcame the obstacle of self doubt and achieved A’s in all my classes.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Don’t be afraid. Trust yourself. You will know what you are able to handle. Be patient… And make sure you take time for yourself to regroup, if you ever feel like giving up!

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Besides the fact that it feels awesome to give back at ESC, I think it is important to make an impact by volunteering and strengthening our communities.

Sandra Quinteros ’17

Sandra Quinteros ’17
Neighborhood Aide
Riverhead Central School District

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Perseverance. Resilience. Open-Mindedness.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
My biggest motivation to go back to finishing my college education is my 11 year old daughter. She has made my life better and all I want is for her to have a bright future. I have to start by giving her the example of the importance of education. I want her to grow up seeing that with education you have more choices in life and more chances to make a difference in the world.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I chose to attend ESC because of the recommendations I got from past ESC alumni and from the information that I got at an open house event I attended. I also found their class schedule model to be suited for what I needed with my busy life.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
I had my family supporting me and cheering me on to continue with my education. They helped with child care whenever I need it it for study sessions.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
I would advise for you to start right away, even if it’s with just one class, there will always be reasons to keep postponing your education, but the sooner you start the sooner you’ll get to your goal.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I give back to SUNY Empire because I am grateful for the opportunity their program provided and for helping me make my dream of a college degree a reality.

Laura Black ’18

Laura Black ’18
Unemployed

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Motivated. Honest. Persistent.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
To show my sons and my daughters that if mommy can do it then they can as well. No matter what gets in our way in life education should always come first.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
ESC is affordable and it had the program I was looking for and second it is it the state I love and live in New York CIty what better way to earn a degree and be proud of where you come from.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My husband and my sons (ages 19 and 15) who were screaming when I crossed that stage saying “ that’s my mommy” which made me proud.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
As a child I was physically and mentally abused and grew up in the foster care system and as I became an adult I got involved with a man that abused me and I had to enter a domestic violence shelter to hide and get away from him. All of this made me strong and motivated me to earn my degree and help others overcome what I went through growing up.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
No matter what gets in your way, never give up. Say to yourself, “I came this far I can do it.” Determination is the key to success.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
SUNY Empire offered me something that no other college would: a chance to do something with my life by earning my degree at the age of 40.

Anything else you would like to share?
I just want to say thank you to SUNY Empire State College.

Melissa Sperry ’18

Melissa Sperry ’18
Substitute Teacher
Herkimer BOCES

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Hard-worker. Driven. Accomplished.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
My husband died almost 5 years ago and I was in college at the time. So I wanted to prove to him and everyone else that I could get my bachelor’s degree in education.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
Empire State College was easiest for me because I could study all online and it was adapted to my life style.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My family and friends.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
Trying to work full time and going to school full-time.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Every college is different, this college will fit every need for you.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because SUNY Empire helped me with my degree.

Anything else you would like to share?
Empire State College and their professors were very helpful in many ways they would bend over backwards for you to express and help with anything that you needed.

Kristin McGivern ’18

Kristin McGivern ’18
Full-time Student
Master of Social Work

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Humanitarian. Leader. Caretaker.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I always wanted to complete my undergraduate degree but was very confused about the “right” path when I was 18. With no family history of college, the necessary support systems and confidence was lacking. As I matured both personally and professionally my self confidence grew. Being an example for my children further reinforced my commitment to invest in me and therefore everyone around me.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
It offered the flexibility to create a degree that was exciting to me and allowed me to best balance my family, career, sanity and studies.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
I was blessed to have a number of supervisors and professional peers express support. My husband and sons were my biggest cheer leaders!

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
Many; justifying the cost, loans and actual value at my age, time from my children, husband, family, and friends, admitting to peers I supervised with degrees higher than mine, health conditions that create physical and therefore emotional and mental set backs, fatigue and motivation to stay the course.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Don’t short change or doubt yourself. Any degree or learning investment will expand your way of thinking. Those expansions are truly the greatest gifts in life as they offer you new perspectives and gifts to share. Don’t be intimidated as everyone is in a similar boat and you are just as worthy as everyone else. Take as long as you need, be patient and kind to yourself. Ask questions and ignore those who don’t get it. They will when they see you graduating and thriving!

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because I am grateful for my experience and confident endorsing what they offer. My instructors and classmates were insightful and challenged my thinking. Its without a doubt the perfect fit for people living real lives.

Anything else you would like to share?
Thanks to the encouragement and recommendations of two of my professors I have moved on to a competitive full time Masters program in Social Work.

Kristina Borovkova ’16

Kristina Borovkova ’16
Senior Customer Master Professional
ExxonMobil

What three words best describe who and what you are?
I follow the core values, such as operational integrity, respecting human rights, safety, ingenuity, diversity and Inclusion to apply to daily operations and work safely, and in doing so committing 100% to safe work environment. As a leader at my current role, I continue to seek for opportunities to motivate teamwork, collaboration, achieving results the way.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I have become a strong believer that education and knowledge are equivalent to power; therefore one should be open-minded and ambitious to learn.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
At age 16, I left my family and my home in order to pursue my education. I dreamed of becoming a leader. I was able to achieve that goal by acquiring an education in the United States and the Czech Republic.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My family, friends, and mentors.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Always follow your dreams and never give up.

Lou LaBadie ’17

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Lou LaBadie ’17
Retired

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Hardworking. Compassionate. Determined.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
My Son! My oldest son Marcus who is a current student at SUNY Empire State College graduated from JCC in 2013. He spent more than 6 years recovering from injuries sustained in the war in Iraq in 2007 while deployed with the First Cavalry Division while serving with the U.S. Army. After breaking his back in 7 places and suffering a severe head injury as the result of a IED (Improvised Explosive Device). He worked hard to achieve his dream of continuing his education and making life better for his wife and children. I found it an honor to watch him walk across the stage to receive his associates degree in human development. It was at this time that I decided to return to school to receive my degree after being away for a 30 year period. ESC is one of the best colleges in the country and I am proud to be a part of it. I am currently pursuing my bachelors degree in Environmental Science which I will complete in the spring of 2019. I have always told my children to follow their dreams and that you can achieve anything

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I chose ESC because of the wonderful environment the college provides. I do not live near a campus but SUNY ESC provides that online environment where I am able to interact with both my Professors and the other students and still be able to do what’s necessary to support my family while coordinating my course work into my everyday life.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
Simply put: my family! They are my strength

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
Working in an online environment was a little challenging at first because I have been away from school for an extended period of time and at first I had trouble coordinating my course work into my everyday life. After my first semester in 2014 I was able to settle into a calmer environment and it has been exciting.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Take advantage of everything the college offers and run with it! It will be an exciting ride all the way to your prospected future.

Why do you give back to ESC?
I feel I can give back to SUNY Empire by encouraging others to attend the college and experience both the campus life and the online experience.

Anything else you would like to share?
It has been a pleasure to attend SUNY Empire State College and I encourage everyone to attend this school and follow their dream.

Tami Bone ’17

Tami Bone ’17
Classroom Manager
Columbia Opportunities, Inc. Head Start

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Passionate. Enthusiastic. Involved.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I was a single mother for most of my daughter’s life so I was in “survival mode”, working hard to keep a roof over our heads. I so wanted to go to college but it seemed to be out of reach. After surviving domestic violence and other of life’s challenges, I felt even more determined to get my degree. I started at ESC in 2015 – at age 53 – and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in 2017. It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful for the wonderful staff at ESC. I actually cried when I got my diploma! I worked so hard but it was so worth it. I feel empowered and confident as I have never felt before. I am now eager to get my Master’s Degree at ESC!

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
ESC was the best choice for me, hands down. The staff is amazing, the program is flexible, and the coursework is relevant to the field I work in.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
On the home front, my partner and daughter were very supportive. At ESC, my mentor, Joseph Yogtiba was amazing, always available to answer questions and help and encourage me along the way. All of my professors were great. David Mathis, who taught Family Violence and Abuse, was amazing, always encouraging and willing to go “the extra mile” to help when I needed it.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
The biggest challenge was being an older student and having lost some study skills throughout the years. Fortunately, the staff at ESC was so supportive and helpful…Not just the teaching staff but the other support staff (library personnel, IT staff, etc.)

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
You can do this! You will have support every step of the way. And, when you are finished, you will feel such a sense of accomplishment. You will also have completed coursework at an excellent college that will leave you prepared to excel in the workforce.

Why do you give back to ESC?
It’s my Alma Mater!

Anything else you would like to share?
Attending ESC was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Alexandra Osborne ’17

Alexandra Osborne ’17
Education Marketing Manager
SECNY Federal Credit Union

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Organized. Motivated. Passionate.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
Natalie Krone, my accounting tutor! I was torn between taking a gap year between my two year and four year degree and countless influencers in my life encouraged me to keep my momentum.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I knew that I wanted to graduate with my degree debt free. In order to do that, I knew that I needed the flexibility to maintain my multiple jobs. ESC was a perfect fit!

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My parents, grandmother sisters and my fiancé…and my advisor, Diana Hawkins!!

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
One particular semester that stands out is the tax season that I worked at an accounting firm while studying full time at ESC. I used all of my lunch breaks to read my textbooks and evenings to write papers and discussion posts. It was exhausting but I learned what I am capable of!

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Consider all the options right in front of you. Then, think about where you want to be in 5 years. What sacrifices will you have to make to reach those goals? How could distance learning lessen those sacrifices?

Why do you give back to ESC?
Because I am grateful for the experiences I had!

Anything else you would like to share?
As an individual who was homeschooled for my primary education, online classes were such a perfect fit for me! I had the opportunity to be self-motivated and directed but still interact with peers of various backgrounds.

Cassandra Cavness ’13

Cassandra Cavness ’13
Assistant Professor & Humanities Digital Archivist
Alabama State University

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Professional. Passionate. Driven.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I always wanted to attend college but I was sidetracked along the way. My dreams were put on hold for a little while when I found out I was pregnant at the age of 19. However, I kept reading and kept the passion for learning alive. I decided that I couldn’t put my life on hold forever because I wanted my kids to have a better life and I could only do that by pursuing my degree.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
I searched many different schools that offered online programs, but none of them seemed to fit my needs. I found SUNY Empire State College and the level of commitment that ESC had to adult learners meant that it was the right school for me.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
My wonderful fiance and my mother and stepfather helped me along the way.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
As a mother with two young children, both under the age of four, I had to juggle being a full-time student and a full-time stay-at-home mother.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
The advice that I would give a prospective student is to take the planning of your degree program serious thought and make sure that you structure it in a way that will allow you the best chance to succeed. Also, reach out to your mentor for help and guidance because that’s what they are there for.

Why do you give back to ESC?
I give back to SUNY Empire because this school is where I got my second chance. I was able to graduate from ESC and go on to get my Masters from Syracuse University. This allowed me to have wonderful experiences in the world and travel across the United States working for different organizations and land at an institution where I currently hold the rank of Assistant Professor, something I didn’t think I would be able to achieve by the time I was 30, but I did!

Matthew Kilgore ’18

Matthew Kilgore ’18
Dance Faculty
AMDA

What three words best describe who and what you are?
Performer. Artist. Educator.

What inspired you to earn your college degree? What was your “moment”?
I spent four years in college immediately following high school, but an injury prevented me from graduating with a Ballet Performance degree. I left school and pursued a career in musical theater. After performing on Broadway, off-Broadway, touring the country, touring Europe, and performing in Moscow and Manila, I still had an unfinished goal of a college diploma. I set a goal when I was 38 to graduate by my 40th birthday, and I did it.

Why did you choose to attend ESC?
ESC came highly recommended to me by some of my peers in theater. I researched the school and discovered that all of my credits from 1996-2000 would transfer and allow me to craft my own degree program. The fact that I could attend college online which would allow me to continue working at regional theaters and on tour sealed the deal. I applied, got accepted, figured out financial aid, and started.

Who supported and encouraged you along the way?
I kept a huge secret from my parents by not telling them I re-enrolled in college to finish my degree…boy were they surprised on June 7th when they came to NYC thinking they were attending a surprise birthday party for me. In reality they were attending my commencement. So, they didn’t know. My boyfriend was the biggest source of encouragement along the way. He kept pushing me to read another page, write another paragraph, and understood when I needed to stay home and study. He supported me through the entire journey.

What, if any, obstacles did you overcome?
I conquered Math and Science! I thought Math and Science would be a huge obstacle since I hadn’t even thought about those subjects since high school. My mentor suggested courses that were of interest to me and that would have real-life applicability. We settled on Math for the Inquiring Mind and Human Nutrition. I learned Excel as a major component of my Math course and Human Nutrition – hello real world stuff – taught me a lot about the food we eat. Both were engaging courses and I not only passed both courses…I walked away with an A in both classes.

What advice would you give to a prospective ESC student?
Just do it. Apprehension was my biggest obstacle to actually going back to school. Fear of being an adult learner. Fear of not having enough time. Fear of not having enough money. Fear of not being able to finish…again. Fear of failure. When presented with the opportunity to sink or swim…most will rise to the occasion and swim their way to victory. It’s the same at ESC…just jumping in is the hardest part. Once you’re in, there are many programs designed to help you succeed. Working closely with my mentor, using the student services offered, opening a dialogue with my instructors all helped me succeed. Everyone at ESC wants you to succeed, and I felt that from day 1.

Why do you give back to ESC?
Because I believe in the mission of SUNY Empire. The school helped me achieve my goals, and I want the same for other prospective students.

Andrew Sansone ’16

Andrew Sansone ’16
Financial Advisor, CFP
Allied Wealth Partners

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
There are so many things I like about SUNY Empire. I chose the college because of the quality of education at SUNY, the transfer of credits from career experience, the flexibility with class choices online and the reasonable cost.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
By working with my mentor, (the lovely Professor Vernon), I was able to chart a customized road map of classes to take and PLA’s to submit in order to accomplish my goal of attaining a bachelors degree in Business, Management & Economics. Professor Vernon helped me feel confident I could do it, despite my busy schedule.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
I have three: First, obtaining a bachelors degree has instilled a new found confidence in me, which translates into everything I do. As a result, I was honored in 2016 as the New Financial Advisor of the Year, highlighting excellence in financial planning. In 2017, I completed the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(tm) coursework and passed the rigorous exam. This is a designation held only by approximately 20% of all Financial Advisors. Lastly, I qualified for my firms National Sales Convention for the second time, which illustrates my dedication to helping my clients meet their financial goals.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
When I look back at the happiest moments in my life, it was when I worked hard, committed to a plan and eventually reached my goal. There is nothing better than feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because I strongly believe in the institution’s mission to provide quality education to adult learners. It’s never too late pursue your dreams of higher education.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
We live one life. Take action toward your goals. The progress you will make will feel empowering. You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Dreams don’t work unless you do.

Louise McAndrew ’18

Louise McAndrew ’18
Prep Tech in Same Day Surgery (PCA)
Saratoga Hospital

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I decided to get my degree from SUNY Empire because I work full-time and I did not have the time to spend in a classroom setting. I feel that your use of a mentor opposed to a guidance counselor has been amazing. Linda Jones has made my journey so much easier, she has helped me to chose the right classes, interesting classes, and even tailored classes to fit into my major. For someone who has to support themselves, wants to go to college to better themselves, this has been an outstanding experience for me.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire has helped me to reach my goal of going on to Ultrasound school. Without this degree, I would not have been able to apply. I will be applying this next year for the 2019 session. I also find that at my job so many of the classes I have taken at SUNY Empire have enriched my ability to understand things I do at work everyday. I have to scrub and shave patients before they go in to surgery. Knowing my anatomy is key to doing my job well. I have also learned so much about the area I live in thanks to some of my other classes based on the environment.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
I am looking forward to my career. I can not wait to finish with Ultrasound school and begin my new career. This degree is my ticket to that new beginning.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Work closely with your mentor. They are there to help you every step of the way.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
From my experiences at several different colleges, I highly recommend SUNY Empire State College. I never felt like the staff at those colleges were very helpful when I was struggling. I did not pick my classes like I did here, I was put into classes so I could get the credits I needed. Yes, I needed to take those particular classes, but I did not even get to look them over beforehand and see what I was getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, look over the classes you are interested in taking. I found that all my professors at SUNY Empire were more than willing to see me succeed, and they helped me when things were difficult, or I did not understand the material.

Elizabeth Webster ’81

ESC Shield

Elizabeth Webster ’81
Retired / Assistant Director
University of Rochester Medical Center / Friends of Strong (volunteer)

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I was an older adult woman who wanted to tie up some loose ends. I attended Smith College in the ‘50’s, but left to get married and raise a family. The best thing about SUNY Empire was its flexibility in all aspects of my plan. I was able to choose the courses I took and when I would take them. I was concerned about taking exams so I was told I would just have to write lots of papers. That’s just what I did, too.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
I was able to get credit for my prior college learning as well as for the volunteer experiences I had during the intervening years. Therefore my tenure at SUNY Empire was manageable with the rest of my responsibilities.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
There were many, but one that stands out is when the CEO of Strong Memorial Hospital told me that the program I designed, implemented and managed was working so well that it would become a permanent part of the hospital’s business plan.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
GO FOR IT! This college will work with you…for you.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
To support the future of Empire State College.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because it gave me what I needed to do good work in many areas of my life in interesting times for women.

Elizabeth Arthur ’12

Elizabeth Arthur ’12
Electrician and Owner
IBEW Local 3 / Kimimi Swimwear, LLC

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I went to SUNY Empire because of my 4 year apprentice program with the International Brotherhood of the Electrical Union to be an electrician. This college is great for adults who have to work and want to accomplish other goals.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
This was not my first time going to college, but going to Empire was a little different. I always looked forward to my class or what I was going to learn next in the new semester. The instructors were always there to help if you ever needed extra assistance.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
My proudest moments were graduating from college, becoming an electrician, an electrical instructor and also owning my swimsuit company.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Empire State College has the best support system for their students. Also, the programs are very flexible.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
To support the future of Empire State College.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
Follow your dreams. Let no one discourage you.

Jeffrey Hunter ’03

Jeffrey Hunter ’03
Program Manager
National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
Several factors influenced my decision to enroll at SUNY ESC. This includes the ease of transferring credits from other SUNY schools, the flexibility that independent study provided, and the quality of the mentors that I worked with to complete my degree.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
My education provided me with the knowledge, discipline, and the confidence to leave a 19-year career at Verizon at the age of 42.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
The ability to work with and learn from an incredibly talented group of colleagues at NPCA. Working to protect America’s national parks is a tremendous privilege.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Try and make the most of the experience by pushing yourself. The relationships that you’ll form in the process will enrich your life.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Without my experience at SUNY ESC, I wouldn’t have the job that I dreamed about for years.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
I strongly recommend that students consider attending the Adirondack Residency in October. It takes place on beautiful Raquette Lake.

Jonathan Darche ’00

Jonathan Darche ’00
Executive Director
New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I thought SUNY Empire would allow me to achieve a college degree while working full time, maximize the credits I had accumulated from my prior studies, give me credit for what I learned through some of my life’s experiences, and allow me to study material that was of interest to me. I was correct.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
I had always wanted to be an attorney, even from when I was a teenager. I had mostly given up on my dream. SUNY Empire enabled me to get my academic career back on track so that I was able to go to law school.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
I’m honored that the members of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board chose me to be the Executive Director of the Agency. I consider myself lucky to work with Board Chair Fred Davie, as well as the entire Board and staff of the CCRB.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
It took me ten years to graduate college. There were times that I despaired of ever graduating. I’m grateful to all of the people who helped me in those years, especially my parents, my brother, and my friends. I also owe a debt to Senator Schumer for taking a chance on me, allowing me to join the staff on his last congressional campaign and serve as the Deputy Finance Director on his first Senate campaign, even though I had not completed by college degree.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
SUNY Empire helped me change the trajectory of my career, and truly, my life. I’m very grateful.

Lynn Ann Hinds-McCoy ’16

Lynn Ann Hinds-McCoy ’16
Director of Human Resources
Everis, Inc.

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
SUNY Empire was the ONLY logical option! As an adult with accumulated credits from various institutions spanning many years, a wealth of experiential learning and the necessity to complete my degree in an accessible, flexible and adult focused environment, Empire State is the perfect solution. As an adult learner with work, family, and community/life commitments, the traditional college setting did not offer the flexibility I needed to succeed. Previous attempts to conform to the formal structure of the college student model had limited success. I desperately wanted to complete my degree but could not comply with daytime/course load/mandated program schedules in my typical working adult life, for more than a semester or two. Enter- the adult learner alternative…SUNY Empire State College! Founded in 1971 as the adult solution to higher education and degree completion, Empire State has been an innovative leader in the concept of adult education ever since.

The BEST aspect of SUNY ESC? Trick question! There are many “bests”, from affordability, personalized service, mentors, support staff and services that go above and beyond, to programs designed for those who have prior learning and transfer credit, flexible class options and online/distance accessibility. Perhaps at the very top of the BEST list- are the people of SUNY Empire State College; Phenomenal individuals who work tirelessly on your behalf. At ESC, YOU are important, valuable, and not just a number, a statistic or contributing to the bottom line. They are there for YOU to empower and facilitate you to realize your academic goals and succeed in your quest to complete your degree. Stop in to any SUNY ESC office and see for yourself!

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
As a result of my personal educational journey, and my experiences at SUNY Empire State College, I am committed to utilizing my energies to facilitate and empower other adults. I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Adult Learning and hope to, one day, be instrumental in helping others realize their dream of college degree completion.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Slow and steady wins the race! Stick with it, take care of yourself, surround yourself with support, reach out to classmates, use whatever resources you need, utilize the college opportunities to interact in our awesome community of adult learners and BELIEVE in your ability to succeed!

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
We are successful human beings…….when we use our talents to raise others up. Together, we can all make our world a better place, one mind at a time!

Vince Rubert ’03

Vince Rubert ’03
Technical Support Manager
Bosch

Why did you choose Empire State College?
I chose SUNY Empire because it offered distant learning but still offered a limited number of classroom involvement. I also like the fact that Empire accepted credit by evaluation (CBE).

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
Given I’ve been in the workforce for over 25 years prior to choosing Empire, I always believed a college degree would help expand my knowledge, challenge me personally and further my career professionally.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
My proudest moment happened as I walked on stage to receive my BS in Business Management and Economics degree in May 2003. My thoughts reminded me of the progression of job’s I’ve held: washing dishes, flipping burgers, manufacturing line, technician, lead service engineering now with this degree I have landed a new position as technical support manager.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Believe in yourself. Try to not get overwhelmed but, if you do, take it once step at a time. Ask for help or guidance.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I like what SUNY Empire offers – it provides flexible options for adult learning. This allowed me to get my BS degree.

Eleni Moraites ’16

Eleni Moraites

Eleni Moraites ’16
Human Resources Representative
Northwell Health

 

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I decided to choose SUNY Empire because it allowed me to create a degree plan that would set me up for success. Two of the best things that SUNY Empire has to offer is their amazing faculty members and flexibility to complete school work while balancing a career.

As a transfer student, could you briefly describe your academic history prior to attending SUNY Empire
Before attending SUNY Empire, I went to a private university thinking that I would receive an excellent education. I quickly realized that the school was unaffordable and that I was taking courses that I had already completed in high school. Essentially, I was overpaying on classes that I was required to take to finish a degree but was not academically advancing.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
While attending SUNY Empire, I was working part-time and doing multiple side jobs since I was paying for school on my own. I worked like crazy during my undergraduate years and decided to do two 20-credit semesters on top of that. SUNY Empire shaped my personal and professional goals by having me become more focused, driven, and organized while managing my coursework and balancing jobs.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
The highlight of my career started with being accepted into SUNY Empire’s MBA program and Human Resource Management Certificate program. I never thought that I would have a career in Human Resources, but once when I was accepted into the certificate program, it motivated me to look for entry-level positions. I was accepted into the certificate program in May 2016, was interviewed for a Human Resources job in June 2016, and landed the job in July 2016. Without SUNY Empire, I wouldn’t have known what field my career would be in- and for that, I thank them immensely.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak with your mentor- they’re there for a reason! If there is ever a time where you feel overwhelmed, they are your best resource to help you through the coursework. I couldn’t have completed my degree without speaking to faculty, my professors, and fellow students.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
SUNY Empire has transformed me into a motivated, driven, and hard-working individual. In return, I love to assist faculty members with Information Sessions, Open Houses, and Commencement so that I can share my experience with new and potential students.

Shah Powell ’16, ’17

Shah Powell

Shah Powell ’16, ’17
NYC Department of Education

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I chose SUNY Empire for a variety of reasons: course format flexibility, convenient NYC locations, Prior Learning Assessment option, and the SUNY reputation.The best thing about the college is the individualized mentoring provided and keeping that mentor from enrollment to graduation.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire paved a safe space for me to pursue my educational goals while balancing a family and full-time employment. As a non-traditional student, that is not an easy feat. I was initially hesitant about taking online courses, but that hesitation was removed once I realized that the courses were as rigorous and engaging as any in-person class option. I was also thrilled to engage in the PLA process which provided me an opportunity to analyze and quantify my learning throughout my career and ultimately gain academic credit towards my degree plan.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
My proudest moment to date is being accepted and enrolling at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to pursue a Master’s degree in Fall 2017. I was also accepted to the NYC Teaching Fellows and Hunter’s MSW program which also have strict/difficult admissions requirements. This is significant for me because it reinforces my confidence in the SUNY Empire degree that I have earned not only for graduate school admissions but for the workforce.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Get yourself organized: use calendars, take notes, use the memo option on your phone, whatever it takes to keep track of your priorities. Purchase a vision board and write your goals and dreams…simple ones and most outlandish ones. Then write a step by step plan on how you can accomplish each one. Start taking detailed inventory of every training, certificate earned, class and course you have taken.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
You can do anything you want in life starting right NOW: it all depends on how much you are willing to sacrifice of yourself. The only thing holding you back from your best life is fear: not your job, not your kids, not your financial situation, and definitely not your age.

Lois Barth ’12

Lois Barth

Lois Barth ’12
Human Development Expert, Motivational Speaker, Coach and Author
Self-Employed

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I dropped out of college decades before going back to get my degree. Going to ESC and completing my degree was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I ALWAYS knew I would go to ESC because I would find myself drawn to people who had gone back later in life and when I heard how rich and important a part of their life the experience was, they would almost ALWAYS say they attended ESC. They talked about the Adult Learning Model (ALM), the really interesting students that it attracted that had taken a more holographic versus linear approach towards academics. Being a writer, I loved the prior learning assessment (PLA) where you could get credit for all your life learning. I also felt like the teachers treated you like adults, and while had a high standard of education, still understood one’s outside commitments were to be considered. I loved the whole process, the career rationale where you chart out your course of study, the vast amount of services they have. Whatever my challenge was (and there were several throughout) there was always a service to accommodate me. Our dirty little secrets are often inextricably tied to our deep longings, and going back to college was definitely one of them. I found the students really interesting and helpful, and the courses terrific. One of my biggest discoveries was when I “had” to take a history course because my previous one didn’t meet my Gen Ed Requirements, and I had to trade off a course in my major to take it. I was so upset and frustrated. ‘American History before the Civil War, how is that going to help me in my life with my clients goals,’ I whined to a friend. I showed up, with quite frankly, to Dr. Tischler’s class, with a slight chip on my shoulder, only to discovered that the course changed my life. That’s the gift of education, not only what we hope to learn, but also those things that we have no idea we will. Personally I’d recommend to everyone I know who wants to go back to college later in life, to attend SUNY Empire State College. It’s my Alma Mater and I’m proud.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire helped shape both my personal and professional goals by being reminded how much I had already accomplished and didn’t give myself credit for. Having written close to 100 pages in PLA and having to contact colleagues, employers and teachers from the past, only to find them incredibly supportive of what I did was incredibly healing. While I came into ESC already deeply seated on a career path, I truly believe it deepened my learning. I could literally go through each course I had taken and attribute very substantive takeaways. From Organizational Behavior, to CBT, to of course, American History before the Civil War, to Social Psychology, there were distinctions, that I still use in my coaching practice as well as the groups I speak to as a motivational speaker. I was one of the three speakers at the commencement program in 2012 and it was so healing to share my journey with my fellow classmates.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Getting over debilitating stage fright, writer’s block, and relentless self-criticism only to do stand-up comedy, 4 one-woman shows and tour the country as an arts educator, but also teach and motivate others in how to get over their blocks. Writing a book, Courage to SPARKLE: The Audacious Girls’ Guide to Creating A Life that Lights You Up, a go-to guide to champion people to thrive personally and professionally. Use my comedy to go into drug rehabs, eating and co-dependency programs and use humor to heal.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Create community, don’t try to do it all yourself. Even if you have only online courses available, create an on-line study group. This process, later in life, can feel daunting, don’t be in isolation. ESC has extraordinary services, take advantage of them. Find out who are in your classes, get to know them. I was committed to get the most out of my education, no matter what! I was a “squeaky wheel” asked for support, took advantage of the services, do the same. Learn how you learn, if writing is daunting for you, whether a handicap or dyslexic, propose a presentation delivery for your papers instead. ESC is there to help you. Don’t give up, but be in dialogue if you feel you’re going to. Whatever the problem, funding, overwhelmed, the staff and team have experienced it before. You’re unique but not that special, in this area. Every challenge you have, I can assure you, they’ve dealt with it. Keep focusing on how extraordinary an accomplishment it will be to have your degree and make it a priority to get a lot out of the process.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
Because it’s never too late to get a great education. It’s never too late to follow your dreams and turn a potential “dirty little secret” (as it was in my case) to a dream come true. I will always donate to ESC. Even a small donation, that you don’t even think twice about, won’t even miss, can make the difference between someone else going to school or not. We must invest in institutions that can rebuild this great (albeit deeply wounded) country, and education is still the best investment in town.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
I was honored to be the opening keynote at the Fall Conference in November 2017. Every attendee received a copy of my book, Courage to SPARKLE, and in my introduction I speak about the impact going back to college, especially ESC, had on my life. It’s never too late to dream. It’s never too late to make those dreams happen. It’s never too late to get a good education. Sparkle NOW!

Paul Antonellis ’00, ’03

Paul Antonellis

Paul Antonellis ’00, ’03
Faculty & Director of Undergraduate Business Programs
Granite State College

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I chose distance learning as a full-time Fire Chief at SUNY Empire because the college provided me the flexibility to earn my degree while continuing my career. Everyone in the program were adults with careers similar to what I was doing which really helped enhance my experience. I decided to go back and get my masters in Labor in Policy Studies after retiring from my career in fire services. After graduating with my masters I was hired by Empire to teach Fire Science and then Labor Relations courses. I am proud to say that I was able to teach with SUNY Empire for 10 years and that it catapulted my teaching career.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
The people that I met along the way – whether it was my mentors, fellow students etc. became my personal and professional network. What I learned through professional development, really translated well into all avenues of my life – fire service, teaching career, expanding personal networks etc. I also went on to complete my doctorate degree with Capella University, it was rigorous but completely worth it in the end. Being a two time alumnus and a former professor, my experience with non-traditional education at SUNY Empire has really helped me obtain my current position at Granite State College.

What is your new position and what are you most excited about?
My new position as Director of Undergraduate Business Programs is exciting because it is going to be an ever-evolving position. I will be overseeing six concentrations at 8 ‘on the ground’ locations in addition to the hybrid and online instruction. I take great pride in my curriculum mapping and am most excited to bring that to Granite State College. I am also excited about getting back to my roots and teaching online courses.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
My recommendation to any student would be to gain as much knowledge and build your network as you go along. The time you spend in the program will fly by – but make sure you connect with those contacts for professional and personal growth.

D. Jeremy DeMar ’14

D. Jeremy DeMar

D. Jeremy DeMar ’14
9-1-1 Supervisor
City of Rochester – Emergency Communications Department

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
As the old saying goes, “not enough hours in the day”. This was absolutely the case for me when I began researching prospective Bachelors programs. As a husband, father of three, and full time employee, physically attending classes to complete my undergraduate degree was never an option. The online academic offerings available through SUNY ESC’s Center for Distance Learning and mentors who are subject matter experts in their respective fields made choosing Empire State College an easy decision.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
I knew I wanted to study Emergency Management, however the large number of discipline specific classes available through SUNY ESC made course selection and academic program design a bit challenging. My ESC mentor spent a great deal of time learning about my professional background and personal interests. Using this information, he worked closely with me to develop a customized academic program tailored specifically to my needs.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Helping to grow the Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT) in New York by providing targeted instruction at 9-1-1 Center’s throughout the state. My work at the state level ultimately led to my being appointed co-chair of the National Joint TERT Initiative, LLC, overseeing and promoting TERT activity in all 50 states.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Stick with it. If your schedule only permits you to take two classes a semester, enroll in two classes. Before you know it, you’ll be walking across the stage on graduation day wondering where the time went.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I think a large number of professionals believe higher education is out of reach simply because of the time commitment. I’ve volunteered to mentor new and prospective ESC students and to speak at ESC events because I want those who don’t believe they’ll be able to succeed to hear from someone who did graduate, while challenged by similar personal and professional obligations.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
Lifelong learning is critical in any profession. If you’ve been considering college, whether it be to complete an undergraduate degree or to participate in postgraduate studies, now is the time.

Queva Pizarro

Queva Pizarro

Queva Pizarro
Navy and Army National Guard Veteran
Student, Business Management & Economics

How did you find out about Empire State College?
While serving on active duty in the Navy, I was assigned to Navy Recruiting District New York’s Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Brooklyn, NY. While serving as a job classifier there, I worked alongside civilian contractors, many of whom I became friends with, and who told me about their experiences with SUNY Empire while pursuing their degrees. As they had nothing but positive and fond feedback for ESC, I began to conduct my own research online and found that ESC offered quite a few courses and programs, some that I was interested in. What made ESC more desirable was that they were considered to be veteran friendly…a plus for me! From that point on, I consulted my Command Education Office and registered for an individual course to obtain my own learning experience, which I’m glad I did.

Which aspects of Empire’s format work well for you?
ESC offers an array of academics and formal communication among staff and facilitators there to ensure you get all that you set out to pursue, without any chance of failure. The way that ESC has open channels of communication is what works the best for me, while I endure the college experience. ESC’s academic format creates a welcoming experience, which helps me to engage in higher education without certain stress factors. I also enjoy how ESC is veteran-friendly, offering assistance to transfer career-orientated and military training credits toward the degree plan of my choice. I enjoy the convenience of the online courses provided and their flexible study schedules which many courses allow. It helps alleviate time constraints and allows me to enjoy the learning experience more comfortably while I manage my time.

If you have a job, how is your degree at Empire helping you in your career?
I recently was honorably discharged from the Army National Guard and have decided to take this time to focus on my family and higher-education opportunities. As I am pursuing a bachelor’s in Business Management and Economics, with a concentration in human resource management, such a degree will open doors towards an Officer Leadership Program that I plan to apply for while rejoining the Army National Guard after graduation. The studies in which I have chosen under my degree plan will allow me to obtain the knowledge and tools to become a successful leader and manager within the military and any organization thereafter.

Is there anything you’d like to share about your military service?
I am a military veteran of 18 years in total, I served 14 years on active duty with the Navy and 4 years with the Army National Guard. I received numerous awards and been through an array of military education and training.  Because of such training and experiences in certain job fields within which I have worked while serving in both branches, I have obtained many skills that I feel can help myself while engaging with others outside of the military if I chose to pursue in the near future. I’ve learned to work with others in a team environment and have been assigned as a mentor and placed in leadership positions throughout my career. Because of the opportunities and accomplishments provided through the military, I have become a more aligned and goal-orientated person. I am proud to have been part of such an elite organization while serving my country.

Is there anything else you want to highlight?
I’m not only a veteran, I am also a wife and a full-time mother of three precious toddlers, ages 3, 4  and 6. As busy as it can get to maintain a household and care for children of such young ages, I still find the time to pursue a higher education to better my chances at more advanced job opportunities for my family’s future and to set a positive example for my children. While taking a full load with ESC (three 4-credit courses each semester), I have taken it a step further and attend on-campus courses each semester at a local college here in the Houston, Texas area. On top of my studies with ESC, I also take one extra course of study each semester with San Jacinto College, while fulfilling my approved degree plan. I have chosen to take both online and face-to-face courses to get the full college experience with a bit of social interaction. By doing so, I have been recognized by San Jacinto College for my academic standing of holding a GPA of 3.8 and higher and have recently been selected and inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success, San Jacinto chapter. Along with such an honor, San Jacinto College has nominated me as an honors student and I have recently been selected and am now a member of the National Honor Society Organization. Becoming a member of such honorable organizations and to be awarded a $1,000 academic scholarship from the CCME, I am humbly grateful for the opportunities which have motivated me to give 100 percent to all that I set out to do.

Corey Rooker ’16

Corey Rooker

Corey Rooker ’16
Transportation Supervisor
Port Byron Central School

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
SUNY Empire offered me the best opportunity for a customizable degree while taking advantage of my life experience in Prior Learning Assessments.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire helped me realize my lifelong goal of earning my Associate Degree and ended up earning my Bachelors as well. My degrees now solidify me in my career.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Having the opportunity to work at my alma mater as the Transportation Supervisor where I also oversee Health and Safety and Facilities Management.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Dedicate the time to be successful in your studies and take advantage of Prior Learning Assessment’s for financial reasons as well as speeding up the degree process.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow students and alumni?
Mine was a unique path and when I was younger I jumped from job to job including graduating from National Tractor Trailer School in the Spring of 1998. I never did drive tractor trailer but the training there lead me into the school transportation business as a bus driver in the fall of 1998 and then moving on as a bus mechanic at Weedsport Central School from 2000-2012, before accepting my current position at Port Byron. Life takes lots of turns and the degree I just completed was what I started out to do almost 25 years ago so you never know what life has to offer but hard work and determination pay off!

Cynthia Wandursky-Sciacca ’87

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Cynthia Wandursky-Sciacca ’87
Retired

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
It was the mid 80’s and I was working for a major company and wanted to get ahead. I had a few college credits that I had garnered here and there and in a variety of subjects. I also had vocational school credits. Trying to put them together to form a degree at a traditional school was impossible. I was married, had a child and worked full-time. I also worked part-time at SUNY Farmingdale as an adjunct professor teaching a skill, therefore at that time, I didn’t need a degree (how things have changed). At the time, Adelphi had a program which granted credit for prior and experiential learning. However, it was not as generous as Empire State College. Several people had recommended ESC to me. I decided to give it a try. There are so many good things about ESC it is difficult to pick out one. I think it has to be the mentors. They really wanted to help me learn and help improve my outlook on life. I am sure some are better than others, but overall my mentors were just that, mentors. Rather than teaching me by rote, they encouraged me to broaden my horizons. To become more knowledgeable and to think rather than just react.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
As I mentioned above, the mentors guided me. They taught me as much about how to learn and expand my horizons, as they did the subject matter. They also taught me to have confidence in myself. I was also able to encourage and assist my friends and coworkers as they went to ESC. Eleven years after I graduated from ESC, I graduated from the Palmer School of Library Science at LIU.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Working as a librarian at the Longwood Public Library was the highlight of my career. I was able to use all my varied skills and education to serve the public.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
This is not a school for everyone. You have to want to learn and become a better person. No one is going to make you do the work. You have to want to do it. However, the mentors will guide you as you move along and will have open exchanges with you. They are very flexible and will work with you to accomplish your goals. I even went back as a post-graduate student to study with a friend who was feeling insecure about a topic she needed to study to finish her degree. The mentor said it was unusual, but was willing to give it a try and it worked out for both of us.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
ESC was a life saver for me. It gave me a better sense of self-worth that I wasn’t getting from the work-place. The learning worked into my schedule. I want the school to be here in the future for others who are in the same predicament that I was.

Chuck Braman ’99

Chuck Braman

Chuck Braman ’99
Bandleader
Self-Employed

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I’m basically a life-long autodidact. I generally learn best on my own, and like to learn continuously. SUNY Empire provided the best possible environment for a learner like me. I was able to contract some of the intellectuals I most admire as my personal instructors, and structure an ideal course of study with them. In addition, at the time I enrolled, I had already accumulated a large amount of valuable life experience, most of which I was able to put towards my degree.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
At Empire I was able to design a curriculum that included personal interests such as philosophy and economics along, with professional skill sets such as graphic design. So I was able to achieve both personal and professional growth to a degree that wouldn’t have been possible at most other colleges.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
There are too many to list, but a recent highlight was for my self-designed website, https://www.newyorkjazzbands.com, to be chosen by Adobe as an Adobe Muse Site of the Day.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Choose a college like Empire when you already have achieved a high enough level of knowledge and self-understanding as to be able to intelligently help design your own curriculum.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I appreciate the opportunity Empire gave me to realize my educational ideals.

Mark Spawn ’07

Mark Spawn

Mark Spawn ’07
CEO
The Spawn Group, LLC

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
SUNY Empire evaluated my professional and life experiences for credit, and offered me the flexibility to complete courses for my degree program. For anyone holding a full time job while continuing their education, the ability to work at your own pace with professors and advisors to assist you as needed was a plus.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
I attended an orientation meeting which helped me to better understand distance learning, CBE and the services of SUNY Empire. Most notably for me, one of my advisors identified some strengths in my background which helped me in receiving credit for the knowledge that I had overlooked.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
I love being able to help people, and a career in law enforcement has given me that opportunity. It has been an honor to help people, especially those who are desperate, hurt, or troubled. It has also been a privilege to help to train the next generation of law enforcement. Sharing information, advising, and guiding colleagues has also been rewarding.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
The faculty and staff at SUNY Empire are there to help. If you have a question or concern – just ask.

Diana Rishani ’10

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Diana Rishani ’10
Teacher
American Community School at Beirut

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I chose ESC because I could use my years of experience towards credits. It allowed me the opportunity to study on my own time, especially while I was working and studying at the same time. I had a lot of support from the professors who were conducting the courses.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
As I designed my diploma I had a lot of guidance from my mentor Ms. Patricia Torcivia. She was instrumental in helping me figure out what would be the best course for me to follow.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Since I have become a teacher, I have many of my colleagues come to me to help them with planning and management.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
There are times when one might feel overwhelmed with a deadline. My advice is: don’t give up, contact your professor and they will help you by either extending your deadlines or giving you advice on how to organize your work.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I feel so grateful to SUNY for giving me the opportunity to earn my degree. It would have never been possible in my part of the world.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
SUNY Empire has given me the chance to make my dream come true. I hope that each and everyone who dreams of getting a college degree would get the chance to enroll at SUNY Empire or any college that offers long distance studies.

Vilma Denisia ’15

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Vilma Denisia ’15
Tenant Coordinator
The Port Authority of NY & NJ

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
SUNY Empire afforded me the opportunity to advance my degree while focusing on concentration courses and using life learned knowledge. My mentor was dedicated and proactive in helping me design a learning program customized to my needs. The courses were academically leading, modern and comparable to those of leading colleges.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
Obtaining a BS in Political Science got me a promotion to a management position and salary increase. It has given me the opportunity to create new relationships, enjoy project management tasks, participate in decision making endeavors and continue to grow professionally.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Obtaining my current position equivalent to an Engineer or Architect. My strong background and newly achieved degree played a strong part.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
To focus on the concentration. Work closely with your mentor and use the online library available in MyESC. This is a very useful and awesome tool with tons of information to assist in writing and research.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I owe my professional success to their academia.

David DiSanto ’09

David DiSanto

David DiSanto ’09
Assistant Fire Management Officer
United States Forest Service

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
Learning from very experienced and culturally diverse firefighting and emergency service personnel with national and international experience.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
Gave me the necessary education and experience to work in a field where coordination and cooperation with multiple resources is demanding. I obtained a promotion and work in high stress environments with multiple agencies both nationally and internationally.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Being able to take fire crews on fires nationally and internationally and pass on wild-land fire fighting skills to younger folks that may have not had such a great childhood so they are looking for a technical job that is both mentally and physically demanding.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Never give up. Take courses from ESC, they will pay off! It is an incredibly great feeling of success. Not easy by any means, but very satisfying.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
The amazing career field I have been able to have.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
ESC has such a variety of majors and instructors that have such amazing experience. There were so many students and instructors that understood me and had a similar background which made for such a great learning experience. I have to admit I was very skeptical and did not think anyone would understand what I did. ESC has way more to offer in emergency services and natural sciences than any other college.

David Riegert ’10

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David Riegert ’10
Developmental Assistant
New York State

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
Flexibility with my work schedule and the great professors.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire gave me great world insight.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Taking New York State civil service exams and interviews.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Never give up.

Shannon Dankert ’14

Shannon Dankert

Shannon Dankert ’14
Community Service Coordinator
Cortland County Probation

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I chose SUNY Empire because of its flexibility with my schedule at work, home and my extracurricular activities. The best thing about the college was the one-on-one help I received from my mentor. Being out of school for awhile, it was hard getting back into the swing of things and having him there to help me through it all was the best gift.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
Having an associate’s degree and landing a job right out of college made me forget about continuing my education. After working at my current position for 8 years, there was an opportunity for a job promotion in the near future with upcoming retirements and I would not be eligible for it if I did not have a bachelor’s degree. I pursued my options of continuing my education and was able to work with SUNY Empire to meet all areas of need to ensure that I would be eligible for that promotion.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
My proudest moment to date is having my then 16 year old daughter see what perseverance and hard-work and dedication really means. She witnessed the countless hours being spent studying, working, maintaining our family dynamics and extra curricular activities. The moment that I was able to walk across that stage to receive my bachelor’s degree, showed her what a good role model is and that she too can achieve whatever it is that she puts her mind too. Good role models are hard to come by in the day of technology and easy access to the world being able to cut a person down for their dreams. It also showed her that she should never let her dreams sit on the back burner and wait until life is just a little more full and hard to work around. It provided a life lesson that the older you get, the harder it is, but if you work that much harder and with passion, all things are possible!

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
I would advise anyone who is a current student to utilize their mentors, the program, and the opportunities that arise from SUNY Empire. There is no bad side to this. If anything it will make them a better student, a future leader, and it is okay to ask for help when you need it. All the staff that I had the pleasure of working with only had my best interest in mind, and provided a pathway to make me a better person in the end. They saw my potential and allowed me to be who I was at the same time a more creative person.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I give back to SUNY Empire because it is important for anyone who is looking to better themselves to know that we are ALL here to help! There is some truth in the saying “It takes a village.” I would never have been able to do this on my own and having others before me help me, was the only way I was able to make it through the process. I hope that I one day am able to do the same for someone else.

Margot Stornelli ’04

Margot Stornelli

Margot Stornelli ’04
Library Technician
Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
My parents encouraged me to return to school when I was home raising children. It was the best decision in my life to choose Empire State College and design my own degree program utilizing all of my previous courses and volunteer experiences. I enjoyed the online learning environment, not having to leave my home to complete the courses. I also mastered online learning environments beyond my comfort zone and continued on to an online masters of library science degree upon graduation from Empire State College.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Unfortunately my job situation did not change upon graduation but I have pursued a variety of volunteer experiences with more confidence.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Enjoy the ride.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
If you need to return to school its a great way to do it without giving up other areas of your life.

Patricia Festa ’14

Patricia Festa

Patricia Festa ’14
District Treasurer
Auburn Enlarged City Schools

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I chose SUNY Empire based on comments and referrals from friends. Also, there is an office at our local community college and I stopped in for an information session to see what it was all about. SUNY Empire let me set up my own path and I had an amazing mentor who encouraged me the entire way.

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
Although a BS or BA degree was not a requirement of my job I knew that if something ever happened I would never be able to do what I do anywhere else without a bachelors degree. It gave me confidence to maybe seek other opportunities knowing I had my degree and many years of experience behind me. I returned to school at 52, after a major life change. My education was never a priority and I not encouraged to achieve a personal goal that I had for many years.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
Shortly after receiving my degree, I was contacted by another employer asking me to consider making a move to join them. I was able to secure a verbal deal for much more than I ever thought possible for someone in my position. I am proud to say that once my current employer was faced with me leaving, I was given a matching deal and was able to stay right where I have been for 20 years. Without my degree, I would never have been able to be offered what I received. Although I had the experience, it was my degree that sealed the deal for me.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Don’t give up, even when you think you don’t have the time or strength, keep going. It is the most rewarding feeling when you have accomplished your goal and walk across that stage with that piece of paper and everyone is clapping for you. Only you know that amount of hard work it took to get there. It does not matter your age, gender etc., we all can accomplish and reach the same goal.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
SUNY Empire made it possible for me to achieve a personal goal that waited for many years to be completed. Everyone was kind and helpful and encouraging. Believe me, if I can do it, you can also. I like to let people know what my experience was and it can be theirs also.

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
I returned to school at 52 and was petrified of the unknown. For me the biggest hurdle turned out to be the easiest and most cathartic, writing papers for prior learning experience. Once I wrote the first one and received positive feedback, I wrote and was evaluated for a majority of my credits. I had been afraid of the unknown. We all have strengths and weaknesses in different areas but everyone I was in contact with assured me that failure was not an option and they will work with you anyway they can to get you to your final goal.

Kristen Holler ’13

Kristen Holler

Kristen Holler ’13
Executive Director
Albany Barn, Inc.

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I left a private school after deciding I no longer wanted to pursue engineering/science. I had changed my major several times, and after leaving my private university I spent a semester in community college doing general education classes I knew I’d need to complete my degree at a SUNY school. I was working a lot, and had many volunteer commitments that were important to me, so I decided to find a program that could work with my life and let me complete my degree without interrupting it. What I found at Empire was so much more than I could have expected. In my opinion, one of the best things about the college is the ability to fully customize your degree plan in order to learn the material that not only interests you, but will move you along your path to personal and career growth. I was able to, within the Community and Human Services area of study, delve into not-for-profit management, and specifically issues related to human resources development, which was my primary interest. I found my primary mentor and course mentors to be very engaged with the course material and with my academic, personal, and professional success! I can’t say enough positive things about my experience at Empire!

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
SUNY Empire really helped me to unpack and sift through my work experience, personal and professional interests, and highly varied academic experience to figure out how to use all of it towards my professional goals. I was able to explore topics related to my professional pursuits from day 1, which was a nice change from the traditional college model in which you invest two years in general education requirements before you really get a sense of what the true day-to-day of your area of study and potential career fields might look like. This was a mistake I did not intend to repeat after learning – a bit late – that I did not want a career in engineering or science.

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
The proudest moment in my career thus far was being able to welcome everyone to the grand opening of The Barn – a creative arts incubator and artist residency program operated by the non-profit I began volunteering/interning with before making the decision to leave my private engineering school. When we opened, I had been working on the project for more than 8 years, and it was an incredible accomplishment to have shown my closest friends and family what hard work and dedication could produce.

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Be as involved as you can, and make as many connections as you can! I am more involved now as an alumna and spouse of a current student, than I was as a student! I wish I had taken advantage of the Student Academic Conference and other great offerings. At the time I didn’t realize the value, but now having been involved as a presenter and a participant I can see the impact of taking the time to come together with other students, even if you (like me) never have a traditional “classmate” during your tenure at Empire.

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I give because SUNY Empire has allowed me to acquire the tools and build the network I need to be successful in my career, and I want to ensure others have the opportunity to do the same.

Jacqueline Brown ’09

Jacqueline Brown

Jacqueline Brown ’09
Management Analyst
Arlington County Government

Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
I chose SUNY Empire because my then employer, AARP, offered the program to employees with tuition assistance. On top of that, online learning was appealing because of my work and family schedule. For me, the best thing about the college is the distance learning opportunity and awesome mentors! Susan Oaks, I love her! My one and only mentor from beginning to end, every step of my way until I graduated!

How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
I enjoy pulling information together to make a lasting statement, so the writing assignments helped polish my writing skills. In my present position, I’m tasked with creating job descriptions, organizing information for reports, including writing resumes in my spare time, so, my college writing skills have been a plus for me! To date, and who knew, I would be working on my autobiography, anticipated short stories and other writing projects for my second career!

What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
As a Management Analyst, handling Human Resources, the office budget and purchasing, one of my responsibilities is counseling and coaching staff about the value in using a positive approach to situations. Inside and outside of the office, I practice this approach. When an issue is resolved, a dilemma worked out, it’s a proud moment for me!

What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
Organization, time management, communication, focus, dedication and perseverance equals success! Hang in there, you can do it!

Why do you give back to SUNY Empire?
I give back to help others. Each one “help” one! I believe with all my heart we are all here to help each other!

Anything else you would like to share with fellow alumni and students?
For alumni, keep being the awesome person you were created to be! For students, follow your heart and let nothing deter you from being the awesome person you were created to be!

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