Hometown: Amsterdam, NY
Major: Political Science and European History
My expectations for college began to form when I first started to apply to schools. I had been looking at the whole range of schools from the small liberal arts colleges, to the massive SUNY Buffalo. My mother’s car had quite the experience in traveling New York State. I had wanted a school that was intellectually challenging, supportive of students, and a caring faculty. I originally was not looking at the University at Albany, but one of our family friends sat me down said, "I really think you should check it out, you would really like it there." I applied to the University, got accepted, and then "checked it out." I know most people do it the other way around, but it worked out pretty well for me. Hobbling on crutches, I went to look at the campus and found that the University was intellectually challenging, the professors were personable, and the libraries were out of this world. I sent in my confirmation, and attended orientation and signed up for my courses. From that orientation I had three major expectations of the University: intellectual stimulation; dedicated faculty; fun extracurricular activities.
The University has met and exceeded all three of these. From my first course schedule, to this past semester I have had a cornucopia of great course offerings. I was able to take Campaigns and Elections, intern in Washington, D.C., participate in the September 11th research course, not to mention the fun literature courses, and Presidential Scholar courses. I have also had the pleasure of hearing Ken Kesey, Pat Conroy, Mary Higgins Clark speak on campus and all of that has been a great time.
The faculty at the University at Albany have been great--Warren Robert’s dedication to history and art, Anne Hildreth’s passion for politics, Ron Berger’s constantly open door, and Michael Malbin’s Washington, D.C. connections that brought in great lecturers, and great experiences.
The friends and experiences I have gained through UAlbany’s extracurricular activities have also been great--cheering on the Great Danes football team to victory, visiting senior citizens, the great discussions in debate team. In something that surprised even me, I pledged a fraternity and made lifelong friends. There are just so many great opportunities out there.
I love politics. I knew I was going to major in that before I came to the University, however, I was unsure where I was going to minor. I had the pleasure of taking a course with Dr. Ron Berger in European History. He made history come alive in his lectures, brought in different topics, texts, and even music. I decided that I had the time to take a double major.
The University has been great for exposing me to new and different cultures, a Long Island accent, as well as forcing me to become more outgoing. Professionally, I’ve been able to gain great experience working with student athletes, working for the Research Foundation, as well as learning about new ways of making a living and using political science. Socially, as I have mentioned, I have been able to meet new people, and make valuable connections with people that I will treasure as lifelong friends. I have also developed a taste for new music, different ethnic foods, and a great appreciation for the world around me.
Pivotal or life changing experiences…
My parent’s generation remembers where they were when JFK was assassinated; my Grandparent’s know where they were during Pearl Harbor, I know where I was on 9/11. I was actually taking a Catholic Studies Course and I remember the professor and everyone watching the TV and seeing the tragedy of that day unfold. I also remember the strong sense of community that we felt that day at the vigil, and at the unity walk the following day. It is great to know that we have that sense of community, and it gives me a greater idea of good citizenship being a UAlbany student.
World events also shaped how my studies were done. September 10th we were looking at congressional activity, September 14th it shifted to policy discussions in response to terrorism. I have a better understanding of Afghanistan politics due to my study of Feudal England.
I have had many small experiences during my stay at UAlbany that have changed my life. A shy, tubby reserved high school graduate has been transformed into an outgoing, not as tubby, and not as reserved University graduate. There were great times discussing current events in the dorms, hacking at some samplers over at Denny’s and commiserating about a professor or three.
Probably one of my fonder memories happened off campus in D.C. Six (of the eight) of us interns decided to go see the District. We started by looking at the White House, The Hotel Washington, and The Washington Monument. We walked, chatted, and learned more about each other, and talked about our future plans and how we hoped our internships would go. As we were walking back to the Metro, we wound up bumping into Richard Schiff and the cast of NBC’s West Wing. We took some pictures, had a great time, and joked that we eventually wanted his job.
The other fond memory had nothing to do with academics. Pol Pot, when he took over Cambodia, evacuated the cities and made all of the bureaucrats and academics work in the fields. While Pol Pot was wrong, the idea that all of us need to work together is not, and the Campus Cleanup days have been great for that. During Campus Cleanup Day 2001, I got to plant a tree between Indian Quad and the Campus Center. It was such a great experience working out in the sun, grooming the ground, and putting the tree in place, along with the red cedar chips, and the small plants. That is something I can see every day. When I head towards that end of campus I still see that tree, and it makes me sentimental to think that if I have kids and they go here, that tree will provide shade for them to study under. It also tells me that each of us can make a small impact in making our campus a better place.
Probably the greatest relationship I have had at the University has involved Dr. Anne Hildreth. To understand this relationship several things need to be understood. I am a Republican, she is a Democrat, I do not trust political polls, she is an avid fan, and the list goes on. I first met Dr. Hildreth at a debate watch in 2000. As Al Gore was arguing about the social security lock box, and George Bush was advocating privatization, she and I got to discuss politics. We bumped into each other a few times at political science lectures. Eventually, I took one of her classes, fell in love with her teaching style, and she proved to be a great mentor, with great advice, knowledge, and opinions that made our conversations great. If I have a problem or a question or concern, she is there to listen, counsel, and provide a good joke or offer a way to make the situation seem better.
I have mixed feelings about commencement. I am really looking forward to celebrating the end of my undergraduate career, showing my extended family my campus. (Okay, our campus) However, I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to friends, and fond memories.
It is like that quote from Shawshank Redemption "These walls are kind of funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them."
The University has given me so many skills, and good experiences that I feel ready to embrace my future. Right now, I am planning to pursue graduate study in political science at UAlbany. Eventually I would like to get my Ph.D. and maybe go into government service or research and teaching.
As I am pursuing graduate study here at UAlbany, I still see myself being connected to the University; however this relationship will last a long time. When I fly into Albany the one thing I look for are the four towers and the carillon. To me, that is the sign that I am home; in my office during my internship, I pinned up a postcard of the uptown campus.
I take a great deal of pride in my University, and look forward to future Alumni Weekends, Honda events, lectures. If nothing else, I have a constant reminder of the University on my car. When my Oldsmobile Firenza was on its last legs, I bought a ’90 Civic and went with vanity University license plates. (Sadly, a University license plate does not mean you are immune from Parking Management.)
The University has educated many family and friends. My dad got his master’s from the University, and my favorite history teacher in high school went here. When I sit in a classroom, it’s a strange feeling knowing that they probably did the same thing 20 or 30 years ago, that it was here that they got the training for their adult life, and that they too had an impact on the University in some degree.
I feel a responsibility to give back to the University for the rich experiences it has given me, and feel that every New Yorker should have the same access to a great education.
Commencement May 2003