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UAlbany Graduate Driven to Find Solutions to the World’s Challenges

UAlbany senior Luis “Gabe” Sanchez, who graduated May 19. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 19, 2013) — UAlbany senior Luis “Gabe” Sanchez has been drawn to daunting tasks his entire life. At age 9, he wanted to find the lost continent of Atlantis. At 13, he hoped to be the first to contact alien life forms. And now, at age 20, Sanchez conducts research to develop alternative ways of tackling the world’s biggest problems, including poverty and environmental disasters.

“We’re living in an age of crisis,” said Sanchez, who is majoring in Latin American Studies and Globalization studies. “We need to recognize a problem, search for alternatives, and then combine old and new ideas to form new tools to combat these crises.”

Sanchez recently received the Presidential Undergraduate Research Award, just like his father, a two-time UAlbany alumnus did nearly 20 years ago. Sanchez studied what he calls the philosophy of good living, or being in harmony with nature. In his research, he focuses on the need to legitimize alternatives and to create new theoretical tools to combat crisis.

Sanchez, of New Rochelle, was among the more than 2,200 graduates at UAlbany’s May 19 Spring Commencement.

It wasn’t the first UAlbany commencement ceremony for the family. Sanchez’s father, Martin, received a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from the University in 1985 and a master’s in anthropology in 1987.

And while he feels connected to his father’s legacy here, Sanchez is walking his own path.

“When he came to UAlbany, he wanted to be a doctor. When I came here, I wanted to be an academic. So, even though we’ve studied the same thing – Latin American studies - we’re definitely not on the same career path,” teased the younger Sanchez. “But we certainly started in the same spot.”

It’s a philosophy Sanchez saw a glimpse of while on a recent trip to Haiti, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. Sanchez visited hospitals, schools and farms, as well as areas called “tent cities” which had no running water or electricity. He also spent time in the countryside, where he said Haitians are living off the earth as best they can.

“Every moment of the trip was a universe in and of itself, and in dissecting each one I’ve learned so much about world history and humanity,” said Sanchez, who will pursue a Ph.D. at UAlbany next fall. “It fuels the fire to keep working.”

Eventually, Sanchez would like to become a college professor to teach students the same lesson his father taught him: To abandon narrow thinking and expand one’s outlook in order to come up with better solutions.

In the meantime, Sanchez will be a research fellow at the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University this summer. There, he will develop syllabi and curriculum for courses like ethics and advocacy.

“I want to be part of moving our species into the third millennium … and part of the process of fixing the problems of past centuries,” said Sanchez. “I’m not trying to save the world, I’m just trying to help better understand it.”

For all commencement tweets and photos, be sure to use #UAlbany2013. Follow all things commencement on twitter and tagboard.