First UAlbany, Then the World

If anyone can convince Governor Cuomo to ban plastic straws in New York State, it is Grace McGrath ’20. The business major is knowledgeable and persistent. At UAlbany, she has taken the opportunities afforded to her and run with them. McGrath perseveres. 

Taking Full Advantage of Opportunities at UAlbany and Beyond

We expect Direct Admit students, chosen because they excelled in high school, to accomplish great things. McGrath has made the most of what the school and the university has to offer.  And then some. As community service coordinator for the School of Business club, Women Excelling in Business, McGrath planned and executed an unprecedented 16 events for the group during the most recent school year.

She interns in social media for a host of organizations, including the Capital District Women’s Employment and Research Center, UAlbany UNA-USA, UAlbany Center for Leadership and Service, and Careers On The Move, alumna Richelle Konian’s company. Konian calls McGrath a “rock star.”

While completing informational interviews at the United Nations, McGrath heard about their summer intensive program, which she applied for and attended this June. This summer she joins the Student Assembly of the State University of New York as Vice Chair of Sustainability. McGrath makes the most of her time while she makes a difference. 


When the UAlbany Office of Sustainability asked McGrath to blog about plastic straws, they handed her a metal straw (she now owns three). It was her entry into the world of plastic pollution and the beginning of her quest to ban plastic straws on campus.

She wrote a resolution and created a PowerPoint presentation to support her cause. She camped out in front of Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Christakis’ office for a chance to talk to him. They connected, including Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability Mary Ellen Mallia in their discussion.  Working with like-minded students, McGrath drafted  and presented legislation to the UAlbany Student Association. Based on that effort, Dr. Christakis penned legislation for University Auxiliary Services.  It was agreed that plastic straws are only to be handed out upon request. Her leadership made the difference.

McGrath is broadening her reach. Using her pulpit at SUNYSA, she plans to focus on plastic pollution across the SUNY system. This summer she is laying the groundwork to educate the New York State Senate and Assembly and the governor.

McGrath said, “Everyone has power. You don’t have to be Jay-Z or Beyoncé.”

Why Straws?

Straws are the just the start of McGrath’s crusade for a plastic-free world. They are easier to replace than other plastic items.

She wants to get rid of plastic entirely, but she said that is a very hard thing to do. “The easiest thing to start with is plastic straws because there’s a very good alternative, paper straws,” said McGrath.

And though seemingly insignificant, straws are a problem in the ocean, according to McGrath. When they get stuck in sea turtles’ nostrils, they have to be removed with pliers. And straws contribute to the larger problem. McGrath said, “By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.” She notes that as plastic breaks down, fish eat it and when we eat fish, we are consuming plastic with our protein.

The business major/environmental advocate said, "We need plastic that completely decomposes," noting that six pack containers can be made of fish food. McGrath researches, walks the talk and readily shares what she has learned. "We can start small by bringing a reusable bag and water bottle."  For more tips, follow her on YouTube and Twitter.

Grace McGrath '20 spent a week at the United Nations Summer Intensive Program, attending seminars on global issues and a Security Council meeting.