UAlbany Grad, Army Officer Committed to Serving

A young woman in a U.S. Army uniform stands at attention in front of the U.S., Army and N.Y. State flags indoors with other officers in attendance.
UAlbany alum Maya Blanchet is commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army during her ROTC commissioning ceremony in the Campus Center Boardroom. (Photo by Scott Freedman)

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 20, 2022) — Maya Blanchet’s journey to receiving her commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army has included its share of adversity.

Born in Incheon, South Korea, Blanchet was adopted by a family from Latham, N.Y., where she was raised along with her younger brother Emory, who was also adopted from Korea.

“I am blessed to say that I have a very tight-knit family growing up, and the support that I received really helped me accomplish my goals and dreams,” said Blanchet, whose family joined her Friday, Sept. 16 in the Campus Center Boardroom for her commissioning through the ROTC Mohawk Army Battalion based at Siena College, in the first ROTC commissioning ceremony hosted on campus since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there were times during her school years as one of only a few Asian-American students where she struggled to find her voice.

“Being adopted as well into a transracial family, it was hard for me to feel as though I fit in, and it was a bigger challenge in finding someone to look up to,” Blanchet said. She added that her interest in law enforcement and the military was also isolating, especially as a girl and then young woman.

When it came time to choose a college, she wanted to go someplace where she could pursue her interests, but also where she would never feel held back because of her gender, race or ethnicity.

This led her to enroll in UAlbany’s bachelor of arts program in emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity. She also enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Her program of study exposed her to myriad career choices, as well as new fields of study including public health.

“I fell deeper in love with both law enforcement, as well as a newfound passion for public health,” said Blanchet. “I have always had the goal of helping and inspiring as many people as a I can, so these fields were perfect for me.”

Blanchet also served as president of the Korean Student Association and was a part of the Colonie Police Explorers organization.

After graduating in May, Blanchet is now pursuing a career in law enforcement and public health, with her degree from the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity helping to provide her with a deeper understanding of emergency response, mitigation and planning.

On Friday, Blanchet received her ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Joined by her parents, brother, instructors and fellow cadets, Blanchet made time to thank each for their never-ending support and the inspirational role they played in her journey.

She also provided additional praise for one professor who helped open her eyes to the world in which she now hopes to serve in an impactful way.

“A class that I enjoyed the most during my time at UAlbany was Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” taught by CEHC Associate Professor DeeDee Bennett Gayle, said Blanchet. “This class was an eye-opener, as it truly encompasses the various hurdles that emergency preparedness faces when creating new policy, laws, and so on. Professor Bennett Gayle did an amazing job at instructing this course, and she challenged my way of thinking, and I believe I am a more open-minded person because of her thought processes.”

“Maya was a great student. She was able to make connections to the coursework in the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Emergency Management, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity course with other courses she took here, at UAlbany, and with her personal experiences,” said Bennett Gayle. “By being open and candid, she allowed her fellow classmates to feel empowered to do the same.”

Blanchet also was thankful for the chance to participate in the ROTC program and the lessons it imparts on its alumni.

“Not only are cadets trained to be amazing, powerful, and inspirational leaders, they are given lifelong lessons that they are able to teach others around them,” said Blanchet. “ROTC not only benefit the cadets, it benefits society as these soon to be officers are able to contribute an even bigger and more positive impact on others. The skills that I learned during my time in the ROTC program have allowed me to help so many others and be a better leader to my friends, family and community.”