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Innovative Students 

Jarius Jemmott and Sarah Petrak are ready for the SUNYCON conference in New York City Oct. 27 and 28. (Photo by Margaret Hartley)

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 26, 2016) – Four UAlbany students – Stanley De La Cruz, Jarius Jemmott, Reynaldo Muniz and Sarah Petrak – have been tapped to join the SUNYCON Fellows Class of 2016.

SUNYCON is a conference about higher education run by the State University of New York system.

The four students are among 18 across the state chosen for their interest in higher education innovation.

They will participate in this week’s sixth annual SUNYCON, its Critical Issues in Higher Education conference series. The conference, a forum for discussion of the future of higher education, is Thursday, Oct. 27, and Friday, Oct. 28, at The Times Center in New York City on the theme of The Forces Shaping the Future of Higher Education.

“SUNY students have shown us time and again that they deserve a place at the table, and SUNYCON would not be complete without their active participation,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Each year, the discussions we have with students are among the most valuable to our work. I look forward to exploring this year’s theme with the SUNYCON Fellows Class of 2016.”

De La Cruz, a second-year graduate student from the Bronx, is in the Educational Administration and Policy Studies program.

“My long-term career goal is to be a higher education administrator focused on diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “I decided to attend UAlbany because it was affordable and I also was given the opportunity to be a track and field athlete.”

De La Cruz is interested in innovation around diversity policies.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are no longer just a response to the civil rights movement but a necessity in order to serve an increasingly diverse student population. When we change how we look at diversity and changing the question from ‘Why do diversity?’ to ‘How to do diversity?’ we can escape the deficit thinking we often see universities pursue,” he said.

Sarah Petrak is a senior public policy major from Los Angeles.

“My career goal is to make college affordable for everyone who desires an advanced degree,” she said. From the application process to figuring out which loans to take out, college can be an overwhelming concept for those who are first-generation students or those who are unfamiliar with the system, Petrak said.

She chose UAlbany for “the great public policy program, its cost and the different opportunities I could have while in college.” These included the many options to join clubs, religious organizations, and Greek life.

Rey Muniz is a senior political science and cybersecurity major from Ashville, N.Y.

“When I think about innovation in higher education, I think about what I can do to help make that education more accessible,” Muniz said. Part of this is helping to develop and implement a long-term tuition strategy that takes a bottom up aid approach to help the most vulnerable students receive critical financial assistance.

“It also focuses on ensuring that young graduates can made sound investments and begin their lives in earnest without being saddled by crippling debt,” he said.

Muniz hopes to enjoy a career in elected office one day. “Of course every aspiring politician dreams of being President. However, I would be satisfied in any position that permitted me to help alleviate poverty and improve the lives of my fellow citizens.”

Former Student Association President Jarius Jemmott is a senior informatics major.

"Coming from the Bronx, New York, I understand how important it is for an inner city kid to unlock his or her mind at a university," he said. "Stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring a new environment is the only way to find your identity and grow. I also understand how hard it can be to afford this opportunity and always questioned why an individual would be denied education if they can't afford it. This is why I would like to discuss innovative ways to make college affordable for all."

Jemmott chose UAlbany over Syracuse University because it is affordable, diverse and filled with opportunity.

"As last year's Student Association President and this year's undergraduate representative on the University Council, I have been witness to the amount of success a student can achieve at this institution," Jemmott said.

Long term, he wants to dedicate his time to public service and work with inner city populations.

"I plan to get involved in both residential and commercial real estate and run for public office so I can build communities both literally and figuratively," Jemmott said. 


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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
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