SUNY Day 2013: SUNY Geneseo Ambassador Program Transforms University, Community Relations
On February 11, dozens of SUNY campuses convened at the Legislative Office Building in Albany’s Empire State Plaza to showcase their individual contributions to their communities as well as SUNY’s collective contributions. SUNY Day is an event where the public, senators, and assemblymen are all welcome to see the latest of what each SUNY campus has to offer. This year’s theme was experiential education.
Generation SUNY is helping bring you a few of those stories in our SUNY DAY 2013 series.
This past year, SUNY Geneseo’s Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership began the Student Ambassador Awards – a grant program that awards $5,000 to support student-designed research that results in identifiable and transformative change for the student and the community.
Nine Student Ambassador Awards were given last year. Winners were chosen based on their ability to work successfully in a self-directed project; demonstrated interest in innovation, leadership, and community values; willingness to participate in the Student Advisory Board of the Center in 2012-2013; willingness to give a presentation on the project to the Geneseo community; and students had to be returning on a full-time basis for the next fall academic semester.
Three members of Geneseo’s inaugural class of Ambassadors were on hand at SUNY Day to discuss their research, the program, and experiential learning at SUNY Geneseo.
Brandon Eng, winner of the James Houston ’80 Ambassdorship in Innovation, used his Ambassadorship to preserve oral histories of immigrants and study their visual identity. Eng worked with the Chair of Geneseo’s Anthropology Department, Dr. Rose-Marie Chierici and Art History faculty member Dr. Lynette Bosch to develop his research. He chose to study immigration through visual mediums, rather than text. “Text is a very culturally specific, very bounded method and it ignores cultural flows that have lesser or different impacts when converted into text.”
His interest in the subject was partially inspired by his own history. “I was also inspired by my own family background, as well as that of many of my high school peers. I attended the Bronx High School of Science which aside from being racially and ethnically diverse has a large population of first and second generation students. They often had home lives straddling two cultures; I was interested in that divide.”
Beyond this Ambassadorship, Eng is an ambitious student. “I may TA a Film and Anthropology class next fall semester, if I end up going abroad I will probably still try to work with Dr. Aimers in the anthropology department to revamp the curriculum with a nod towards critical visual anthropological studies.” In the future, he intends to curate contemporary art. “I treated this exhibition in many ways as a sort of installation art piece. The ideological hang is an idea I’m really interested in. The Ambassadorship has been a huge step towards realizing that goal. I’m looking forward to working with several on-campus galleries to coordinate exhibitions with interdisciplinary foci that can bring more students into these spaces.”
At SUNY Day, we also met Grace Trompeter and Stephanie Kelly, two members of the Community Health Alliance student organization that received one of two the Frank Vafier Ambassadorships in Leadership.
Like Eng, the members of the Community Health Alliance also worked with Dr. Rose-Marie Chierici and as an organization, they decided on a project. Trompeter said, “We sat down and discussed our current community partners and decided on a project where we could have the most impact on the community.”
For the project, the Community Health Alliance worked closely with Geneseo Parish Outreach Center where they assisted in “entering patient information and helping other volunteers use the software.”
In analyzing what kind of impact they wanted to have, Trompeter said the organization discovered some major flaws in community health care. “We have seen how low socio-economic status contributes to barriers to access to health care and high incidence of chronic disease. We also noticed through observation and discussion with volunteer clinicians of the POC that patients weren’t always receiving consistent care as they were seeing medical professionals irregularly and often saw a different clinician at each visit. We wanted to work with a doctor to create a streamlined standard of care for patients and knew the first step was analyzing the patient demographic to understand their greatest needs.”
Their persistence resulted in substantial results for the community. “Our Ambassadorship has allowed the POC to purchase a[n] (electronic medical records) system that will help streamline the care of uninsured and underinsured patients in our community. The analysis we provide will create a portrait of the greatest needs of this underserved demographic and help the POC improve their care in chronic disease maintenance and prevention.” Of their legacy, “We hope that this project continues and the students who follow behind us will continue to expand the Community Health Alliance, strengthening our relationship with the community, promoting healthful lifestyles, and gaining experience for future careers in public health and medicine,” said Trompeter.
Other Student Ambassador Award winners included:
- The Frank Vafier Ambassadors in Leadership – Josh Kent ’13, Major: International Relations and Spanish
- The James N. Leary Ambassador in Leadership – Celeste Hoelzl ’14, Major: Business Administration and Spanish
- The Community Advocates Ambassador in Community Engagement – Melissa Graham ’13, Major: Biology
- The Gerard Gouvernet Ambassador in French Language and Culture – Erin O’Brien ’14, Major: French and Spanish
- The Provost’s Ambassador in Diversity – Kevin Castaneda ’13, Major: Sociology
- The John A. and MaryGrace Gleason Ambassador in Student Affairs – Michael Venturiello ’13, Major: English
- The Edward Pettinella Ambassador in Business – Robert Kahrs ’13. Major: Business Administration