‘Tis the season of giving! With 64 campuses, SUNY has the unique opportunity to give back to our neighbors in every geographic region of New York State. Leaders from across the system have spent the last year developing and implementing programs to engage the SUNY community in serving those in need. From combatting food insecurity to supporting victims of domestic violence to facilitating conversations on international disaster preparedness, SUNY has made a clear commitment to serving our communities, both big and small.
Students, faculty and administration alike come together to promote efforts of charity and togetherness across the state. 30 Days of Giving is our annual tradition, which starts on Thanksgiving every year, where we reflect on efforts of the past year and highlight some of the selfless acts of that members of the SUNY community are leading. What are some of the things that have taken place at SUNY this year?
Recognizing that hunger should not be an obstacle for students to thrive academically, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the “No Student Goes Hungry Program.” Through the leadership of Chancellor Kristina Johnson and the SUNY Board of Trustees, the Student Life Committee launched the Food Insecurity Task Force. Comprised of higher education leaders, students from across the university system, and food insecurity experts, the committee has been charged with studying the issue of food insecurity on college campuses and recommending the necessary changes and best practices to relieve the stresses brought on by this issue. The task force has worked tirelessly the last year identifying possible resources and policy changes, completing system-wide assessments of hunger and food insecurity, and providing recommendations on the campus, system, and state levels. Flash forward to today, all 64 of SUNY’s colleges and universities now have a food pantry or stigma-free food access available to all students.
In response to the rising concerns of sexual and interpersonal violence at college campuses across the country over the last decade, SUNY launched the SUNY’s Got Your Back program in April of 2016, an initiative designed to assemble comfort bags for victims and survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence who seek help from shelters, centers, and hospitals across New York.
The program set an original goal of 2,016 bags back in 2016, and volunteers eclipsed that number in no time. Seeing the constant growth and outreach of the program, in 2018 the Office of Victim Services provided nearly $5 million in funding to SUNY’s Got Your Back, enabling SUNY to set a new goal of 225,000 comfort bags by 2021. To date, volunteers with SUNY’s Got Your Back have assembled over 100,000 bags at each of SUNY’s 64 campuses, and several external events.
Just last week, SUNY and CUNY brought institutions from across the country to the University at Albany for the RISE 2019 Conference: Transforming University Engagement in Pre- and Post-Disaster Environments: Lessons from Puerto Rico. At this three day conference, experts explored how higher education can strengthen preparedness, response, and recover in the face of growing threats posed by a changing climate and extreme weather. RISE, which stands for Resilience in Sustainable Reconstruction, took the conversations that took place at universities and colleges after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and brought them to the national level.
SUNY has the platform to support New Yorkers through any challenges they may face. The success of initiatives like the ones mentioned here show us how we are all working hard to realize that goal. And there are many more at campuses throughout the system. Stay connected here to learn all about the latest efforts of our students, faculty, and staff to bring a true spirit of community to their schools.
Taryn Rackmyer is a recent graduate of Mohawk Valley Community College, now attending the University at Albany for Public Policy. Taryn is a student assistant for SUNY's Government Relations & Marketing Department.