Employees Diane Baker, Jennifer Bent and Jacque Svingala Are Successful 2012 Graduates of Empire State College

By Helen Edelman, manager, Exchange

July 27, 2012

Diane BakerSeveral Empire State College employees are tied to the college by more than their jobs.

This year, several members of the professional community also received degrees from the college: Diane Baker, NEC, Bachelor of Arts; Jennifer Bent, Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies, MBA;and Jacque Svingala, NEC, Associate in Science.

Diane Baker, at left, a keyboard specialist 2, works in the Office of the President as support staff to the chief of staff, affirmative action officer and director of environmental sustainability.

She says, “I wanted to go to college right from high school, but was not given the opportunity. Having waited many years through marriage and motherhood, I felt now was the right time. I felt I could be an inspiration to my three young adult children who are also pursuing their college degrees. I have been able to collaborate with other students and my mentors who enabled me to share and grow personally and intellectually. The experience has been a rewarding and positive one and I will always be grateful for this opportunity. Having realized the goal of a college degree has been a privilege to me. Thank you Empire State College for being an open institution for adult learners.”

Jennifer BentJennifer Bent, at right with President Alan Davis, assistant to the dean at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies says, “It has been a journey. I never thought that I would be able to accomplish the achievements that I have thus far. When I decided to get my undergraduate degree with Empire State College I was hesitant because I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle the work load of going to school, holding a full-time job and raising a family all at once.

“Once I decided to get focused, I began to see why Empire State College was known for its uniqueness. The slogan ‘a degree your way’ became real for me, and I was able to determine what would work best for me. Once I established my position on how to proceed, I never looked back. After the successful completion of my undergraduate degree, I decided that I would venture on to the School for Graduate Studies and apply for the MBA program.

“The challenge began but I had a lot of support from my colleagues, including Matt Sanders, Peggy Tally, Cynthia Ward and my mentor at the time, Deborah Noble, who encouraged me. The flexibility that Empire State College has provided to students in how they study and learn is a true testament to the college's vision to have students as equal partners in the learning process.

“I obtained a world of information from the instructors and my mentor, Rosalind Rufer, as I embarked on my journey to complete my master's degree. When I worked in student services at the Harry Van Arsdale Center I was constantly encouraging students not to give up, but stay focused.You have to make it real for them and that's what I did. I use my story as a student working full time and raising a family as an opportunity to help motivate students that ‘if I can do it, they can do it’.

“A special shoutout to the staff at the Van Arsdale Center who also were very supportive and helpful when I thought I couldn't see it through. Last, but not least, I can't forget the support of my family who encouraged me that anything that I set my mind to I can do. Today they celebrate my accomplishments with me.”Jacque Svingala

Jacque Svingala, at left with President Alan Davis, is a keyboard specialist I at NEC. She says, “Like most teenagers in my day, I never got the chance to attend college right after high school. In fact, I didn't even graduate. Unlike most of my friends, at 17 I was married, working full time, and taking care of my new husband while he finished high school and went on to the military. It wasn't until the birth of my first son that I decided it was time to go back and get my GED so that I could move forward in life and maybe attend college. Of course, shortly after that life happened again and I gave birth to my second son.

“Fast forward 10 years later. Now divorced and living in New York, I had just landed my first state job here at the Northeast Center of Empire State College. I can't begin to tell you how hard it is to work at a college such as ESC with students who are adults just like you and not be inspired to get your degree. Until this point in my life, getting my college degree had never really seemed doable -- that is until I began to meet and interact with so many other working adults like myself with a full-time job, a family and a busy life. If these students could fit college into their lives, then so could I. After working at the college for about a year, I finally got my act together and applied. I was accepted in May 2009 and with much help and encouragement from my mentor, fellow staff and faculty members and my family, three years later, here I am with my associate degree.

“It has been an awesome, but sometimes challenging journey that I don't think I could have made anywhere else. I work with students every day and I can't tell you how many of them I have helped along their own journeys to get the degrees. You see them walk across that stage at graduation and you feel so honored and proud to have helped them at some point in their college careers. It is a very rewarding experience, but it can't compare to how rewarding it is walking across that stage receiving your own degree. The feeling is just incredible, so incredible, in fact, that I am proud to say I have moved on to my bachelor’s and look forward to the journey ahead of me knowing that I have a wonderful group of people behind me cheering me on. With the ups and downs of life it may seem hard to fit school into your already hectic schedule, but, unlike traditional colleges, ESC works around you.”

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Did You Know...

There's still time to send in a presentation proposal (due 8/15) or to submit your work for the Art Show (by 9/1) at this year’s Student Academic Conference in Buffalo, N.Y. Visit the conference website for details.

SAC Corner

Seventh Annual Student Academic Conference: An Interview with Diane Cosh, Student Art Presenter by Vickie Moller, student, Long Island Center-Hauppauge Unit; 2011-2012 student representative, Student Affairs Committee

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Article Contributors
  • Sandra Barkevich
  • Helen Edelman
  • Joshua Gaul
  • Suzanne Hayes
  • David Henahan
  • Alan Mandell
  • Vickie Moller
  • Heather Shalhoub
  • Jennifer Ward
  • Kristen Yard