Record Attendance at Ninth Annual Student Academic Conference: Marian Conway, Ph.D., '01, '04, Keynote Speaker
By Sandra Barkevich ‘13, student, School for Graduate Studies; editor, The Student Connection
November 26, 2013
More than 250 students, faculty and staff attended the ninth annual Student Academic Conference in Queens Oct. 18-19. The event showcased student presentations, workshops, artistic performances and poster sessions, as well as an art show and alumni reception. The event is an opportunity for students to network and share knowledge. (Photo at right: Dr. Marian Conway '01, '04, keynote speaker)
Since its inception, the Student Academic Conference has grown tremendously. This year’s record attendance is testimony to the value students are finding in this information-packed event. Guest speaker alumna Cheryl Farrell ’92, ‘09, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 shop steward, opened the conference by sharing some of the challenges she faced growing up as an immigrant and how her early work impacted her views on life.
"One of my most challenging jobs was in Harlem,” she said. “My job was to train these young people to become assistants to chefs. At that time, I did it because they didn't think anyone cared about them. I saw a little bit of them in me. I had to let them know that someone cared about them." She went on to share how Empire State College made her feel that someone cared about her.
Following the opening plenary were concurrent sessions featuring student academic and artistic works and informational sessions regarding college programs such as international and graduate studies. In her presentation, “Make Me Pretty,” School for Graduate Studies student Grace Mateo delivered a positive message about self-identity. Her workshop was interactive and attendees were given printed images of women’s faces to draw and write on. The concept Mateo wanted to impart was an understanding of the influences and relations of beauty, health and identity among adolescents.
The art show and alumni reception featured works of art created by students, as well as musical entertainment from talented 9-year-old pianist, Casey Fleischer, son of Mildred VanBergen, director of academic support for the Long Island center; operatic vocals from tenor Kyle Viverito, a student with the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies and IBEW Local 3 electrical apprentice; violist Leetoya Young, assistant registrar, Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies, with daughter, 15-year-old Lechyna Mitchell, dancing and son, 3-year-old Xavier Young, singing. Rounding out the night’s entertainment was local band Unborn Mind, of which two members, Ray Labella and Lisa Rosenberg, are students in the Metro unit.
(See highlights of the conference at https://ensemble.annese.com/app/sites/index.aspx?destinationID=x14-bBwuSES_dQKmWfCs4g)
Day Two of the conference held more presentations and workshops and President Merodie Hancock’s plenary, at which Hancock introduced a panel of three of this year’s Chancellor’s Award recipients, Jeannie Lockwood ’13, Jason Torreano ’13 and Sean Coffman ‘13. Attendees were encouraged to engage with the panelists in a Q&A session at the end of the plenary. In response to why he chose Empire State College, Coffman said, "I researched another school and was told, ‘You need to go to one of the trend setters; you need to go to Empire State College.’"
The energy was high at the conference and many students seemed to share the sentiments of keynote speaker Dr. Marian Conway ’01, ‘04. She said, “I feel like I’m in a room full of family, but you are all students. I love students."
Conway is executive director of the New York Community Bank Foundation since 2007. She received a Bachelor of Science in cultural studies with a concentration in writing and a Master of Arts in liberal studies from SUNY Empire State College.
Conway credits her success to the independent learning skills she acquired at Empire State College. She is on a number of nonprofit boards, including Community Development Corp., Long Island Arts Alliance, Middle Country Library Foundation, St. Johnland Nursing Center and Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk. Most recently, she received the Gilbert Tilles Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals for her philanthropic leadership. She is a staunch advocate of lifelong learning and remains an active alumna as the Long Island Center representative on the college’s Alumni Student Federation Board of Governors, serving now as the board’s past president.
Next year marks the 10th anniversary of StAC and plans are already underway to make it another stellar event, which will be held in Albany.