About 420 students and alumni took part in the 11th annual Student Academic Conference (StAC) in Albany, Oct. 23-24. With four tracks of student- and alumni-run workshops, poster sessions, a town hall, artists’ reception, gift baskets and an inspiring keynote speech by an alumnus who soared from sanitation worker to prospective doctoral student, the conference reached a new height this year, according to organizers.
After students and alumni were welcomed with an opening plenary session, attendees broke into student- and alumni-led workshops that ran along four tracks: Area of Study, Social Justice, Student Leadership and Student Wellness. There were workshops on income inequality between genders; black women in leadership roles; native-born Muslims and racism and understanding your personality. Presenters offered workshops on human trafficking, enhancing and disseminating research through blogs and social media and a workshop provocatively titled, “The Thug, The Thesis and the MALS Final Project.”
Commenting on attendance at the reception for the 2015 Student Art Competition on Friday night, President Merodie A. Hancock said that StAC had drawn more participants than a SUNYwide student conference. “ESC kinda rocks,” Hancock said, to hearty applause. “We’re just one college and we can bring that many people from across the state.”
Saturday, Ed Shevlin ’11, ‘15, (above, with Hancock) a New York City sanitation worker turned college graduate, New York University master’s degree recipient and soon-to-be doctoral student in Irish languages, wowed the crowd with his up-by-his-bootstraps story of his Irish immigrant grandfather, Shevlin’s delayed education and struggles with substance abuse after losing 30-40 of his fellow sanitation workers and countless firefighters from his community during and after 9-11.
At the Town Hall on Saturday morning, students were eager to ask Provost Alfred Ntoko, Vice Provost for Academic Programs Tom Mackey and Vice President for Enrollment Management Clayton Steen questions about new programming, marketing the college through late-night infomercials (everyone agreed that was a good idea) and whether the college is working on offering honors programs (either area of study, or rankings such as summa, magna and cum laude). Ntoko said that the college is looking at both, although the first type of honor program would be easier to implement. Students wanted the college to become more active in the community and in high schools. Steen said some communities had stronger high school-to-college programs than others, but the college is investigating a number of community partnerships. He also told the group that a series of focus groups across the state had just been completed with the college’s students.
Danielle Boardman, coordinator of student life at the college, said, “At its core, the Student Academic Conference is designed to bring the entire SUNY Empire State College community together for a few short days to network, share scholarship, make new friends and allow for the opportunity to give back to our communities. I really feel this year’s conference was successful on all of those levels and then some. Being in the same place for a second year really allowed the committee to focus on the details, rather than the logistics, and the students have really responded well to that.”