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ESC Alum Althea Luehrsen – Where Are They Now?

By Suzanne Lazar ’17; student, School for SUNY Empire State College Graduate Studies; editor, The Student Connection

July 14, 2017

What is life after college like?  It varies for students.  Some earning an undergraduate degree may continue on to graduate school, some may get that promotion they were hoping for in their current position, or some may begin a new career search.  What students do have in common after graduating is, they are officially alumni of SUNY Empire State College.

Being an ESC alum is not only a great achievement but an important role for the college, whether actively staying engaged by attending college events, speaking at an information session or statewide open house, or just staying connected.

ESC alumni also volunteer their time and sit on Alumni Student Federation Board of Governors and work with the Alumni and Student Relations office in providing guidance on alumni and student issues.

Althea Luehrsen, ’02, ’10, currently sits on the Alumni Board as President.  I had the pleasure of sitting down with Luehrsen and talking to her about experiences before, during and after student life at ESC.  Here’s what she had to say:

Q: Please tell you’re “why” story about how you came to ESC.

A: I didn’t enter college until I was 32.  It took me 9 years to complete my associate’s degree as a single mom, working full time.   My finances and schedule permitted a very part-time basis but I did it!   When I began exploring bachelor’s programs, I looked at many different colleges.  What intrigued me about ESC was the ability to receive prior learning assessment (PLA) credit for the years of experience I had through full time work from the age of 17.  Still a single, working mom, being able to finish my degree faster and less costly, was certainly appealing.  ESC also afforded me the opportunity to work around my schedule and take some classes online.   All this was very helpful in balancing family, work and school.

Q: What is your current role/job?  Describe how earning your degree at ESC helped you to achieve that goal.

A: My current role is CEO of Leadership Buffalo, a non-profit organization.  Prior to this role I began working at the University at Buffalo in 2001.   The first position I held at UB was Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.  The role required a bachelor’s degree, which I completed at ESC, and a certain number of years’ experience but not a master’s degree.  I decided to embark upon the journey to complete my masters while at UB which led me to a second position there as an Assistant Vice President.  I would not have been able to apply for that position without holding a master’s degree.  

During the AVP role in 2010, I had an opportunity to participate in the program Leadership Buffalo.  A year and a half later, I was running the organization.  So many opportunities all centered around education and learning, brought me to my current role and had I not continued my education, I would not have the job I hold today. 

I earned two degrees from ESC; a bachelor’s degree in business professional studies in 2002, and a master’s degree in business and policy studies in 2010.   I chose to write my Master’s thesis on the Rise of Female Entrepreneurs and the motivation behind the increase; studying wage inequality, societal norms and the glass ceiling.   I have great passion for this subject and now teach the course Women In Leadership, as an adjunct professor at ESC in the Niagara Frontier.  

I never had a specific career, however I did know I wanted to be in a leadership role, whatever that may be.  I realized that in order to reach the top of any organization, you needed to have the credentials to do so.  It’s incredibly beneficial that ESC provides us with the opportunity to tailor our degrees for what we need, while at the same time making sure we’re hitting all the collegiate requirements.  

Q: Upon completion of your degree, what did you do when your experience as a student ended?

A: Over the past several years, I became more and more involved with ESC.  First, making a small donation which has now turned into a scholarship for a single working mom.   I also began speaking at information sessions, providing insight to potential students on what they can expect and how earning a degree benefited me.   I have also been on alumni committees and involved as a mentor in the Student Leadership Program.  At the present, I currently serve as the President of the Alumni Federation for the College; I teach as an adjunct professor; and I sit on the Strategic Planning Communications.  

Q: When and why did you become involved as an ESC Alumni what were you hoping to achieve?

A: About five years ago, I attended and Alumni Board meeting as a guest, then an at large member, moved to Vice President and now President.

I was so incredibly proud of finally reaching the goal of earning two degrees, I wanted to be able to give back and encourage others to do the same.  

My goal as President was to create a strategic direction for the Alumni Federation.   Many of the members had expressed the desire to do something other than attend a meeting.  We are a dedicated group of volunteers that care deeply about our alma mater.   We wanted to be able to provide resources to the Alumni and Student Relations team to help them with their efforts.   We held a strategic planning retreat last year and I’m pleased to say and that we developed a three-year plan that has overarching goals and responsibilities assigned to our board members.  One of the action items was to address alumni engagement and to help the college create an alumni awards recognition program college wide.  I’m pleased to say that we did just that and we’ll be honoring those deserving individuals in the Fall.

Q: Describe any/all volunteer work you do outside of your involvement as an alumnus.

A: How much time to you have?  I currently serve on eight boards including Empire State College.  They include Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo, Lt. Col. Matt Urban Community Center, Olmsted Center for Sight, United Way (Chair of Women United), University of Buffalo’s Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, NYS charity STRONG, Daemen College Executive Leadership, and Change Advisory Council.    I also volunteer quite a bit – just this past weekend with Explore and More Children’s Museum and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell current students and alumni?

A: I believe that the best leaders give, rather than take.  Once you earn your degree, it’s important to remember how many people helped you along the way; family, mentors, professors, friends.  And understand that it’s your responsibility to pay it forward whether that is with your time, your talent or your treasure.  Help the next person achieve what you did which in turn, will help elevate the significance of Empire State College.

If you’re looking for inspiration and motivation to see the light at the end of your journey as a student or to help new and active students complete their journey, as you were helped along your way, visit the Alumni and Student Relations page to find out how you can get involved.



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