Corey Niswender '13
How did you find SUNY Empire State College (SUNY Empire)?
I had been moving around New York State a lot for work and found it difficult to keep in a program. I would start part-time, then I’d have to stop, then I’d start again full-time, then I’d have to stop.
Empire State College was the first college I spoke with and visited where I felt like someone was listening. It wasn’t only an application process, it was “Let me help you. What’re you looking to do? Let’s think about that.” It was flexible.
What I wanted to know was how could I connect the business world with my interest in foreign languages and understanding other cultures. My mentor, Christiane Warren, helped me piece together an interdisciplinary study. I was studying International Business, foreign language and culture. SUNY Empire gave me the opportunity to incorporate my own vision into a degree program.
Everyone was dedicated to my learning. Christiane, for example, is from Berlin and spoke German. I have family from Hamburg and I was interested in learning more German. I learned a lot from her about the culture and the language. She would speak German with me and she taught me business German. It was “You want to learn this? Let me teach you.”
What do you do now?
My current role is Vice President, Private Banking Office Manager at Cambridge Trust. I am responsible for managing the office as well as working closely with clients to understand their goals and values, and provide them with the resources for their evolving financial needs. I am very proud of our longstanding commitment to the communities in which we live and work. Throughout our history, we have been an integral part of the community. We have dedicated resources who provide financial guidance and coaching to low- moderate- income individuals and families within our communities to attain homeownership. We talk with them about everything from how to open an account to how to save. We also host financial literacy programs. This community commitment is really embedded within the bank, which plays a role in my position. I focus on business development – talking to the community organizations to understand their unique mission and identify financial solutions to help them achieve their goals. But I’m also encouraged to sit on the boards of these organizations and share my banking expertise. So I get to help these nonprofits within our community. Cambridge Trust is advocating for the community when local organizations choose to do banking with us.
How did philanthropy develop as one of your values?
I was taught at an early age the different ways to give back to the community. I grew up at a Girl Scout Camp in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. My father was the property manager and we lived on site. He was also the President and Chief of our volunteer fire department. My mother was the secretary of the fire department and also a volunteer EMT and Girl Scout troupe leader. My first foray into fundraising was through the Girl Scout’s cookie drive, so philanthropy wasn’t foreign to me when I became an adult. I saw how broad “giving back” was – it wasn’t just money, it was time and talent, too.
Early in my career I served on an allocations committee of the United Way of Tompkins County. I reviewed applications for grant requests and learned a lot about nonprofits this way. Through my work with them and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, I was a proud member of a group who helped establish Tompkins Connect. This is an organization that brought young professionals together with the help of the United Way and the Chamber to promote philanthropy and make connections to support our community.
Now I try to incorporate community support into my other passions. I love to run. I’ve run a few marathons for charity and am active in my local running club. Running events are a great way to raise awareness for different causes and some allow for fundraising.
Why is it important for you to support Empire State College?
Learning from a young age the importance of giving back, I carry this idea with me to honor those before who may have provided the time and resources to help my education. My career coupled with the degree assistance of the SUNY Empire team have provided me with resources that I can leverage to give back to the community and I am happy to create opportunities for future students.
Empire State College wasn’t just some cookie-cutter process, they helped me design a degree that fit me. It was flexible, it was personal. I don’t want others to have too many barriers, especially if it’s financial. I trust the process I went through, and I want to help make it happen for more people.