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Student Experience at Plattsburgh Connects Father, Son | SUNY Plattsburgh

Thirty-nine years after Greg Brooks ’73, graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh, his son, Oliver Brooks ’14 G’16 started his freshman year as a Cardinal.

But Oliver didn’t attend Plattsburgh simply because his father did.

“He was definitely the big supporter of me looking at SUNY Plattsburgh, but it really wasn’t because he went there,” Oliver, a Brooklyn native, said.

The primary reason was the strength of Plattsburgh’s Student Support Services office.

“It turned out to be just the best possible nurturing supportive center that one could have ever hoped to find,” Greg said.

Student Support Services staff helps students meet their goals through academic advising, tutoring, late-night study sessions, extended time testing and support in extracurricular endeavors.

“I can’t even put it into words the amount of support and guidance and everything that department did for me,” Oliver said.

From Student to Colleague

Tom Thompson, a writing skills specialist and coordinator of special projects at Student Support Services, was Oliver’s academic advisor from the start of his college career.

“We met often to discuss classes, review papers or just to catch up on sports, politics and life,” Thompson said.

As an undergraduate, Oliver was a teaching assistant for a Student Support Services’ freshman seminar. He also mentored students in the STAR program, which gives select students who have demonstrated strong potential for academic success but who don’t meet all admissions requirements a chance to earn a degree.

His work in Student Support Services helped him realize his passion for helping other students and after graduating with his bachelor’s in political science in 2014, he enrolled in SUNY Plattsburgh’s master’s program in student affairs and higher education.

As an intern in graduate school, Oliver connected easily with students who came in to the office or help, just as he had a few years earlier. Oliver said the internship proved to be the most meaningful experience at Plattsburgh for him.

“I definitely feel like I gained the most comprehensive experience working with diverse populations and at-risk students and kind of being an unbiased provider and support for everyone who needs that help to get through college and navigating the academic environment,” he said.

Like Thompson, Ashley Durocher, a counselor in Student Support Services, saw Oliver gradually transform from a new student unsure about how to navigate the college atmosphere to an experienced graduate student with words of wisdom of his own to offer younger students.

“Oliver was once the student sitting across from me asking for advice; fast forward a couple of years and here Oliver is, a professional member of our team, giving the same advice that we gave to him years ago,” Durocher said.
Part of it is his special ability to relate to others.

“Whether he is speaking with the president of the college or a scared and homesick freshman, he does so with such a degree of humility, genuine concern and just the right amount of humor that you can’t help but smile,” Durocher said.

Oliver plans to work in a disability support services department at a university or as an academic adviser or counselor.

A Shared Bond

Greg’s experience at Plattsburgh was different but no less impactful. Involving himself in student government as the president of MacDonough Hall, he learned many skills he has taken with him through the years.

An English education major, he also left SUNY Plattsburgh with an improved writing ability along with practical teaching skills.

“The English department was very strong,” Greg said. “I had great professors, terrific professors.”

After graduating and working as a teacher for almost 10 years, he changed fields, earning a master’s in public administration from New York University. He went on to serve as deputy comptroller for New York City.

Ten years ago, he retired from city government and is now the chief financial and administrative officer for the nonprofit Safe Horizon, an agency that aids victims of crimes like domestic violence and runs programs for homeless youth.

For all the differences in their time as college students, Greg and Oliver have bonded over their shared alma mater. Oliver has heard all his father’s stories of the legendary concerts in Memorial Hall in the ‘70s and his remarks about how much the campus has changed—Feinberg Library and the Angell College Center weren’t around when Greg started at Plattsburgh.

“There’s this certain bond that Oliver and I have because we’re able to talk about the different Plattsburgh places, which is a lot of fun,” he said.

“Being reconnected with Plattsburgh for the past seven years had been wonderful for me … I hadn’t been back for 30 years. It’s just a great place.”

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