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Six to Give Student Addresses at Unique Spring Commencement Event

student speakers

Six SUNY Plattsburgh seniors have been selected to serve as speakers at several in-person and remote commencement ceremonies planned for Saturday, May 15 at the Field House.

A panel from the college’s Honors Center selected the graduate speakers from a pool of student submissions.

Speaking on behalf of the Class of 2021 are:

  • Tyler Dawson, music arts management from Bolton Landing, N.Y.
  • Kassandra “Kass” Doran, psychology major from McGraw, N.Y.
  • James Faraci, biomedical sciences major from Troy, N.Y.
  • Emma Jolley, social work major from Rochester, N.Y.
  • Sheridan Schoepfer, nursing major from Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
  • Carissa Seror, a RN-to-BSN nursing major from Cropseyville, N.Y., will address those students who choose to participate in a remote version of commencement.

Tyler Dawson

tyler dawsonDawson is one of three students graduating from the new bachelor’s in music arts management, an interdisciplinary degree that went online fall 2018. As such, he has paired his music arts management degree with business, economics and public relations. This experience has served him while working as an administrative assistant at Surfside on the Lake in Lake George, N.Y., where he supported marketing events and managed ongoing projects, among other duties.

Dawson credits Dr. William Pfaff, professor in music, with giving him the best advice when he expressed self-doubt. Pfaff told him, “Get as much as you can from here. The more you do now, the better it will be for you later in life. If (music) is your true passion, it will always find its way regardless of what other people think.”

“What he said then has stuck with me since heavily,” Dawson said. He said that conversation led him to his double majors and triple minors. “I finally could commit to what I knew deep down was my true passion, and I couldn’t have gotten that from anywhere else but SUNY Plattsburgh and Dr. Pfaff. The fear of the unknown was holding me back from doing what I truly wanted to do.”

To his fellow graduates, he advised, “No matter what hurdle you may face, what people say, you need to stay hungry for more and when people tell you to move, you fight for what you want because the only thing stopping you from reaching your dreams is you.”

Kassandra “Kass” Doran

kass doranDoran, a 2020-2021 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and 2020 Outstanding Psychology Student Award winner, spent March 2020 through May 2021 as principal investigator on an honors thesis, “Abstract Thinking and Leadership Skills in Community Advocates,” where she managed a team of research assistants, collected and analyzed data from more than 60 participants and expects to professionally present findings to the public this spring.

Last summer, despite a global pandemic, Doran fulfilled a summer internship as a research assistant at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., assisting in the continuing review for the Internal Review Board, wrote and reviewed sections for a $125,000 grant, and tested plebes at the U.S. Naval Academy for the NCAA-DOD Care Consortium study, among other duties.

She has worked both as a research assistant and lab manager in the college’s cross-cultural neuropsychology lab, keeping up to date on tasks that needed to be done and monitoring the research team, answering questions and solving problems for other research assistants and more.

While an undergrad, Doran served as a teaching assistant in several psychology and biopsychology classes, presented at numerous conferences, and served as president of the Psychology Club, among many other activities.

Calling March 2020, when the coronavirus ground the world to a standstill, a “flashbulb memory,” she told her classmates that she mentioned the beginning of the pandemic here “to try to get you back into that headspace so I can tell you that you all are amazing.

“Each and every one of you have inspired me,” she said. “Each one of us had to find a unique plan to that situation; however, in the end, we have embraced, or tried to embrace, the new normal and finally made it to graduation. Moving forward will be different. We may have missed out, but we have gained so much — empathy and resilience, the ability to pivot quickly and professionally. We overcame the odds, and that is something to be proud of.”

James Faraci

james faraciBeyond his studies in biomedical sciences and biochemistry, neurobiology and psychology, Faraci, a 2020-2021 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor Award for Student Excellence, has spent the better part of his time at SUNY Plattsburgh in Community Living as a head community advocate and a community advocate, assuring the safe and welcoming environment for residents, counseling students on various personal and academic issues, managing residence hall floors, providing supervision to a team of advocates and overseeing the day-to-day operations  of the residence hall.

In addition, Faraci has worked as a teaching assistant in biology and chemistry, served as a research partner in biology and has served as president of the Pre-Med/Pre-Health Association, among other experiences. At home in Troy, he served as a patient care technician and emergency department volunteer at Samaritan Hospital.

A scholar-athlete, Faraci was a member of the Cardinal cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

“Over the past year and a half, we have all lost so much of the college experience, but we have gained a lesson much more priceless,” he said to his classmates. “That is, ordinary can be truly exceptional. We entered college as freshmen or transfers at this ordinary state college; we sought out friends, clubs and played sports.” But being thrust into lockdown during spring break in March 2020 created its own exceptional situation, he said.

“Learning that ordinary can be truly special is a lesson that can be used over and over again,” Faraci said. “SUNY Plattsburgh taught us that. This ordinary state school truly is special. Not crazy about the ordinary in your class? Make it special; make it exceptional. You know how.”

Emma Jolley

emma jolleyJolley spent the 2020-2021 academic year as an intern with the Champlain Valley Family Center, working in peer engagement and recovery support, advocacy, individual sessions and more. She has experience as a camp counselor here in Plattsburgh as well as a YMCA near her hometown in Rochester, N.Y.

To her fellow grads, Jolley imparts the notion that no matter what, we rise.

“Although our world seems so uncertain and unsure, we continue,” she said. “We continued when everything became remote; we continued when we were shut down. We continued when injustice, fear and hatred was consuming our country. We continue by standing up, by doing what is right, by protecting those most at risk;  (and) by putting others before ourselves. Though this year has been one of the hardest, we are coming out of it strong individually and stronger together.”

Sheridan Schoepfer

sheridan schoepferSchoepfer has risen to the call of volunteering as a COVID vaccinator with the Clinton County Health Department throughout the spring 2021 semester, working vaccination clinics and educating community members on prevention of transmission, handwashing and side effects of the vaccinations. She has served at CVPH Medical Center in progressive care, critical care, psychiatric mental health care, maternal and child nursing, and on medical-surgical units, among other experiences.

Back home on Long Island, Schoepfer worked in a podiatry office, nursing facility and assisted living facility.

She chapter president of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority shared with her classmates how graduating has shown that they are capable of accomplishing “our goals when we commit fully to them.”

“As we continue on in our lives once we leave Plattsburgh, take whatever life throws at you with confidence in knowing that you have already achieved great heights,” she said. “We have all worked incredibly hard to get to this stage today but we still made it, despite a pandemic.”

Carissa Seror

carissa serorSeror is unique in the student-speaker lineup for delivering her speech remotely as well as for having earned her registered nursing degree prior to enrolling in the college’s RN-to-BSN program. To those students, faculty and staff who will join the ceremony virtually, Seror said, “Regardless of the specifics of how the pandemic has impacted our educations, there is one thing we all have in common: We have made it,” she said. “And our arrival at this moment in our academic careers tells us that we have also shared in the determination, the hard work and the perseverance that got us to this point. We are a group of over-comers.

“We know that the downscaled nature of our celebrations does not shrivel the worth of our accomplishments. Contrarily, it serves as a reminder of all that we have to be proud of and of all the barriers that we have overcome. May we always remember our ability, as individuals and as alumni, to turn on the light, even in the darkest of times.”

Seror earned her registered nursing degree in May 2018 from Hudson Valley Community College and enrolled in the RN-to-BSN program at SUNY Plattsburgh in January 2019. She has worked as an acute care nurse at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany since July 2018.

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