By Matt McDonald
Holly Jensen felt uncertain as she stepped through the doors of the Butcher Block restaurant for a gathering hosted by Dr. Mohamed Gaber.
The junior accounting major didn’t know what to expect from dinner with Gaber, other students and some alumnus she’d never met. Privately, she had also been questioning whether her efforts in school would eventually land her a job — whether she could do it.
That dinner’s guest of honor, Tom Skea ’81, the managing director of sales and trading at Knight Capital Group in Jersey City, New Jersey, surprised her.
“I thought he would be something else,” she said. “He was very real life. He made me feel like getting a job and succeeding is possible.”
Three weeks later, another alumnus, Thomas “TJ” Flaherty ’01, general manager with Sodexo at John F. Kennedy Airport’s Delta Sky Club, visited campus to give seniors in hotel, restaurant and tourism management a similar message.
“Stand out. Play with what you have,” he said. “School is about getting the core knowledge. Then, it’s all about how you apply what you learned.”
Chef and instructor Kim Emery '00 G'06 invited Flaherty to campus. Like Gaber, she wanted to show her students that they can succeed with a Plattsburgh degree.
“It’s difficult to teach success beyond college,” Emery said. “Actions speak louder than words, and hearing from someone who has been successful speaks volumes.”
To offset the cost of those alumni visits, she and Gaber relied on grants from the Office of Alumni Relations through its new Alumni in the Classroom Experience program.
The ACE program encourages faculty to bring successful graduates into the classroom. Contributions from the College Foundation and the Alumni Association provide funding in support of each approved visit.
“We have a strong relationship with alumni,” said Director of Alumni Relations Joanne Nelson, “and they are the greatest resource for current students.”
Nelson hopes departments across campus will take advantage of ACE. The program began in September. So far ACE alumni have represented earth and environmental science, computer science, art, HRTM and accounting.
Jensen wasn’t alone in benefitting from Skea’s visit. Gaber said many of his students remember the visit as the best opportunity they have had to talk with a successful graduate. Skea spoke to about 165 students in four classes.
“I could bring 1,000 alumni,” Gaber said. “Students don’t always trust what they’re doing in their education. Alumni come and tell them they have what they need to succeed.”
Next story: Physics Prof, Students Make Instant Slushies.
For more information about the SUNY Plattsburgh alumni newsletter, please contact:
Michelle Marasch Ouellette
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Phone: (518) 564-3095
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