Preparing for life after graduation is inevitable. SUNY New Paltz students are lucky enough to get some perspective from alumnae who have already been in their shoes.

SUNY New Paltz alumnae and other distinguished women came to shed some light on students and soon-to-be graduates at the College’s third annual Women’s Leadership Summit this Wednesday.

The event held panels targeted for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as the Schools of Business, Education, Fine & Performing Arts and Science & Engineering. Some of these women included Jessica Gardner ‘00, founder and president of Media Solstice Marketing & Public Relations; Luz Avila-Kyncl ‘96, founder and CEO of Salud con Luz; Debbie Lesperance ‘96, director of admissions at the Columbia School of Social Work; and Skyler Srivastava ‘04, news anchor at NBC 2, who all led the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences panel.

Program Director of Special Events and Sponsorships Lisa Sandick said the Women’s Leadership Summit was put in place to better engage SUNY New Paltz students and to better prepare them for life after graduation.

“What better way than to have a panel of alumnae, women thought leaders, who are very successful in different areas and professions or accelerating in their career, to come back to New Paltz?” she said.

Sandick said the event has been helpful to students, giving them practical career advice and more confidence for when they graduate and go into the workforce.

“It’s real, candid career advice to take with them,” she reiterated. “Not only for when they graduate but for when they are also mid-career, or transitioning careers, but it also offers them life skills.”

One key topic talked about at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences panel was the benefits of networking and socializing with professionals already in one’s chosen field.

Srivastava, who majored in journalism during her time at SUNY New Paltz, spoke about the benefits of having social media to build more connections.

“Use social media, connect online,” she said. “It’s something we didn’t have when we were looking for jobs, and it’s something you can utilize in your spare time.”

The panelists also emphasized the importance of having a strong work ethic and passion.

“Passion is really important,” Srivastava said. “If you don’t have it you’ll be clock-watching, so find something you love. Do it and persevere. The money is just a bonus.”

The panelists were asked about the roads to success in their professions while living in what appears to be a male-dominated world. While this continues to be a problem of gender equality, Gardner said the real problem is that often, women do not support one another.

“Women don’t want to foster success in other women,” she said. “But we have to realize that someone else’s success is not your failure.”

Nancy Kassop, associate professor of political science and member of the Women’s Leadership Summit Planning Committee, attended the event. Like Sandick, she feels it has aided students thinking about graduation and considering what career paths they may follow post-New Paltz.

“It’s useful to see other people that were in fields similar to theirs or who had the same majors and to learn about how they navigated the workforce,” Kassop said. “This is not an easy time to get a job, and though [the advice that was given] was nothing unexpected, it doesn’t hurt to hear it more than once and to hear other people tell their stories.”

This story first appeared in The New Paltz Oracle on Thursday, March 2.

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