Twenty years ago this month (February 2013), I graduated from the University at Buffalo (UB) in Buffalo, New York, having earned two baccaulaureate degrees in psychology and political science. Unofficially, I also earned a specialization in music performance in voice and clarinet. And, I completed my studies at this very rigorous university in less than 3.5 consecutive years. I completed my studies in December 1992, my degrees were conferred in February 1993, and I participated in the Commencement Ceremony in May 1993.
It is so difficult to comprehend that 20 years have already passed since my degrees were conferred! It seems like such a lifetime ago that I had graduated from my high school in Gowanda, New York, and began my adult journey in life at UB. How fitting on this President’s Day, February 18, 2013 – 20 years since I completed my undergraduate studies at UB – that I should recall some of the good memories of my younger and more inexperienced days as a college student there.
As a college student at UB, there were so many activities in which I was involved. Always very outgoing, I wanted to be involved in as much as possible, desiring to get the most and best that life had to offer. At UB, the world opened up to me and I took it all in – the good, and the bad, too (when I couldn’t avoid it) – like a sponge. UB was my oyster, and I revelled in all that it had to offer.
Indeed, I am proud of all that I accomplished and all in which I participated and/or had leadership opportunities with at UB. With all of my classes, activities, and just living in general, there was not enough time in the day to pack everything in! During my first year, I carried a heavy load of classes, while also performing in the wind ensemble (and being a soloist) and chorus, as well as participating in field events on the women’s track team (and earning a personal best in shot put at the NCAA championships), being involved in student government and yearbook, and going for tutoring on some evenings for my failure in chemistry. I also immersed myself into intermediate Spanish during my first year, and was happy to be exempt from introductory English composition, however I had to take courses to catch up on my math proficiency.
As time went on, I also found the Polish, Irish, and German Clubs at UB, and was involved in each one, being both the Treasurer and Homecoming representative of two of the groups. I will always appreciate my Polish Club Homecoming co-rep for showing up and being a gentleman during one particular year because the co-rep from the Irish Club chickened out and forced me to go solo, which I did during another year, however embarassing that was (needless to say, he never showed his face at the Club meetings again after that).
Being a member of these ethnic/language-related clubs opened my world yet further to students of Irish descent from New York City, as well as those of Polish and German descent from right around Buffalo. The Irish Club, in particular, was a favorite of mine because I could always “let my hair down” and be myself with my friends in that group. No matter our background or experiences, we always respected and accepted each other, and enjoyed each other’s company. Additionally, it was my membership in the Polish Club that opened up opportunities to visit Poland as an exchange student to Jagiellonian University – and travel to several European countries, which I did during one summer, and had an absolutely fantastic time! It was all just as it was described to me – and so much more.
In changing my major from physics to psychology in my second year at UB, I found my life becoming much less stressful. No longer pursuing studies toward my goal of becoming a veterinarian, I found classes in which I truly excelled and enjoyed, those that “fit” my personality. Psychology and the social sciences were right up my alley, and I took opportunities to complete independent research in political science, as well as to be a research assistant in a sensitive graduate-level psychology research project. Also, the more classes that I took in political science, the more I enjoyed them, and became a double major, desiring to go to law school and become an attorney. I, therefore, became a member of the Democrats Club, as well as the Political Science Club, and traveled with several members during one year to visit Yale University, a very impressive campus, indeed. And, in my last semester at UB, I was named to the Dean’s List – miracles never cease!
Also during my time at UB, I was involved in other activities such as the Aeronautics Club, Striders Club (and I often went running independently at night under the lights), Recyclers Club (I had responsibility for managing the recycling in my dorm), and I was a regular participant in the religious celebrations of my faith that were held on campus, where I also became a lay Eucharistic Minister. I also remembered the memory of a slain fellow UB student, Linda Yalem, by attending a memorial service for her, and running in the Memorial Run in her name. I also worked part-time on campus, and was involved in so many groups and activities that I have difficulty bringing them all to mind. Further, I took opportunities to attend college sports games, such as volleyball and basketball, even after having attended so many football games as a member of Pep Band. It was in Pep Band that I met some really great, “real” people with whom I became friends, and with whom I kept in touch for a number of years as a student at UB (see photo to follow).
Within all of that, I attended many college events that included students, student-athletes, student government representatives, public officials (such as the mayor and governor), and college leaders (such as the president and his family, vice president and his wife, dean of students, and others). Not only did I know many students, professors, religious leaders, and coaches, but I also met and got to know a few of the college leaders who so often worked behind the scenes to improve the university and try to make it better for everyone. Of course, there were situations in which they did not always make things better, but I believe that the majority of them tried to the best of their ability to achieve that endeavor.
Particularly in my last year at UB, I got to know UB’s President Bill Greiner (sadly, who is now deceased) and his wife, Carol. It often seemed that no matter where I was or what event I was attending, they were there, too! It was great to see Bill and Carol so “involved” in student life at UB. It was wonderful to observe and experience their commitment – not only to each other as great role models – but also their commitment and dedication to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and patrons at UB. I always made a special effort to speak with Carol as she is so intelligent, insightful, and positive, always having something kind and encouraging to share. I definitely aspired to be more like her as she is such a great female role model and inspiration.
Before leaving UB upon completing my studies in December 1992 to head to New York City for about one year, I asked President Greiner to write a recommendation on my behalf. Being so proud of myself and all that I accomplished at UB, as well as having some bittersweet memories and having experienced a critically life-changing event in my last semester as a student at UB (and surviving through it in the years to come), I desired something more to take away with me from my UB experience – just some pieces of paper with words written on them about me by others familiar with me.
My recommendation from President Greiner is the very first formal, written recommendation that I ever received (see document above). He very eloquently and concisely stated many kind things about me, which I fondly remember and review to this day. His recommendation is also one that I sent, along with my resume, in my job search to about 100 law firms in Buffalo in 1993-1994. The piece of paper that I received from him was one that certainly helped to open a few doors for me, and I will always appreciate that, even though I did not pursue a law degree.
In fact, I can look back on it now, and remember a conversation that Bill and I shared one day, during which he inquired about the career I intended to pursue. When I told him that I was interested in being a lawyer, he actually discouraged me from pursuing a law degree, stating that law firms are like factories. I believe and warmly recall that he already knew that such a profession would not fit my personality.
There is definitely alot that I miss about UB, and I have fond memories and tearful nostalgia about many of my experiences at and through UB. UB was a place in which I became an adult, whether I like it or wanted to, or not. I can remember so many wonderful things about my experience at UB, however one or two critically hurtful things have also colored and clouded my perspective, still, to this day. However much I would like to remember only the good things, the harmful experiences are also a part of who I am, of who I have become, for whom I advocate, and for whom I support – women (and children) who are victims and survivors of violent crime, trauma survivors.
While I believe that there are reasons for everything, I must be real in remembering my experiences at UB, both good and painful. While there are many more good things that I experienced as a student at UB, what I experienced that was harmful – I believe – has shaped me into becoming a better, and more insightful, compassionate, sensitive, and understanding individual. My experience at UB has helped me to become an advocate for and supporter of victims. And, however painful, I have my experience at UB to recognize for that, too.
I also have that experience in being aware that not all offenders of violent crimes are apprehended, charged, or prosecuted, as well. Further, such experience taught me that survivors of violent crimes may be revictimized by police and prosecutors. I would not be who I am today without recognizing and being aware of all of my experiences, and I am now thankful (in a very sad way) for having such an experience because it has helped me to relate more personally with other victims and survivors of similar experiences, including those who are close to me. While we cannot remove from our consciousness those painful experiences, we can try our best to make them better for ourselves and others. I, therefore, remember that when I left UB, I intended to change the world, however it has been the world that has changed me.
So, on this President’s Day 2013 – and 20 years to the month that my baccaulaureate degrees were conferred to me – I remember and recall many of my experiences as a college student at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). I had many wonderful experiences there, met many wonderful people there, and have many fond memories of my time there. However much I would prefer not to remember the painful experiences that I had there, I would deny myself and not be who I am today.
And so, I must also be strong in mind, body, and spirit and integrate all of my UB experiences into my life, God willing. Hopefully in doing so, I will have also assisted and supported others who have had similar good and/or painful experiences in their lives. Therefore, I must recognize UB, for giving me the wings to soar into my life – in all experiences.
DellaContrada, J. (2009). William R. Greiner Dies. Buffalo, NY: UB – University at Buffalo: News Releases.
Scrivani, Maria (1999). Bill and Carol Greiner: UB’s Perfect Pair. Retrieved on February 17, 2013 from http://www.livingprimetime.com/AllCovers/jul1999/workjul1999/bill_and_carol_greiner.htm
State University of New York at Buffalo Graduation, May 1993. Buffalo, NY.
This article was also published by both the University at Buffalo Alumni and RAINN on LinkedIn (February 2013). Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn.