Graduates' stories enter new chapter after Commencement

The stories of more than 1,400 members of SUNY Oswego’s Class of 2010 are beginning new chapters, taking college lessons from inside and outside the classroom with them.

Laurel Braun speaking to students at Quest.For some graduates, such as Wally Reardon, the day will mark a step in a long journey. A former high-tower worker and foreman for 13 years who would scale up over 1,000 feet, Reardon now focuses attention on ensuring these workers do their job safely.

The turning point came when he saw his close friend and mentor, Jeff Hartman, suffer a devastating fall while on a job in Buffalo. Reardon, a Pulaski resident, eventually found his way back to a classroom, first earning a degree in human services at Jefferson Community College and falling in love with political science, which brought him to Oswego’s halls.

He interned at the Workers’ Rights Center of Central New York aiding migrant workers and has been a research consultant for the Central New York Occupational Health Clinical Center, monitoring and promoting safety for tower workers. As the center’s Tower Climber Protection Project coordinator, Reardon recently presented a keynote talk in Albany during Occupational Health Awareness Week. After college, he plans to spend time making sure tower workers can do their jobs safely—and walk away from their jobs at the end of every day.

Praising supportive faculty

Laurel Braun returned to the classroom after working as interim director and business manager for Oswego’s Harborfest and staff accountant for the Greater Oswego Chamber of Commerce. She found herself drawn to art history, given her background working with community arts and culture plus grant writing, and professors helped her realize an interest in teaching.

“I’ve been at the right place at the right time doing the right thing, and I’ve had professors backing me in whatever I’ve wanted to do,” said Braun, who will head to SUNY Binghamton University’s doctoral program with a teaching assistantship.  Thanks to Lisa Langlois of the art faculty, Braun presented at a major women’s studies conference at Marist College, and she has shared work at Quest, Oswego’s annual celebration of scholarly and creative activity.

Hoping to specialize in medieval architecture means Braun plans to travel to Europe for her doctoral dissertation research. And while her studies can provide a challenge to family life, Braun also sees an opportunity. “My family has been so supportive,” Braun said. “I look forward to having my daughter visit me in Europe, and I can watch her go through the process and realize all the opportunities available to her.”

Team efforts

Kristopher Clement will take his degrees in history and sociology to Montreal’s McGill University to pursue his master’s in history. The native of Pierrefonds, Quebec, said he looks forward to studying at “one of the most research-intensive universities in North America” before perhaps turning to teaching.

“Inside and outside the classroom, I have learned that discipline, a positive work ethic and commitment really do pay off,” said Clement, also a Laker lacrosse standout. “I have forged lifelong friendships, developed a sense of identity, and learned the value of teamwork, the latter of which can undoubtedly be useful and applied no matter where life takes me.”

Oswego’s Honors Program provided a broad base of knowledge that encompassed different viewpoints and approaches, he added. “I have found the faculty here to be extremely approachable and genuinely concerned with their students’ success,” Clement said. “Overall, my time here has been a positive experience and has no doubt prepared me for not only the next step in my academic career, but the rest of my life.”

Shannon Linehan plans to take an AmeriCorps VISTA position to prepare for joining the Peace Corps. The human development major from Owego credits the college’s Center for Service Learning and Community Service for cultivating her desire to continue this track.

“I have been able to directly involve myself in the lives of children, the elderly, the impoverished and people from different cultures such as Tennessee, West Virginia and Jamaica,” said Linehan, active in such efforts as Mentor Oswego, Adopt a Grandparent and Habitat for Humanity. “People whose lives are disrupted from natural disasters, are born into poverty or live in unjust societies have a harder time achieving the kind of goals that I know I have the ability to reach.”

Her internship with the Oswego Children’s Project influenced her interest in eventually pursuing a master’s in mental health counseling. “I think becoming involved and taking advantage of anything that seemed interesting was what made me so successful,” Linehan said. “I will miss it a lot.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Future educator—Laurel Braun, who will earn a bachelor’s in art history from SUNY Oswego in May after going back to school from the working world, talks with students after her Quest presentation in late April. Braun’s next move will involve pursuing her doctorate at SUNY’s Binghamton University.

(Posted: Apr 30, 2010)

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