Helping others is a way of life for Erica Ferer ’17. As a resident assistant and founding member of the Red Watch Band Care Team, she is well-versed in looking after her fellow students.
But it wasn’t always that way that way for Erica.
She arrived at Stony Brook University anticipating a science-based career as an engineer or researcher, but after taking on a number of leadership roles, she realized that working closely with other people is her strong suit
Erica, who hails from West Sayville, NY, cites her role as a University Scholar fellow as instrumental in opening doors and facilitating friendships.
“One of the best benefits of being a part of Scholars is belonging to a tight-knit community. This made the difference in my freshman year when it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the school’s size,” Erica said.
For Erica, Stony Brook has felt like her home since she first stepped on campus.
“It molded me into the person I am today,” she said. “I never thought that one day I would be a campus leader, but after opening the first door for myself, I found that doors opened everywhere — and to places I never thought I could go.”
During the summers of 2014 and 2015, Erica, an Orientation team leader, made it her mission to welcome incoming freshmen to Stony Brook. She put together and conducted training sessions for 50 new orientation leaders; led discussion groups with students and their families; explained academic opportunities, campus policies and procedures; and acquainted new students with campus services and building locations.
Also in 2015, Erica took on a formidable challenge by becoming a resident assistant. That meant that she had to be prepared for anything at any time — fire alarms at 3:00 am, lockouts, roommate conflicts and more, including mental health calls, for which intensive training is required to be able to offer residents immediate assistance.
“Strong communication skills are critical with every aspect of the RA position, but I am also a resource and sometimes an authority figure to an entire floor of resident students,” she says. “I need to be able to communicate effectively on all different levels and to different audiences at any given moment.”
Perhaps what best defines Erica’s commitment to helping others on campus was her decision to become a founding member of the Red Watchband Care Team in 2014. Because she knew so many people whose lives were adversely affected by alcohol and other drugs, Erica sought to learn how she could help educate students about the effects of toxic drinking and drug use.
The Red Watchband Care Team devotes many hours to training peers on everything from recognizing the physiological effects of unsafe drinking/drug usage to teaching them to help save lives when confronted with an overdose.
Being an effective communicator is necessary not only as a student leader, but also in many scientific fields, she says. As a biomedical engineering major, Erica foresees a monumental challenge ahead for her fellow scientists and engineers.
“I took a course on effectively communicating science during which I learned the importance of being able to translate really technical science into a language that most people can understand,” she says. “This is particularly important because there isn’t much public funding for research, so most money comes from private sources. To gain this funding, the researcher needs to be able to explain to laypeople why his or her research deserves funding.”
Erica’s communication skills and interest in financial matters has led her to consider pursuing a career in business, specifically event planning, when she graduates.
“I would benefit from combining my academic experiences of working in a technical and difficult field with my greatest strengths — a love of networking and talking to people,” she says. “Based on the skills and confidence I have acquired during my undergraduate career at Stony Brook, I don’t see this as a major issue.”
— Glenn Jochum