By her own admission, Samantha Romano ’19 was painfully shy in high school — too reserved, in fact, to raise her hand to ask or answer a question in class. Today, after four years as a psychology and political science double major, the Mount Sinai, New York, native is ready to embark on a legal career, a profession that requires — and often inspires — confidence.
Samantha credits her transformation to the University Scholars program. Each incoming freshman class taps 250 students, among the top seven percent academically, to be University Scholars. With that honor comes great responsibility — and opportunity — to serve others.
Through the program, Samantha has challenged herself with a succession of empowering roles. She says it was a series of mentoring and teaching assistant positions that gave her the confidence, not only to unlock her own potential, but also to help younger students to do the same.
“College — and particularly Stony Brook — is what you make of it,” she said. Samantha went on to explain that she took advantage of one opportunity after another.
She first became a tutor at the Academic Success and Tutoring Center and later a Peer Assisted Learning Leader for MAT 126, where she helps students understand calculus, a subject she struggled with in high school. Despite her struggles in high school calculus, she finally came to understand the material and asked herself, “Why didn’t I get this before?”
“For me, seeing the material again in college and having it explained in a different manner really helped. Once I overcame the difficulties of calculus myself, I could see where students had encountered the same problems I had, and could then help lead them toward the right answer.”
“Part of being a good tutor is realizing how students think,” said Samantha. “You have to break down concepts into simpler terms and re-visit older material so students can start from the foundation up.”
As a Scholars Peer Assistant Leader, she met bi-weekly with freshman University Scholars Honors students to help them navigate their way through campus resources, academic policies and general adjustments to college life.
And as a Scholars Fellow, Samantha was chosen from a pool of 85 applicants to serve as a role model for the University Scholars Honors program, where she gained experience as a teaching assistant for SCH 101 and 102 that required teaching one or more of the classes per semester. After being a Scholars teaching assistant, she also went on to TA ADV 101 classes (introductory seminars for new transfer students) during her time as an Academic Peer Advisor intern for the Academic & Transfer Advising Services office.
“Mentoring has been great,” Samantha said. “When you come to a big school you need somebody to give you direction.”
Another avenue Samantha explored through the University Scholars Outreach Committee was community service. She volunteered at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck, in Moriches, NY, and at Atria Senior Home in Setauket, NY.
Samantha’s willingness to sample the smorgasbord of stewardship carried over into her academic life as well. “Everything I’ve done at Stony Brook is because people have said, ‘Bet you’d be good at this. Why not join?”
Although she entered college without intending to do research, Samantha was invited to join the Veterinary Surrogate Decision Making Lab after attending her graduate teaching assistant’s office hours for her statistics course. The lab is run by Samantha Siess, who at the time was Professor Anne Moyer’s former Ph.D. student.
A three-time recipient of the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, Samantha will be writing her Psychology Honors Thesis under the direction of Professor Kristin Bernard, who runs Stony Brook’s Developmental Stress and Prevention Lab. Samantha will be investigating the deviation in insecure attachment style as a function of childhood maltreatment.
Everything Samantha does she does with unbridled devotion — such as the passion she has cultivated since the age of eight — equestrian competition. During her years at Stony Brook, she has qualified three times for the United States Hunter Jumper Association Zone 2 Horse of the Year Finals in the Adult Amateur Hunter (18-35) category, an invitation-only final consisting of the top 16 competitors of more than 250 contenders from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Now that she awaits word on which graduate school she will attend, she is faced with one of the most difficult choices of her life — to part company with her horse. But wherever she ends up, Samantha is ready to saddle up for the biggest competition of her young life, as a lawyer hopefully representing victims of domestic violence and working in the realm of family law.
“Stony Brook has given me a lot of confidence. Attorneys have to constantly speak in front of many people and I feel up to the task now,” Samantha said.
— Glenn Jochum