Haley Wodarczyk ’16 always knew she wanted to help people, but she wasn’t sure how best to translate her inclinations into meaningful action..
Her mother had acted as her role model, volunteering for organizations such as Make-A-Wish and Big Brothers Big Sisters. But Haley yearned to travel her own path, and Stony Brook showed the way.
“It was definitely the right choice for me,” she said. “Going away from home (East Syracuse, New York) and being exposed to such a diverse new environment made me grow tenfold,” said Haley. “The diversity is what I love the most. I’ve learned so much about different cultures that I didn’t even know existed. This made me more aware of discrimination and microaggressions, making me passionate about racial and ethnic issues.”
Stony Brook also helped Haley to hone in on her career path.
“I was always interested in psychology, but never explicitly knew that until I came here,” she said. “While other kids were building bridges and making cultures in petri dishes, I was captivated by the actions, words and thoughts of people. The more psychology classes I took, the more I realized it had been a part of my mindset my entire life.”
Working on two vastly different research projects placed Haley squarely in her element.
While a research assistant in Associate Professor Roman Kotov’s lab from 2014 to 2015, Haley worked on a study that examined short-term post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms among 9/11 first responders. She conducted mental health interviews, drew and processed blood samples, and taught participants how to use heart monitors and breathing tubes.
From 2014 to 2016, as a research assistant in Professor Joanne Davila’s lab, she conducted in-person interviews with couples in committed relationships and interpreted her statistics in an Honors Thesis.
During the same time, Haley fortified her communication skills by becoming a part of The Writing Center on the recommendation of her Writing 102 professor. “The Center pushed me to learn about new subjects, strengthen my arguments and learn how to communicate with students from different cultures,” she said.
But it wasn’t until Haley connected with the Career Center that it all began to jell. She said that Director Marianna Savoca encouraged her to apply for membership in SUNY’s Jewish Foundation for Education of Women, a selective organization that prepares qualified young women for careers in the international relations and global affairs fields. While browsing the website internships.com, she made a life-changing discovery — she learned about CameroonONE, an international nongovernmental organization that helps orphans in that African nation.
Haley started at CameroonONE as a fundraising intern and eventually became the organization’s director of volunteer services.
“At CameroonONE, we have no office space, no salaries and few titles,” said Haley. “But for just “150-$200 a month we can transform a child’s life.”
Growing up, Haley and her sibling learned the value of happiness. “Our parents raised us to live modestly and be happy with the small joys in life, so I was never focused on making a ton of money,” she said.
Just the same, Haley enjoyed creating her own campus start-up during her freshman year at Stony Brook. She launched Imagination Creations on Etsy.com, a leader in worldwide handmade crafts, drawing designs with permanent marker on porcelain mugs and heating them in an oven to cement the design. “I opened my online shop with my little dormitory in Roosevelt Quad as my workroom,” she said. “Within a week, I was receiving four to six orders a day. While I eventually closed shop to focus on new endeavors, I would gladly power other artistic projects.”
But Haley’s desire to help other peoples’ economic standing supersedes her desire to turn a profit.
“I’m captivated by visions of racial and economic equality,” she said. I’m constantly thinking about the injustice that black and Muslim citizens face in America. Although my focus is international, I feel that these relations will improve if the economic climate improves in less-developed countries,” she said. “I’m not necessarily set on being a CEO or starting my own non-profit, but simply working for an organization committed to creating change and social good.”
— Glenn Jochum