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Meeting the Challenges of Tomorrow: The SBU Class of 2022

Marcano and brown grads

There are literally thousands of stories among the Stony Brook University Class of 2022, an exceptionally diverse and talented group of students who have achieved tremendous success in their time here, with unlimited potential to change the world.

As President Maurie McInnis said in her commencement address, “We will need your collaborative work ethic, your diverse perspectives, and your creative spirit to meet the challenges of tomorrow head on.”

Here are just some of the remarkable stories of the Class of 2022:

Marcano and brown grads
Annarese Marcano (right), and her daughter, Ryann Brown

Annarese Marcano, and her daughter, Ryann Brown, graduated together from the College of Business, each with MBA degrees. They kept their studies separate and didn’t want anyone to know they were related — until two of Brown’s classmates accidentally discovered the truth when Brown called Marcano “mom.”

Marcano, who graduated with a dual master’s degree in public policy, began her career as a salon manager and helped pioneer the expansion of ethnic hair businesses in the New York region; she was later CEO of Hair Studio A Inc. for over 15 years. She worked as a teacher assistant and volunteer in Westbury, NY, and the inequities in education she witnessed inspired her to pursue a legal career. She worked as a paralegal and supervisor for two large foreclosure law firms, and now works at the Bronx District Attorney Office.

Marcano said Stony Brook taught her that you are never too old to stop learning, and was happy to share this experience with her daughter. “I am so proud that Ryann was chosen to be a part of the dean’s advisory board, and that she has done so well in the MBA program. She has been my strength and my rock during this journey.”

Brown chose to attend Stony Brook because of its commitment to inclusion and diversity, as well as offering the most academic value. She has volunteered at local elementary schools and currently works as an administrative coordinator for NYU Langone Health, dealing with adult and pediatric oncology patients. She plans on using her MBA as a source of continued development while focusing on a career in human resources.

 

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Zarya Shaikh

Zarya Shaikh is a University Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa member and aspiring surgeon with a dual major in biochemistry and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Shaikh has worked on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Student Advisory Council, and founded “Queer Diagnosis: The LGBTQ+ Health Podcast,” which is dedicated to making sure that LGBTQ+ people from all walks of life “are represented, doing our best to meet with patients, medical students and healthcare providers,” Shaikh said. She also created an internship for undergraduate students to work on the podcast. 

Shaikh has been a teaching, laboratory and research assistant and an academic research scholar, and co-founded Bright Leadership Academy, which provides tutoring and mentoring students in grades K-12 for test preparation. Most recently, she has been working as a Center for Learning Technology assistant where she helps improve accessibility of course content by restructuring lecture notes and creating documents to be as easily readable by a sighted reader as a low vision or non-sighted reader. She will attend Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and conduct cardiovascular research.

 

Sydney MacGregor majored in human evolutionary biology with a minor in health, society and medicine. She presented her senior honors thesis project, “Degree of lumbar lordosis across age and sex using a modified surface landmarking method,” at the recent URECA symposium, and credited her research mentors (Abigail Nishimura and Gabrielle Russo) for allowing her to take on an independent research project for her senior year and providing valuable guidance and advice. 

MacGregor is a Presidential Scholarship recipient, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, an Academic Achievement Award from Stony Brook, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with honors in Human Evolutionary Biology. She is taking a gap year while she applies to medical school and will be working as an Emergency Room Technician (and doing some traveling).

 

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Maya Nairobi Brown

Maya Nairobi Brown graduated as one of the top students at the School of Communication and Journalism (SoCJ). A journalism and political science double major, she has received a scholarship from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which she will use to earn her master’s at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Brown has completed external internships with NBC News, CNN, the Council on Foreign Relations, WSHU Public Radio and the Long Island Herald and Long Island Weekly newspapers. She has also served as the managing and assistant news editor for the Stony Brook Statesman, and after graduating will be an associate reporter on the social newsgathering team with NBC News. 

Brown’s time at Stony Brook has been dedicated to more than improving herself and preparing for what will be a bright career. She restarted the university’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and served as president. She is a founding member of the Building A Better SoCJ Workshop, a faculty-supported initiative that helps students prepare to cover protest and injustice in their communities. Brown has spent her four years at Stony Brook learning how to identify, share and empower marginalized communities.  

 

Amanda Stuart has a story about finishing one’s dreams. Her father, Walwyn Wellington Stuart, attended Stony Brook University from 1991-1993. He took a break from school to go to the police academy. His dream was always to go back to Stony Brook and obtain his degree but was never able to fulfill it. He was a police officer for the Port Authority who served in the evacuation efforts of the North Tower during 9/11. A hero who saved many lives that day, he died when the North Tower fell.  

His daughter’s tenacious spirit led her to Stony Brook, which provided a connection to the father that she never had the opportunity to know. Stuart majored in women’s studies, was a mentor for the Academic Community Engagement program and a UGC Undergraduate Fellow, a Multicultural Affairs intern, and a member of the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, and the Alpha Nu Zeta English Honor Society. Her graduation is so much more than a degree —  it is a chance for her to finish what her father had started many years ago. 

 

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Anthony Machuca

A first-generation Latinx student, Anthony Machuca is the first EOP student to graduate with a triple major and double minor, earning degrees in health science, psychology, and sociology with minors in health, medicine and society, and health and wellness. He has served on several committees including President McInnis’ Council of Student Advisors, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Council, and the School of Health Professions Advisory Council, and served as a representative on the university’s newest initiative, Project REACH.

Machuca was a member of both the EOP and the Collegiate Science and Technology Program at Stony Brook, and previously served as a peer mentor, student success coach and advocacy chair for the EOP Student Association. He also holds a position on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and worked to pilot a subdivision of the Health Careers Academic Readiness and Excellence to create a new program known as Healthcare Opportunities through Mentorship and Empowerment.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Machuca wants to reduce the lack of representation in all collegiate facets of education. He has completed the Diversity Professional Leadership Network Externship through Stony Brook’s Career Center and has been awarded the first Above and Beyond Award for his efforts. Other awards include the SUNY Undergraduate Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Educational Opportunity Program Advancement on Individual Merit Community Service Award, the SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Certificate of Achievement in Student Leadership and the SUNY Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence. Machuca will attend the Icahn School of Medicine’s Center for Radiation Sciences to continue his education in Medical Dosimetry.

 

Angel Velazquez, a computer science major, is the founding co-president of ColorStack at Stony Brook, which has the mission of increasing the entrance, retention and success of Black, Latinx and Indigenous college students pursuing computing degrees. He has also served as campus director of the Percentage Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping every person of every background embrace their diversity and feel a sense of belonging in the field that they pursue.

Velazquez served as an EOP success coach to help freshman students who didn’t perform well in the entry EOP/AIM summer entry program, as well as a calculus one teaching assistant and an introductory physics teaching assistant. He is currently interested in software engineering roles that involve machine learning or other topics within artificial intelligence, and wants to continue helping students from underrepresented backgrounds get into the STEM field. He will begin his career at Google in August as a software engineer.

 

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Anne Green

Anne Green was one of only 15 students from across the United States selected for the prestigious Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship, and will go on to work as a foreign service officer after graduation. She majored in environmental design, policy, and planning in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, with a minor in globalization studies and international relations, and has studied abroad in Madagascar conducting independent research with her mentor, Patricia Wright, distinguished service professor of anthropology and founder of Centre ValBio.

Green also worked at the SBU Center for Civic Justice, helping the center coordinate voter registration sessions for more than 4,500 entering new first-year and transfer students, and host campus-wide community dialogues on topics such as racial, economic, environmental and health disparities. 

 

Niki Nassiri and her family immigrated from Iran when she was a child. Growing up in a mostly white community, she was dismayed by how her culture was represented in the U.S. She developed a deep interest in helping ensure that other people and cultures are shown in three dimensions and treated respectfully. She decided to study journalism at Stony Brook to learn different ways to showcase intersectionality and to give voice to the voiceless. 

At Stony Brook, Nassiri completed internships at the ACLU and with Sesame Workshop, helping to develop nuanced, diverse and authentic characters. She found a new passion in working with children to help them explore the world around them and use their voices, things that she had to discover on her own. After graduating, she will head to Taiwan, which is home to more than a dozen indigenous groups and distinct ethnic groups as well as immigrants, mainlanders and expatriates. She has been developing lesson plans for months, using the skills she has learned as a journalism student and in working with children at Sesame Workshop, to support these students and engage them.

 

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Eric Lemmon

Eric Lemmon received his PhD in music composition, is the founder of the composer’s collective Circles and Lines, and is the artistic personnel manager of The Dream Unfinished, an activist orchestra that uses classical music as a platform to engage audiences in dialogues surrounding social and racial justice.

His works have appeared in venues ranging from underground bars (le) Poisson Rouge and SubCulture to the DiMenna Center for Classical Music and the FIGMENT arts festival on Governors Island. His groundbreaking computer music system democratizes and blurs the barriers between composer, performer, and audience to create art predicated on the listener’s own ideas, collaboration, and political autonomy. 

Lemmon has been awarded NYU’s Creative Collaboration Grant, MetLife’s Creative Connections Grant, a UMEZ Arts Engagement Grant, a Lower Manhattan Council Creative Engagement Grant, multiple Puffin Foundation Grants, a Tofte Lake Center Emerging Artist Residency, a Can Serrat International Artist Residency, a Mancini Fellowship, and ConEd’s Exploring the Metropolis Residency. Recent commissions include works for Jacqueline LeClaire and the International Double Reed Society, The Chelsea Symphony, and Listen Closely NYC. In June, Lemmon will present his innovative research on participatory music at the 2022 Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology.

 

Tiffany Blanco double majored in psychology and linguistics, and is a member of the Alpha Iota Mu and Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Societies. She interned for the New York Therapy Placement Services where she learned how to analyze children’s speech patterns and conduct speech therapy sessions. She is also a support staff worker at Stony Brook Childcare Services. These two jobs help her assist with her family’s financial needs as well as her academic costs. She has also worked as a Residential Safety Program field worker and a research assistant.

 Blanco will be attending Stony Brook University’s Master of Science program in speech-language pathology to pursue a career as a speech pathologist. She is looking to help assist children and adults with communication and swallowing disorders and to advocate for and improve individual speech and language skills of people, while also impacting lives daily.

 

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Taylor Medwig-Kinney

Taylor Medwig-Kinney received her doctorate in genetics, and in her research, she has untangled the mysteries of how cells containing the same genetic blueprints can exhibit tremendous diversity in form and function. She also made time for her other passion, bringing more women into STEM fields. In February she launched Project WORMS (Women for Outreach and Role Models in Science). The acronym also refers to the work, engaging middle and high school students in research using C. elegans worms.

Medwig-Kinney participated in the first Women in Science Leadership Program through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and said the goal for Project WORMS is to get girls excited about science and want to pursue it as a career. 

Medwig-Kinney is also president of the Students with Children Organization, which started as a collection of moms in the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering club who realized they have unique struggles and needs as student parents. The group successfully advocated for expanded parental leave and offers support spaces for student parents.

 

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  • Wow — these are so incredibly inspiring, heart-warming, impressive and just further validation of the fact that there’s no place else I’d rather work — or be prouder to call my ’employer’ than Stony Brook University!

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