Position: Project Coordinator / Sr.Assistant to the Director, Stony Brook Manhattan
Years of Service: 9
Resides: Brooklyn, NY
Continue to learn. Continue to grow. Continue to give. These are words Yama lives by.
Before working at the Stony Brook Manhattan facility, Yama Akbar worked in New York City’s fashion district, at an apparel company in the public relations department with dual roles as an events coordinator and a marketing liaison. You might think that there are profound differences between fashion and education, but at its most basic, Yama’s role at Stony Brook Manhattan is all about coordination and promotion. From almost the beginning of its operation, Yama has been the face of Stony Brook Manhattan, meeting and greeting students, faculty, and visitors, in person and over the phone. There are conferences and alumni events to organize, board meetings to host, classes to schedule, and inquiries to direct. With some many different happenings at Stony Brook Manhattan, there is no shortage of coordinating and marketing to be done. That makes for no end of opportunities to learn, grow, and give.
The most gratifying part of her the job is interacting with students and assisting them with navigating their academic endeavors/careers. She is also a greeter, taking great satisfaction in acclimating faculty to the facility. Lastly, she is a participant, partaking in program initiatives, particularly the Stony Brook School of Social Welfare’s annual conference and the Admissions Office open houses. On occasion, she’s even been a participant in some of the conferences that take place at Stony Brook Manhattan, enjoying speakers from the annual Ethnography Conference to the MFA Writers Speak series, as well as the Pollack-Krasner Institute, to name just a few. With so many varied events at Stony Brook Manhattan, the educational opportunities are endless.
In the directing of inquiries and promoting of programs, sometimes distance from main campus can be challenging. Yama relies heavily on phone interaction with most of the programs. If she is preparing for a conference by a campus group that has not previously utilized the facility, Yama is sure to communicate effectively to guarantee that she can deliver what they envision for their special event. "The key is knowing what questions to ask and to ask them repeatedly," she says. She has had to rearrange galleries at the last minute in the past to adjust to unexpected requests, but it’s done quickly and professionally. The trick is avoiding those rearrangements in the first place, with a set of detailed questions.
In addition to her great contributions at Stony Brook Manhattan, Yama also gives back to society at large by spending her free time as a member of the Alzheimer’s Association, enjoying a little competitive karaoke, and taking sewing classes. Her love of sewing has encouraged her to partner with a friend and together they started a nonprofit organization for tweens. This summer, they will introduce a pilot program Let’s Sew, for a month long intensive workshop for girls and boys interested in the fashion field. Participants will be responsible for sourcing materials, producing a fashion show, and modeling the garments. The goal is to foster artistic expression and to help forge it into something tangible, while teaching valuable skills and enhancing self-esteem.
Back at Stony Brook Manhattan, Yama is a fiscally and environmentally conscientious employee, one always looking for ways to save—and be—green. "We don’t realize the enormous amounts of paper being wasted through printing mistakes and extra copying," she observes. "Instead of encouraging the students to put the wasted paper in the custodial recycling bin, we now save that paper to use it as draft sheets, copying paper, and for extra materials in the office." Every system can be improved. "We've changed water cooler cups to paper for easier recycling, instead of the old plastic cups that are used once and thrown in the trash." Lastly, as the primary organizer of office supply purchases, Yama always looks for recycled materials first. “Small changes, I know, but hopefully, a huge impact."
On a personal note, Yama declares herself a student of the world, but one who has yet to complete her studies abroad. Avoiding sentiment, however, she states "my favorite place in the world to date is anywhere as long as it is with family and friends. There is nothing better than fostering bonds between elders and young people." She observes, knowingly, "We tend to take advantage of these relationships and don’t realize their worth until they aren't readily accessible anymore." Lastly, in terms of personal skills, while Yama is admittedly a lousy cook, she unabashedly touts herself as a fabulous dinner guest! Next time you are in New York City, perhaps you can invite Yama to dinner? She will regale you with tales of Stony Brook Manhattan and all the opportunities to learn, grow, and give.