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Meet Your New Colleagues!

In this feature, we will be providing short profiles of some new Stony Brook University employees who they are, what they want you to know about them, what they care about.

We will continue to update this page, so if you have someone you’d like to suggest even yourself to feature here, please write to us at strongertogether@stonybrook.edu to get things rolling. In the meantime, meet some of your new colleagues and watch for more to come ...


Christine Gilbert

Assistant Professor of Climate Communication, School of Communication and Journalism/Alda Center and School of Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS)
Start Date: September 1, 2022

Christine Gilbert’s eclectic academic studies have ‘spanned the globe’ from international affairs (her undergraduate degree from University of Maine), to communication (with her Master’s and PhD from University of Rhode Island and University of Connecticut, respectively) to everything from anthropology and sociology, to journalism and history.

This New Englander happily crossed the Long Island Sound to join our faculty at SBU as assistant professor of Climate Communication this September. The new position – a joint appointment between the School of Communication and Journalism (SoCJ)/Alda Center and School of Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS) – was exactly the opportunity Christine was looking for:

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“As soon as I saw the job posting, I said to myself, ‘This job is tailor-made for me.’ It was the right place, the right time and the right appointment.” And it was the offer she immediately accepted among the 60+ positions she applied for across the country.

She says, “I was born and raised to do interdisciplinary work. And more than anything, I’m so thrilled to be in a place where experts and world-class researchers are truly interested in raising awareness of environmental challenges through better communications.”

Christine’s research focuses on how people – across gender, political ideology, socioeconomic status and media habits – respond to risks and challenges related to climate change and extreme weather events. And she currently teaches a graduate course on communicating science and health risks to the public. “In addition to warning people about inherent dangers,” she says, “I want to enlighten them. The public has a right to know about the science that can make their lives better. And I want to help make sure those messages get out to everyone, including, and maybe especially, people living in vulnerable communities, both socioeconomically and environmentally.” 

Her interest in translating the complexities of major environmental health concerns so the general public can understand and relate to them goes back to her job as a research assistant one summer up in Maine. “There were three women graduate students who opened my eyes to the fact that communicating scientific principles and educating people about them could be a really gratifying career path for me. I wanted to follow in their footsteps and it made me think of academia as my calling for the first time.”

She continues, “I think we’ve realized, as a society, that social and physical scientists need to work together to solve some of the biggest challenges we have. As a social scientist, I may never know all the impacts of offshore windfarms on local fish populations. But I have a good knack for listening and can get beyond academic jargon to get to the heart of the matter and communicate this important information. I love when communication themes and ideas start to all come together and make sense, and I’m excited to be a bridge, a conduit, between physical and social sciences.”

With her husband and three cats now all situated on Long Island – which she says is also an ideal environment to study things like offshore windfarms – Christine says the sense of community at Stony Brook feels just right. “I have wonderful colleagues and mentors here. And, being a product of the public education system, I’m thrilled to work at a research-intensive  institution that’s helping transform the lives of students with equal access to amazing educational opportunities.”

One of her main challenges, she says, “is to find the time to do all I’m so excited to do here. The opportunities seem endless.”

Christine-Gilbert

Allison ('Allie') Seal and Ying Zong
Office of Marketing & Communications
Start Dates: June 20 and 30 (respectively), 2022

Like many previously featured new colleagues, Allie and Ying work a lot of their magic behind-the-scenes. Or, in the case of these two Marketing & Communications professionals, behind the screens.

They’re highlighted together as they work in the same Digital Strategy section of MarCom, started at nearly the same time and, coincidentally, share several outside interests and work philosophies. Let’s meet them …

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Allie Seal
Senior Director, Digital Strategy

Allie_Seal

Allie brings more than a decade’s worth of digital marketing experience to Stony Brook, having worked in online stores and ad agencies, as well as being a graphic designer prior to joining SBU. With a longtime interest in editing video and designing websites, she majored in Media Studies at the University of Buffalo. But, she says, “I’ve always had my eye on Stony Brook and always wanted to work here.” When she saw the position in Digital Strategy, she knew the time was right to make that move and she recognized the path she wanted to take ...

“I want to be the ‘agency’  every department can come to for the most effective digital strategy guidance and support,” she says.  Specifically, she’s talking about things like placing paid Google and Facebook ads, helping make sure SBU’s web pages are at the top of Google searches (‘search engine optimization’ as they call it), devising the best content strategies (to help ensure good Google search positioning and that audiences can find the information they need) and implementing good user experience across the site. “All of these things help areas meet their website traffic and lead generation goals,” says Allie. Some of her nine-member team’s most recent collaborations include areas such as Conferences & Special Events, Advancement, Admissions, and Simons STEM Scholars, as well as managing the President’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Allie loves the work and the campus: “There’s such great variety in what I do … no two days are the same. I love working in-house, where we are all part of the same community and a single enterprise, versus my previous jobs where I supported many different outside clients. Plus the campus itself is amazing. It’s like its own small city or ‘ecosystem’. I can walk to Starbucks, take classes, be among students, and explore so many food options within a short distance of my office in the Admin Building.” Allie adds, with a laugh, “I’m very food motivated.”

Joking aside, Allie is most motivated to share her experience and work alongside what she considers top-notch colleagues: “I’m especially excited to bring my digital marketing knowledge here and have our group serve as a resource all across campus. The team is so talented and I feel lucky to have them. Ying, for example, is a unique software developer in that she uses both the left and strong right side of her brain so effectively. She has an eye for how things should function and look for the best user experience.”

When she’s not on campus, Allie is busy raising two young children with her husband Adam. Her outside creative interests have included writing romance fiction, cooking, and blogging about Japanese culture. A Japanese minor in college, Allie’s been a lover of Japan and all things Japanese since childhood. It all started with the anime Sailor Moon, she says, which led to getting tutored in Japanese in Centerport as a teen, to studying abroad in Tokyo as an undergraduate, continuing to study Japanese as she can, and remaining an overall fan of Japanese culture. Her office decor is largely made up of Japanese- and video game-inspired art and figures. And she prides herself on being drawn to musical genres such as Korean popular music – or K-Pop – “before it was cool.”

***

While a piece of Allie’s journey brought her from America to Japan, Ying’s brought her from China to the United States …

Ying Zong
Lead Programmer/Analyst 

Ying-ZongYing’s journey to SBU started all the way from the Far East. 

“I came to the United States from China after high school, on my own, to study Computer Science, with a Digital Art minor, at Stony Brook. I came with two suitcases and nothing else, 11 years ago, with the New York City skyline being my first taste of seeing the United States,” she says. She adds that her positive experience at the University (including having her first donut here) made her want to come back here to work. After graduating and before returning to SBU, Ying  was a software developer and worked for the MTA in New York City. She is also a military Veteran, having taken a year off her junior year in college to join the Army, and serving as a reservist ever since for the past eight years. 

“I loved being a student at Stony Brook right away, living on campus with wonderful roommates and having a lot of support from people. My English was challenged, but I made great friends and was a very active member of China Blue and the Malaysian Students organization. I participated in singing competitions and just really enjoyed campus life. Now, 11 years later, I’m so happy with how far I’ve gotten. SBU has made me better and now I’m hoping to play even a small role in helping make us all better.” 

As a Stony Brook employee, Ying continues to feel at home: “It’s so down-to-earth and a stable-feeling environment. I have a steady, happy life, and such great and kind coworkers. And I know every corner of the University.”

Ying also feels her web design work in Marketing & Communications “is bringing me one step closer to the art I’m interested in pursuing as a career. When I’m fixing sites and adding new features – for example, on the Stony Brook Experts webpage – I find there’s a certain freedom to make them look pretty too. That’s exactly what I want to be doing and I’m provided with the tools here to do what I do best.”

Ying's outside interests include painting, making movie dioramas, felting (creating characters with needle and wool) and making anime and cartoon figures out of clay. Like Allie, her office showcases her interests and talents, filled with many small paintings she's done of dogs, cats and other animals.

Allie Seal and Ying Zong

Tasheka Sutton-Young
Assistant Vice President for Presidential Initiatives
Start Date: July 11, 2022

“Whatever it is I’m given, I will give it my all.”

That’s Tasheka Sutton-Young’s credo and a principle she’s followed throughout her educational studies, her career and her life. With a Master’s degree in Communications and a Doctorate in Executive Leadership, Tasheka also got involved in every club and leadership role imaginable and available during her college years.

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“I was a class president, resident assistant (R.A.), served as president of the Council for Multicultural Leaders (CML), and worked as a student aid in the Dean of Students and Career Services Office. I wanted to be the ultimate ‘student leader’. I tell students I mentor today that it’s important to grow up and develop as a young professional and expand your network. I also tell them that if they can hone their skills here they can learn as student leaders they can make it anywhere.”

Tasheka’s love of school as a student evolved into a thriving career path over the past two decades, all in the field of higher education. “I went into higher ed, fell in love and never left,” she says. That path has taken a few turns – from student affairs to executive leadership roles – but it started and has come full circle back to Stony Brook.

“I didn’t go to school here but I started working at Stony Brook right out of grad school, from 2001-6, in Student Affairs. l  immediately said to myself, ‘Oh my goodness. This is the place to be.’ There was – and is – a certain magic here. And I got to learn the ins and outs of working at a major institution of higher learning from some of the best. Whatever I can do to help now, it’s my pleasure.”

A native of Brooklyn, NY, a wife, and a mother of 12- and 15-year old daughters, Tasheka adds that she’s excited to be taking on a brand new role at the University. “It gives me a chance to make it my own. And I’m especially excited to work on presidential initiatives ranging from special projects to leadership development."

Tasheka is also looking forward to putting her organizational skills to work and taking on challenges and responsibilities in her usual diligent, dedicated and straightforward manner: “I believe in having those courageous conversations and I pride myself on being honest and upfront, always. I am someone you can count on to tell it like it is and do what I say I will do.”

For her part, Tasheka couldn’t be more thrilled to be doing all she is at Stony Brook, “where the vibe and the energy have always felt right.”

Headshot of Tasheka Sutton-Young

Ashley Mercado
Assistant Director of the Center for Civic Justice and the Food Pantry
Start Date: January 6, 2022

While Ashley Mercado received her Master’s in Social Work from Stony Brook with a Psychology undergraduate degree from Oneonta, her career took a turn toward politics when she started exploring and experiencing the difference she could make in that broader arena.

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“I started taking grad school classes in political social work – with a  specialization in community, policy and political social action. I began to see what a significant impact social workers can make in the field of government and policy. And I began to appreciate how policies targeting larger systemic issues can get to the root of problems and help prevent some of society’s bigger challenges, as well as those of individuals in need.”

Following volunteer work on local political campaigns during graduate school, and upon graduating with her MSW in May 2019, Ashley immediately started pounding the pavement as a field organizer for a Suffolk County legislative campaign. She went on to become Deputy Finance Director for a New York Congressional Campaign for a year, followed by working as a Legislative Aid for the Suffolk County Legislature. 

But she felt “there were still larger issues I could work on” and so left the draining world of independent campaigns to look for a job where she could “get people interested in voting again. Show them their vote means something.”

She found that opportunity at Stony Brook and says, “The position couldn’t have been more perfect. As I said in my cover letter, Stony Brook was the catalyst for me to launch into this type of work. Now I get to come back and pay it forward, helping other students follow the same path.”

Sharing her political experience and expertise at the Center for Civic Justice (CCJ), Ashley says she’s consistently impressed with “how powerful and passionate the Stony Brook students are. My favorite thing is getting to know them and encouraging them to share their ideas.” 

The CCJ’s main missions include getting students to vote, making sure they feel heard, and encouraging overall enhanced civic engagement among the entire campus community through new and entertaining strategies, like carnivals. National Voter Registration, National Vote Early and Why Your Vote Matters are just three collaborative projects CCJ student leaders are working on under Ashley’s guidance. Year-round programming includes how to advocate for yourself and community, find and reach out to local representatives, learn the basics of different levels of government, and get information on volunteering.

Ashley believes that the diverse nature of the students involved in CCJ – with all different backgrounds, experiences and majors  – “helps us look at everything from different lenses.” She also feels she has a unique perspective to share, one that fits right in with Stony Brook’s values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility: “Coming from a social work background, I focus heavily on the human side of politics and look at things from that perspective. Is the government providing the services people need to live? Are our resources accessible to all? This is what I find most fulfilling and try to inspire in others.”

Headshot of Ashley Mercado

Beatriz Joanne Vera
Development Coordinator, Department of Advancement
Start Date: May 25, 2022

Beatriz Joanne Vera studied psychology and studio arts as an undergraduate and was involved in student leadership programs, serving on various executive boards.  She says her ability to build relationships and “understand where people come from, what motivates them and how to engage them; how to provide true customer service” stems from her studies, along with her genuine curiosity about others and her desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

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And beyond self expression, she believes her creative background (with current hobbies including traditional charcoal painting) gives her the ability to “problem solve, think out of the box , see how people perceive things, and adapt to ever changing situations.”

Beatriz puts all these skills to work in her new role on the Annual Giving Team of Advancement’s Constituent Experience area. 

“My main mission,” she says, “is to create connections with prospective donors to the University and to help retain our most valuable existing donors, who provide funding for significant new programs and grants. I love working behind-the-scenes and I love the tangible impact my fundraising work can have. If a scholarship recipient can go to college, an individual can pursue their research, or an endowed professor got his job because of some of the work I’ve done with the great Advancement team here, that’s really fulfilling.”

Beatriz is also super happy to be doing this satisfying work at the university where she received her Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration:

“I originally came to Stony Brook because it was close to home and had the course of study I was interested in. I stayed because of the culture and the people. Caring professors always supported me, even during difficult pandemic situations, and I wanted to give something back. This University does a really good job of taking care of its students and its graduates. It functions the way it says it does.” 

Overall, she says the job here “checked all my boxes and is everything I’ve wanted in a job, field and career. And it lies at the intersection of the meaningful work I’ve always wanted to do in the nonprofit sector and higher education field. I can actually make a difference here and I can see myself staying in this field.” She’s also excited to work with student volunteers and alumni on events and activities – from homecoming to a wide range of efforts that ‘spread the word of philanthropy.’

Mostly, she says, “I love what I do and I love doing it here.”

Headshot of Beatriz Joanne Vera

Gabriella Czerw
Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications, Division of Student Affairs
Start Date: January 10, 2022

The field of marketing and communications was love at first sight for Gabriella Czerw, a self-described ‘Energizer Bunny’ who loves talking with people, helping match programs and products to their needs, and striving to provide the best ‘customer’ service.

So when Stony Brook was looking for someone to fill that critical role in Student Affairs, Gabriella was all in, for many reasons.

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“I’ve always wanted to work in higher education and get really involved in student engagement. Doing it at Stony Brook is a dream come true as I get to help so many people from diverse backgrounds,” says the first-generation college graduate whose own family roots are in Costa Rica. Gabriella adds, “It’s the job I’ve always wanted. And it’s at a large institution that offers so many growth opportunities for faculty and staff. I don’t see myself ever wanting, or needing, to go anywhere else.”

Gabriella is working in a relatively new department called C.R.A.F.T. (Communication, Research, Assessment, Fundraising and Technology). Her job responsibilities in the small, but growing, area include creating cohesive branding for Student Affairs, and helping ensure easy digital access to information so students are aware of all the programs and services available to them – from the Career Center, to the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), to the diverse array of clubs and organizations. She’s also pursuing her MBA in Marketing here and appreciates the “big focus” SBU places on her field of choice.

Gabriella says her previous work and educational experiences, which have been “awesome, fun and meaningful,” have all combined to prepare her for this role. These include: welcoming  international students upon their arrival to the U.S. at SUNY Cortland, where she received her undergraduate degree in communications studies/minor in business management; her medical marketing work at a start-up company; and her marketing and event planning staff role at Farmingdale University.

The strengths she’s excited to bring here include “putting a lot of energy into all of my projects, seeing and understanding people’s needs, being a team player, and bringing a unique private and public marketing perspective.” She also likes to work at a fast pace and make things happen.

Mostly, though, Gabriella wants to give something back. “All along my career path I’ve had great mentors. In my new role, I’m looking to help as many students as I can, as much as possible. I believe I can achieve that here, which is really satisfying. And I’m so grateful for the opportunity!”

Headshot of Gabriella Czerw

Richard ('Ricky') Tomczak
Director of Faculty Engagement,
Division of Undergraduate Education
Start Date: May 19, 2022

Richard (‘Ricky’) Tomczak says he’s a ‘big believer that 99 percent of life is showing up.’ And he plans to put that practice into place in his new role as Director of Faculty Engagement.

“I want faculty across campus and disciplines to know I’m here for them. I have a goal to meet with all undergraduate program directors this year [he’s got a spreadsheet]. And I plan to be at events – everything from creative writing seminars  to faculty engagement events – to show I care.”

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Ricky also wants faculty to know he’s ready to have conversations about how he can help them with their grant writing, their curriculum development, their research and their teaching. “I want to help them meet their goals, and I want to listen to any challenges they may be facing and try to address them, together.”

‘Engagement’ to Ricky means both recruiting faculty for Undergraduate education programs and,  more importantly, asking what he can do for them. He’ll also be looking to help expand and enhance programs in undergraduate education and launch a pilot faculty fellows program.

Ricky completed his PhD in History at Stony Brook in August 2021, noting that the University’s unique ‘thematic-based’ curriculum was more appealing to him than most others’ single discipline offerings. “There’s a very interesting synergy when you’re able to  take courses outside of your specific area of study.”

During his studies, he taught as a part-time lecturer in History and Social Studies Education, two departments he continues to teach in today. Upon receiving his PhD, he worked in the Office of Proposal Development within the Office of the Vice President of Research, where he became involved in the realm of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Through his teaching and mentoring, and by working and talking with faculty researchers in disciplines ranging from STEM, to the Humanities, to Arts and Sciences, “I learned the language of it all and developed, I think, a unique skillset. I understand how each world works. And I know how faculty researchers talk to each other. Now I get to work with them, even as I continue doing the teaching I love, including helping educate future teachers.”

Asked what he’s most excited about, Ricky says, “I’m excited about it all, I think.” He adds that both he and his wife, Zuccaire Gallery’s Georgia Lamair, “both love working here.”

Headshot of Ricky Tomczak

Ellice Wallace
Science Communication Specialist, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science
Start Date: August 1, 2022

Ellice Wallace has always loved science, reading, writing and drawing. She studied biology, neuroscience, British literature, and journalism here at Stony Brook University. Today, this Queens, NY resident whose parents hail from Norway and the island of Jamaica, brings all these diverse passions and skills to bear as our Science Communication Specialist. She’s also pursuing her Master’s degree in the field.

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“I considered a pre-med track as an undergraduate,” she says, “but I also had a minor in British literature. And I’ve always loved writing, from the days when I wrote short stories as a kid to the novel I started to write as an adult. My senior year, the Career Center helped me discover a path I wasn’t even aware of – science writing and, more broadly, science communication. It’s a really exciting, ever-evolving field and I was sold.”

Science communication, Ellice explains, essentially looks to make scientific research more accessible to the masses. “It’s the ability to take complex research and academic papers and translate the information to make it applicable and relevant for the general public, so they can engage in it.”

And she is super clear about her own mission: “I want science to be understood by everyone – not just science majors or people in very specific scientific fields. I want to train and equip researchers to talk effectively about their studies so that people outside of those fields – even fellow scientists – can fully understand their work. (Think Bill Nye the Science Guy or ‘rockstar’ astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.) And, I want this understanding to lead not just to knowledge, but actionable ideas.”

She also wants ‘The Link’ – the online Alda Center platform she helped establish as an intern early on in her Master’s program and her current main responsibility – to be a portal to achieve those goals. 

“With tips, interviews, videos and podcasts, I’m looking to present diverse voices and content.” Like her personal digital platform –TheNeuroAesthetic – Ellice is also looking to “make science look beautiful and appealing to the newer generation of scientists who will be looking at these types of sources of information. It doesn’t need to be ‘stuffy.’ I like to bring my artistic sensibilities and a feminine perspective to these sites.”

Ellice says the work is exactly what she wants to do and this is exactly where she wants to do it. Her path has had various twists and turns. But all of the support and interdisciplinary opportunities have always been right here, which is why she still makes the trip from Queens, like she did as a commuter student. “The name ‘Stony Brook’ originally appealed to me as The Baby-Sitter’s Club books I used to read had a town by that name,” she laughs. Upon visiting, “It oddly reminded me of Norway too, where my mother was from. But mostly, I loved the vibe and it had the kinds of opportunities I’ve always dreamed of. I am here to stay!”

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Carrie Cotton
Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, University Advancement
Start Date: February 28, 2022

Carrie Cotton grew up with her nose in a book. “The only times I got in trouble were for sitting in my closet past my bedtime with a flashlight, reading. Even my mom couldn’t get too mad at me for that,” she laughs. Writing also came naturally to her, so it’s not surprising that Carrie has Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees of Art in English Literature … from here at Stony Brook. 

Even more than reading (which is still an out-of-office passion and one she’s inspiring in her two-year-old son), Carrie has always had a strong desire to help others.

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“It might sound corny but my overriding goal – a value my mom instilled in me – is to try to make the world a better place; to leave it better than I found it,” she says. And she’s found the opportunity to do that here at Stony Brook.

Carrie says, “I’m blown away by all Advancement does to support the goals of our University by building relationships with the surrounding community. I feel fortunate to help build the pipeline of strong professionals who do that critical work.”

Carrie’s also thrilled to work here at Stony Brook: 

“I always wanted to return to academia after I graduated, and I particularly wanted to come back ‘home’ to Stony Brook,” she says. “It’s the place where everything happened for me and I became the person I am. It’s the place that first awoke in me the values I hold dear now, such as social mobility and equal access to education. I don’t think it’s fair, for example, for anyone to be limited in their life trajectory based on where they grew up.”

Carrie sees her mission at SBU as three-fold: 1) proactively recruit top talent to fill strategic needs and “make things happen”; 2) provide existing managers with the tools to make their most informed hiring decisions; and 3) help new recruits in Advancement reach their full potential through internal development programs.

“Recruiting provides a ‘ripple effect’ in an organization and society in general, and that’s one of the things I really love.” Carrie’s path back to Stony Brook – and her work building a recruiting model here – includes  recruiting for the Teach for America (TFA) program, which places teachers in underserved areas to expand educational opportunities for low-income students across the country. (A few of her placements were even Stony Brook alumni). Prior to that she taught special ed for kindergartners at a TFA charter school in Brooklyn. And right before coming back to SBU, she built the recruiting model, helped develop core values and served as HR partner for senior leaders at a nonprofit, then startup organization called Education for Excellence.  

In all of these venues, and all along her student and career path, Carrie feels the most important question she’s always asked is, “How can I help?”

Headshot of Carrie Cotton

Prathamesh Hajirnis
Project Coordinator, Economic Development for CIEES (Center for Integrated Electric Energy  Systems) and AERTC (Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center)
Start Date: August 3, 2022

SBU’s Economic Development area is restructuring and expanding to better serve the needs of departments across the University. As one of its newest members, Prathamesh Hajirnis is excited to use his organizational skills to help our researchers meet their funding contract commitments while focusing on what they do best – research. 

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Prathamesh explains: “There’s always been a cultural gap between academia and business, and I’m the liaison – the bridge – between the two areas. I’m the person who works to make sure everything stays on track, on time, and in accordance with what was proposed and committed to in the original agreement with industry partners funding the projects.”

Coming from the worlds of printer engineering and IT, he says, “I understand industry pressures and the urgency and expectations that accompany that. And I believe I bring a fresh, outside perspective to the academic world around how things are managed. At the same time, I want our principal investigators (PIs) to know that I am mainly here to support them in their endeavors. I’m looking to take administrative burdens off of them, and help them convey the benefits of their research to their partners in business.”

Prathamesh calls it a ‘balancing act’ he feels well-equipped to handle. He says, “The goal is to make sure everyone’s purposes and interests are served and, at the same time, get the project done. Relationship building is a key ingredient.”

Prathamesh has been involved in project management throughout his career, which has spanned from India (where he lived until 2006), to Kansas, to Dallas, to New York City, before moving to Long Island seven years ago.

“I’ve always wanted to work for a world-class institution like Stony Brook,” he says. “The amount of resources available and research performed here provide unparalleled benefits for local communities and society in general. And the opportunities here for me are immense as I get to work with, and learn from, some of the greatest minds from all around the world. People whose incredible ideas can be applied to make the world a better place.”

He’s also looking forward to collaborating with the broader Economic Development team to streamline processes and make each project management area’s work methodologies more consistent … again, for the benefit of the areas they each serve. “I have a strong personal belief that being organized is the foundation for many successes, in both work and life,” he says, “and I’m happy and excited to put that principle to work here.” 

Prathamesh’s wife, Puja Deshpande, also works at Stony Brook, as a pharmacist at Stony Brook University Hospital for the past 13 years. And they are happily raising their two children – a 4½ year old son and 7-month old daughter, just a few miles away from campus, another balancing act Prathamesh is thrilled to take part in.

Headshot of Prathamesh Hajinis

Jenn Coggin
Divisional Business Coordinator, Facilities & Services
Start Date: May 12, 2022

Jenn Coggin knew what she wanted to do from a really early age. “It was always business for me,” she says, laughing about how “from about five years old on, I had a dream of working in the Australian stock market!”. 

Jenn’s professional ambitions took a turn from stock market to education, and from ‘down under’ to Long Island, but she stayed true to her lifelong goal of a career in business management.

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And here at Stony Brook, she’s ready to bring her wealth of experience in public and private K-12 education – as assistant superintendent and chief financial officer – to the University as she manages Facilities and Services’ multi-million dollar budget, develops strategies to streamline processes, and works on capital projects and procurement.

Her father and husband both teachers, “I basically grew up with, and married into, the field of education. The more I learned, the more interested I was in making a difference in this dynamic and important area.” Jenn is also excited to put her “positive, think-out-of-the-box, ‘let’s figure out how we can do it’” attitude to work.

And she’s thrilled to do it at the university “that’s always felt like home.” It’s where she received her School District Business Leadership (SDBL) certification, often bumping into her daughter as they passed each other coming in and out of the Chemistry building for class. It’s where her husband and another of her children attended. It’s the grounds where she spent many a Saturday literally ‘running the campus’, training for half-marathons. And it’s just a bike ride from her Lake Grove residence, where she and her husband raised their four children.

Now officially employed here, Jenn says “every single one of my coworkers has been amazingly helpful since my first day. I’m so happy to work among them now to do my part.”

Headshot of Jenn Coggin

Anita Douglas
Contracts Officer, Procurement
Start Date: March 7, 2022

Anita Douglas’ job is to make sure we get the best price for the value – and the best value for the University – when it comes to SBU’s Facility Management Services. It’s a job that capitalizes on her experience in the procurement field, legal expertise, negotiating skills, and ability to work well with people and build relationships. 

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“I get to productively put all my skills to work here and I particularly love going on site visits,” Anita  says. “Mostly, I love the fact that I’m helping to protect the young people who attend Stony Brook University … creating the kind of healthy and safe environment I would want for my own kids.

“A lot goes into both protecting the campus community and partnering with the surrounding community, and I feel like I’m doing my part to help Stony Brook continue to uphold these important values.”

Stony Brook University is equally excited to have ‘procured’ Anita’s services – a vibrant new addition to SBU who brings her energy, caring, confidence and extreme competence to the job every day.

In addition to a law degree from Touro, an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Binghamton University and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from LIU Post, Anita brings a wealth of experience from working for New York City courts and government agencies, many times volunteering to do pro bono work in landlord tenant issues, immigration and consumerism.  “I like interacting with people and making a difference,” she says. “And my legal background with contracts is helpful in my current role.”

In the midst of all these accomplishments and pursuits, she is a single mother of five children, ages 11 - 21 (“this job affords me the work/life balance I desire”); enjoys dancing (“my longer range plan is to take some classes here”); and is a licensed plumbing apprentice (“I like to work with my hands and am a ‘do it yourself’ type and it was really funny when I found out I’d be working with plumbing vendors at Stony Brook. It just goes to show you how everything comes together sometimes!”).

Working at Stony Brook University completes the picture of another long-term goal realized: “I used to dream of working here when I lived nearby,” says Anita. “It’s an environment that’s so fresh and I’m thrilled to add my energy to the equation, as well as having the opportunity to work with departments all across the enterprise. It’s like a dream come true.”

Headshot of Anita Douglas

Jennifer Stancek
Assistant Registrar for Scheduling Support
Start Date: February 14, 2022

Jennifer Stancek has a philosophy she lives and works by every day:

“Life is hard enough. Let’s try to make it easier while we’re in each other’s presence,” she says. “I like to try to keep it light, keep it fun, keep it friendly. And when there are problems, I want to try to help people solve them.”

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The fact that Jennifer started her job at Stony Brook on Valentine’s Day seems fitting to her. “I love every day here,” she claims. And that’s mainly because, “every single day I get to help someone in some way. Even if it seems like a small thing, the information and support I provide helps students get to their goals. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than that.”

Jennifer divides her workday between phone time with students and parents, to talking to students in-person at the Student Union. She handles issues ranging from helping students meet transcript requirements, to registering for or dropping courses. She also schedules lectures and events for student participation at various on-campus venues.

She’s always liked putting her organizational skills to work and says she’s following in her mother’s footsteps, who worked on a local school’s administrative staff when Jennifer was growing up.

Following years of remote work at another university, she says “It’s very wonderful to be with students here now on this beautiful campus. I have a lot of friends who graduated from Stony Brook. And I’ve always had the highest respect and appreciation for all the programs the University offers, the diversity and the clubs. Mostly that it’s so ‘open’ and everyone is accepted for who they are. ”

She’s also thrilled to work at the relatively newly redesigned Student Union, where so many of the services students need and want are all under one roof. And she’s excited and ready “to dig into the nitty gritty” of helping students register this fall.

Asked what she considers the main thing she brings to us as a new colleague, Jennifer responds, “I like to bring color and sparkle. I like to keep it positive.”

Headshot of Jennifer Stancek

Nathaniel ('Nate') Pazik
Director of Development, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and School of Communication and Journalism
Start Date: July 18, 2022

Nate Pazik can describe what he likes best about Stony Brook University (SBU) in two words: ‘access’ and ‘entrepreneurialism.’ He says, “Stony Brook University is a uniquely innovative, forward-thinking center of higher learning. And what I love most is that it makes that incredible environment accessible to individuals who might not otherwise have the chance to grow, thrive and contribute to society in such meaningful ways. It also gives our researchers, scientists and all faculty and staff the freedom and support to explore ideas that can help make the world a better place. ”

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And, it gives Nate the opportunities to play that vital ‘behind-the-scenes’ role he relishes in the academic environment he loves: 

“I’ve always wanted to dedicate my life to playing that significant supporting role that allows the experts to do good in the world and the next generation to move forward and design their own lives. My love of philanthropy stems from the fact that it allows me to find a means to make a difference that way. To ‘get my hands dirty’ and do my part.”  

Nate’s ‘part’ revolves around raising funds to help the Alda Center and the School of Communication and Journalism continue to expand and thrive. Specifically, he works to develop “robust portfolios” with philanthropic individuals and leading-edge foundations around the country that allow us to introduce innovative new academic programs to benefit faculty, students and staff members across the university. 

“The donor relationships we make open the door for so many,” he says, “including first generation college students who can further their careers and develop their lives, thanks to quality education from a top-tier institution.” 

And Nate fiercely believes in the missions these funds support: “The Alda Center is built around the concept of allowing scientists to communicate their work and tell their stories to new audiences, in a relatable, understandable fashion,” he says. “The School of Communication and Journalism’s mission is to provide individuals with access to facts that can help them make their most informed decisions; getting the truth out there and separating journalism from ‘infotainment.’” 

Nate comes to SBU with more than a dozen years of fundraising experience, including building systems and structures to support large-scale efforts. His credentials include serving as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Development Officer of a not-for-profit news publication, providing executive outreach and development opportunities for a local university, and securing his Master’s degree in nonprofit management from Columbia University. Beyond his experience, he says he brings to SBU his “sense of responsibility, loyalty, the ability to rise to challenges, and the desire to develop and share ideas. This is a place where new ideas can be brought to the table, which is so exciting.”

Headshot of Nate Pazik

Jane York
Coordinator of Military and Student Veteran Services
Start Date: May 23, 2022

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University, Jane York was pursuing an acting career – which translated to waiting tables and managing restaurants in between occasional auditions – while living in Brooklyn in her early 20s.

“When I turned 25, I made the decision to ‘reset’ my life and really change my lifestyle in an attempt to launch an impactful, sustainable career,” she vividly recalls.

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“I thought, ‘Well there’s always the military’ and literally walked in the pouring rain from my apartment in Bay Ridge to the nearest Navy recruiting headquarters one day. When I got there, the recruiters all stood up to greet me, were so supportive and made me feel so valued as they described the meaningful opportunities that would await me. From that moment on, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

About six years later, the Sayville, Long Island native had completed basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois; Military Police technical training in San Antonio, Texas; and a five-year stint at the Bremerton Naval Base in Washington State. For her first three years at Bremerton, Jane served as a squad leader with Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Bangor, where she protected National Strategic Assets, denying unauthorized access to nuclear weapons. Jane served her remaining two years of active service at Naval Base Kitsap, supervising Naval Security Force personnel in all facets of law enforcement, antiterrorism and force protection onboard the Navy’s third largest installation in the United States.

“There was never a day when you had to wonder if what you were doing was important,” she says.

When her five-year assignment was over, Jane decided to make another life change: move back to her hometown of Long Island to continue her career and establish family roots, like she enjoyed growing up, for her now six-year-old daughter. Jane enrolled at Stony Brook University – close to her hometown, and alma mater for her mother, brother and sister’s fiancee – to get her MSW while working in the Naval Reserves (as she continues to do now).

While pursuing her degree, she also interned in SBU’s Military & Veteran Student Services office, which was key to her current role and “incredibly serendipitous,” says Jane. “I was developing programs that I’m so happy exist and thrive today, including veterans support and mentorship programs and SBU’s participation in the SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society.”

When she heard through her leader in Military & Veteran Student Services, Pamela Pfeil, about the job opening in that area about three years later, that was another really easy decision. “I never stopped thinking about the student veterans and couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to support them again. And I feel equipped and energized to move these programs and services forward and help the organization build on them and grow.

“There’s a real sense of community here at Stony Brook and among student veterans and it’s so rewarding to work in this area. I understand the military culture. I’ve lived it and the students know I have the experience and insight to understand their situations. I want them to know, too, that I am much more interested in their experiences than mine.”

For herself and her career, she happily claims, ”Things just align sometimes and all the things you do, and all the seeds you plant, come together to put you where you belong. And for me that’s Stony Brook.”

Headshot of Jane York

Deborah Britton-Riley
Coordinator for New Student and Transition Programs
Start Date: June 16, 2022

While Deborah Britton-Riley started her new job here at Stony Brook in June 2022, SBU is far from new for this long-time Seawolf (and ‘Patriot’ for those who remember our team name through 1994). 

She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary social sciences here. She garnered her graduate degree in management and policy analysis here.

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And this first generation college student – “the girl from 116th Street” in Manhattan, who was immediately drawn to this bucolic university – also worked here for 18 years directing a program that provided “a plethora of support for at-risk high school students, helping them make it through that first critical year of college.”

That was from 1992 to 2010, the year a debilitating car crash led to neck and back surgery, two knee replacements, early retirement and a decade on the sidelines for Deborah. But that didn’t stop her.

While yearning to get back into the mainstream and to her favorite job in the world – helping students – she volunteered at her local church, helping young girls gain technology skills. She continued to mentor students through SBU’s Black Women’s Association, which she had started as a graduate student under the then-name Black Women’s Weekend. She participated as she could on SBU’s Black History Month and Women’s History Month Committees. Also in the Black and Latino Alumni Network, of which she was a founding member. And she wrote a memoir she’s looking to publish.

The best news for Deborah – and for us – is that she is fully recovered, works out vigorously every morning,  and is ready for action back at Stony Brook: “I still have more to give to students,” she says. “What I love most is letting them know they have opportunities, right here,  to become better than they are, and motivating them to always aspire to do more.”  

In her new role in New Student and Transition Programs (previously known as Orientation Services), Deborah and staff help coordinate orientation programs, student/parent visiting days, peer assistant programs, as well as working with offices across campus to ensure first-year students have access to all the services they need to fully acclimate and succeed. Deborah says she’s determined to “work along with my colleagues and my director to help keep this area running in tip-top shape.”

Mostly, she’s thrilled to interact with students again: “I wasn’t looking for a high-level, high-pressure position this time around. I just want to be able to make a significant contribution again. Basically I get paid every two weeks for doing something that is pure joy for me.”

Headshot of Deborah Britton

Menaza Townsend
Assistant to the Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences (Nicole Sampson)
Start Date: November 15, 2021

Menaza Townsend is a go-getting, multi-tasking, ‘just do it’ kind of person who brings energy to all she does and gets the most gratification improving herself and satisfying others. “I like to do a little bit of everything,” she says … everything, in her case, meaning getting her new job here as Assistant to Dean Nicole Sampson in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), getting engaged, planning her wedding, running a side business in her free time as a wedding planner – whew! And that’s just over the past six months!

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Menaza comes to Stony Brook from Molloy College, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and an MBA before working in faculty development for three years. “The switch to Stony Brook was me leaving my comfort zone to challenge myself to try something new and expand my career within higher education. I saw an opportunity to learn and grow here.“  

First day on the job Menaza dove right in, happily putting her organizational skills to work to help plan an offsite retreat of fun and business at ‘Topgolf’ for the 24-member CAS Dean’s Office.

“I love to work on a lot of projects and work closely with faculty and staff, and I get to do all of that here – from memo writing, to assisting search committees, to organizing meetings and itineraries, and getting involved with social media promotions,” says Menaza. 

“I work best if you trust me to develop my own process to complete projects. And I get that kind of respect, autonomy and more from Dean Sampson, as well as getting to work with super-supportive colleagues. I, in turn, like to take on all I know I can handle, even if it goes beyond my job description,” she says. 

Menaza feels most energized when she can help others: “With every job I’ve ever had, even as a teenager, I would leave work happy if my ‘customers’ or ‘clients’ were satisfied and appreciated my efforts.”

As a self-professed ‘foodie’, the other thing Menaza loves about SBU is the varied cultural food offerings at Urban Eats at East Side Dining, including La Olla and other venues across campus – from Halal selections (“with really good gyros”), to all the Jasmine offerings at the Wang Center (“love the bubble tea”), to “wonderful Island Soul Jamaican food”, to “the platanos I grew up on as part of my Hispanic heritage. It’s all AMAZING.” 

Headshot of Menaza Townsend

Ephrem Tefera
Director of Parking, Mobility and Parking Services (MAPS)
Start Date: 
March 28, 2022

From his birthplace in Ethiopia, to Minnesota, to Ohio, to here, Ephrem Tefera is excited to work at Stony Brook as our new director of parking. He and the team, he says, are “looking holistically at supply and demand to assess the most efficient ways to run operations. We’re planning to centralize our functions, use software innovations to analyze and improve how we use the space we have, and safely and sustainably maintain and build infrastructure for future growth.

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“It’s challenging, so you have to plan ahead and be creative. But that’s why we’re here!”

Ephrem comes to Stony Brook University following 20 years in the field of parking management. Sixteen of these were at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, where this first generation college graduate received his bachelor of science degree in Sociology. 

While that might seem like an unlikely start to his career path, “My degree gave me the skills to analyze systems and data, and to know and understand people. It helped me grow as both an individual and a professional in my field.”

Ephrem’s experience in parking management began during his years of study, when he worked at the university to pay his college expenses as a parking attendant before making his way up through the ranks of parking management. “If you like logistics and customer service, this is a really interesting and sophisticated area to work in,” he states.

Recently, Ephrem achieved CAPP [Certified Administrator of Public Parking] certification, which is the highest internationally recognized credential for mobility and parking professionals. Now, he says he’s  looking forward to “bringing my experience and expertise to Stony Brook. Coming here was a way to develop my own self and skills as we implement new systems. Most of all, I’m excited to work alongside my helpful colleagues, and all kinds of different stakeholders across campus, as we look to enhance parking service and conditions to support the Stony Brook University and Medicine missions.”

Headshot of Ephrem Tefera

Thomas Gifford
Recruiting Assistant, HR
Start Date: March 4, 2022

Thomas Gifford seemed destined to work at Stony Brook University. His parents met here. He got his Bachelor’s degree here. He temped here after answering an online ad that didn’t state the location. And when the job opening for recruiting assistant became available, he jumped at it. 

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Now, a few months in as a full-time employee, Thomas couldn’t be happier that “fate” steered him to SBU, where he’s also pursuing his Master’s degree in Human Resource Management.

“I’ve always loved Stony Brook. There are so many moving parts, so much happening and the community is just great. It’s an amazing environment to be a part of and exciting to be able to play a role in helping shape our great institution.”

Thomas says he also loves the fact that he gets to interact with, and help, so many job applicants, as well as our HR recruiters – serving as a liaison to help pave the path for new hires by answering questions, and providing information and guidance.

The main thing he’s happy to bring is “patience. I really want to help in any way I can and I want people to know I am there for them.”

Headshot of Thomas Gifford

Daniel Lodato
Scientific/Technical Recruiter, HR
Start Date: May 9, 2022

Daniel Lodato says he “fell in love” with Stony Brook University when he was recruiting our students at job fairs for his previous two companies. And he actually placed 10, two of whom rose the ranks to managerial positions.

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“Growing up on the East End, I always knew Stony Brook University was an incredibly prestigious employer with top-quality students,” he says. “When I came on campus to recruit, I also experienced the warmth and professionalism of the culture here. Now that I’m working here, everyone is so kind, friendly and welcoming, I feel like I’m home.”

Daniel helps recruit and onboard postdoctoral associates so they can get research funding and the vital employment experience they need to really excel.

“Being a recruiter is so rewarding as you’re making a difference in people’s lives by helping them develop professionally, earn a living, build a better future for their family. And they’re excited and grateful for these opportunities.”

He adds, “It’s fulfilling to help the University acquire the top talent it needs to succeed, now and in the future.”

A new hire himself (really new; he started May 9, 2022!), Daniel says the other thing that drew him to Stony Brook is that “There are so many different arms of this institution. From BNL [Brookhaven National Laboratory], to the Research Foundation, to general academics and higher education, the opportunities to grow with the University are almost endless and really exciting.”

As he builds his own career here, “I hope people feel my enthusiasm and passion for this job, and recognize that I’m here to try to help others live their dreams and fulfill their potential.”

Headshot of Daniel Lodato