Two SUNY Plattsburgh Students, Kassandra Doran and James Faraci, won the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. The award is presented to students who have demonstrated integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives, including leadership, campus involvement, athletics, career achievement, community service, creative and performing arts. The students were honored by Chancellor Jim Malatras at a virtual ceremony from Albany April 14.
Out of 64 SUNY colleges, senior psychology major Doran and biochemistry and biomedical sciences major Faraci were cited for their accomplishments during a most challenging year of pandemic, distance learning, pool testing and quarantine. Doran explained she did not think she received the award because her fellow community advocate, Faraci, was notified before her.
“[James] called me Saturday morning and told me to check my email. There was nothing there and I just assumed I didn’t get it. So then, it wasn’t until Monday afternoon that I got the email and I was just shocked that I got it,” Doran said.
Doran and Faraci are both community advocates, or CAs, and have conducted research with the help of groups and mentors. José de Ondarza, an associate professor of the department of biological sciences, expressed that Faraci is enthusiastic and deserving of the award.
De Ondarza taught a microbiology class that Faraci was in, and he noticed Faraci’s enthusiasm and engagement. There was a lot of potential in Faraci that de Ondarza noticed and he was pleased that Faraci agreed to do research with him in his lab.
“James has been one of the most gregarious student researchers I have ever had. He has been an extreme pleasure to mentor, and I am excited to see where the future will take him,” de Ondarza said.
Doran and Faraci overcame challenges during the pandemic, especially in terms of their research.
“I’ve never been recognized in this sort of fashion before. I’ve always done research and these were things that I wanted to do and I had fun doing. To win something this big, it’s really cool to see that other people recognize that this is some hard work,” Doran said. “My research was able to go online and I didn’t have to be in person, but I think it was hard trying to grasp the concepts and all the analysis over Zoom.”
Doran expressed that she was fortunate her research and class could be moved online, but the platform made learning difficult.
“In higher level classes, everything is discussion based. Covid has taken that away. I feel like I could have found a more specific aspect of my career that I would’ve wanted to go into,” Doran said.
“It has been an honor, a privilege, and a joy to work alongside Kassandra,” Assistant Pyschology Professor Inmaculada Ibáñez-Casas said. “Her passion is contagious and her thirst for knowledge, inspiring. I couldn’t be prouder and happier for her for this well-deserved award. I foresee the brightest future for her.”
Faraci had been focusing on microbiology research when the switch to online learning platform occurred.
“There’s not much that you can do online,” Faraci said. “I was waiting three years for this international conference. Instead of being on the beaches of Florida, I was in my room. So, that was pretty upsetting.”
Their leadership roles and research have taken them to different places and helped them improve.
“Being a CA has made me a lot of who I am. The shared training, dealing with situations first hand, going into things blind. I think that helps a lot speaking with people because you are never going to know their reactions,” Doran said.
Doran said that her time management skills improved and she was able to present in APA and New Hampshire where she learned to communicate. She has learned to not take things for granted, such as the people she meets and places she travels to. Doran accredits these opportunities to SUNY Plattsburgh, which she has not gotten the chance to dive into since the pandemic began.
“I think it’s pretty great that the culmination of all our hard work is coming to fruition,” Faraci said.
Faraci is the president of pre-med pre-health club on campus, head CA and a honors peer mentor. Like many students, the pandemic has changed Faraci’s outlook on the opportunities before him. Being able to sit with peers in a classroom and being able to have coffee next to them is something he misses.
“I’m pretty upset that the ceremony wasn’t in person. I would love to be sitting in the same room as people who have the same morals and goals as I do, but I think it was still a really good online ceremony,” Doran said. “It was really cool that the entire SUNY System saw James and I representing this little school up here.”