two images of Caryl Stern, CEO of UNICEF USA, in Africa with local children
Caryl M. Stern

Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO U.S. Fund for UNICEF

Carol Stern leads one of the world’s most impactful non-profits as President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.     

UNICEF is a United Nations Program that works to provide long-term assistance to children, and mothers in over 190 countries around the world.  Its main goal is to save and improve children’s lives by providing them with services that others may take for granted—health care, clean water, an education, and emergency relief to name a few.  Caryl wholly drives UNICEF’s mission, in part from her rich experience while an undergraduate student at SUNY Oneonta.

Having this job gets me the opportunity to see not only what I can do but to see the difference that others make.

Caryl Stern

“I have the greatest job in the world. I feel like what I do makes a difference and I get to use the power of my voice and my pen on their behalf,” said Caryl.  “I get to visit places I have only ever dreamed of seeing and I get to be on the grounds and actually be useful. I have a phenomenal team who works with me and so I come to work genuinely excited by what I’m doing.

Education A Basis For Change

Under the leadership of Caryl, UNICEF has continued to move forward as one of the most successful National Committees.  But the experience required to scale impact within a prestigious organization does not come naturally; like most, Caryl improved on her own skills and perspective, in part working in higher education.

Before starting with UNICEF, she was the first female dean hired at Polytechnic University in New York.  Caryl says that the perspective of an educator is critical in her current role leading UNICEF.

Caryl Stern of UNICEF in Africa with local children waving

Caryl Stern stands waving with a group of African children in Senegal.

“It’s about organizing and motivating and looking at the totality of the experience of every child in the world,” she said.   “Being on a campus made me realize the potential of youth and affirmed my belief that we need to invest in the next generation. Hear more, learn more and know more.  I definitely am still on that journey.”

Caryl capitalized on the opportunity to help lead UNICEF to fulfill a pure commitment to children, education, and equity.  And after taking on this mission, Caryl’s hard work through the organization has paid off for betterment of humanity.

“In the 1980s, over 30,000 children were dying every single day of causes we already knew how to prevent but just weren’t,” Caryl said.  “That is an unbelievable number; consider the population of SUNY Oneonta. At the time I was there, the campus was about 6,000. Think about five times that many people dying every day due to causes we could prevent.”

Today, when adjusted for population proportion growth, that number has since been reduced nearly 500%.  But the job is not done, Caryl cautions, until 0 die from preventable causes.

Motivation to Move Forward

With this unique perspective—combined with experience of a bright mind and hard work—Caryl offers valuable advice to SUNY students who are likely already making a positive impact on their community:

When I went to SUNY Oneonta, I never realized what a big difference one person can make. Having this job gets me the opportunity to see not only what I can do but to see the difference that others make.  Sometimes, the difference is being the person who actually goes and does the aid or raises the money to make the aid possible or writes the article that changes the opinion. Sometimes, it’s the person who holds the hand of the mom that just lost a child, or the person who cares enough to do the homework to figure out where to send the one dollar.  It’s the person who sends me the note saying my family no longer can eat but I’m still sending ten dollars to give to the world children. It is recognizing the power of giving and that it is not measured by how financially well off you are, but by the wealth of your heart – and that is something we all have potential to grow.

In her impassioned spirit, Caryl added one way that more privileged people can contribute to UNICEF’s massive effort:

You can log onto our website, www.unicefusa.org, and can find a myriad of ways you can volunteer for us. You can make the commitment and each day give one minute of your time and your life will be so much richer.

Since joining UNICEF, Carly was crowned an “Outstanding Alumna” by SUNY Oneonta and wrote a book depicting first-hand stories of children and families she has met during her extensive travels titled “I Believe in Zero: Learning From the Worlds Children.”  Caryl will continue to use her SUNY education to make a tremendous impact on people around the world and her motivational wisdom will, no doubt, empower students to join her in the effort.

Alumni