Chancellor Malatras Launches First-Ever Student Advocate Fellowship Program to Recruit Recent SUNY Graduates to Develop and Champion Student-Driven Policy Initiatives at SUNY

April 2, 2021

Student Advocate Fellow Will Advise Chancellor and Executive Leaders on Key Issues Including Affordability, Access, Success, Racial and Social Justice, Mental Health, Resources for Students with Disabilities, Food Insecurity and Help Formulate and Implement Solutions  

Will Join SUNY System Administration Team and Report to Student Advocate Dr. John Graham throughout Two Year Fellowship

Application Process to Be Released Next Week for Interested Recent Graduates and Current Seniors

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today launched SUNY's first-ever Student Advocate Fellowship Program to recruit promising recent SUNY graduates to join SUNY's executive leadership team to develop and champion student-driven policy initiatives at SUNY.

The Student Advocate Fellow will advise Chancellor Malatras and other executive leaders on some of higher education's most pressing issues including affordability, access, academic quality and success, racial and social justice, mental health services, resources for students with disabilities, food insecurity, and more. They will provide an invaluable student perspective on these issues and help formulate and implement solutions across SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. As an advisor to the Chancellor, they will gain crucial leadership experience that will help launch careers in higher education, government, non-profit-work, or the private sector.

The Student Advocate Fellow will report directly to SUNY Student Advocate and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs John Graham and serve a two year appointment. The application process will be unveiled next week for those who are interested.   

"I've seen first-hand how our students have been the driving force of change from mental health services, combatting food insecurity, and demanding social justice, to making sure every student has academic support and opportunities. We are thrilled to bring promising recent SUNY graduates onto our team, where they will provide an invaluable student perspective on the biggest issues facing our SUNY campuses," said Chancellor Malatras. "The Student Advocate Fellow will be the voice of the student perspective. They will be empowered to shape our polices and inform decision-making on complex issues including access and affordability, racial and social justice, mental health, disability services, and food insecurity—with the ultimate goal of improving the college experience for all students. To truly lay claim to being higher education leaders—we must make a continued and concerted effort to listen to our students, understand their evolving needs and challenges, and implement the right programs and interventions that address those needs. This new Student Advocate Fellowship program is designed to do just that."

SUNY Student Advocate and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs John Graham said, "Across our 64 campuses, SUNY has no shortage of student leaders who are ready and willing to speak up for their peers on issues that are most pressing and require immediate attention. With the launching of the Student Advocate Fellowship Program, we will bring on someone with both a passion for and a first-hand knowledge of what matters most to our student body. This person will be a pivotal member of our leadership team—helping us further address food insecurity, expand affordability and access, face racial and social justice issues, and much more."

SUNY Trustee James Haddon said, "Students put faith in SUNY to create spaces where their feedback can be heard and taken seriously, and the Student Advocate Fellowship Program is another example of SUNY's commitment to creating collaborative system. We are proud of the students who have stepped up to represent the student body and stand up for the needs of each and every student across our 64 campuses. Whether it be mental health services, disability resources, or creating a more equitable environment, our Board stands ready to assist our students however possible."

SUNY Trustee and SUNY Student Assembly President Bradley Hershenson said, "There is an enormous pool of talent in recent graduates of SUNY. This initiative is an encouraging step in the right direction towards helping the University become more responsive to student needs and concerns. As we advocate new policies to better serve students, the voices of recent alumni can provide invaluable input. We look forward to sharing the details of the fellowship program with alumni student leaders and working with the Chancellor and his team to further expand leadership opportunities for SUNY students."  

SUNY Student Voices Action Committee Member and Sullivan County Community College Student Shonte' Anderson said, "The pandemic has been hard on college students, creating new problems and further inflaming issues that many were already facing. We are happy to know that SUNY is dedicated to working closely with students and recent graduates to pinpoint the right solutions. By serving on the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee, our conversations have produced concrete ideas that are already helping students. I'm happy to see that SUNY is expanding its student-centric approach with this new Student Advocate Fellowship program—which will continue to keep student voices at the forefront."

SUNY Student Voices Action Committee Member and Geneseo Senior Xiara Colon said, "As a member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee, I take seriously my duty to represent the concerns of my fellow students and to make the college experience as equitable as possible for our student body. We are thankful to Chancellor Malatras and SUNY for launching the new Student Advocate Fellowship program, which will give a recent graduate a similarly exciting opportunity to shape the administration's response to the biggest issues facing students. Giving students and alumni such a loud voice sends an important message that our input is valued and welcome, and that we too have the ability to make true change."

The launching of the Student Advocate Fellowship Program is an extension of Chancellor Malatras' commitment to employing a student-centric approach to policy-making and leadership.

Back in October, he launched the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee, a group of 27 students representing every SUNY sector—from university centers to comprehensive, technical, and community colleges. The students were assembled by Student Advocate Dr. John Graham to amplify the collective student voice and expand students' representation and influence in key discussions and decisions that impact their lives. Dr. Graham was appointed by Chancellor Malatras in September to lead the effort.

The Student Voices Action Committee is already playing a pivotal role—raising issues that have inspired new policies addressing both food insecurity and mental health and wellness.

During an early committee meeting, the group discussed rising rates of student hunger. Binghamton University student Jacob Eckhaus talked about the need for refrigerators in campus-run food pantries in order to store fresh fruits, vegetables, and produce. In February, SUNY announced a new grant program available to colleges and universities without the financial means to afford refrigerators. In March, two rounds of grants were distributed, with 25 campuses receiving funding to purchase refrigerators and connect more students with healthy, well-rounded meals.

The committee has also advocated for more mental health support for students, citing an uptick in feelings of isolation, anxiety, fear, and depression triggered by the pandemic. Committee members said struggling students frequently turn to their friends and classmates for help first. In response, on April 1, Chancellor Malatras announced the SUNY Student Mental Health Peer Advocates Training Program. The program will train and empower students to spot classmates who are struggling; approach them in a comforting, private, and nonintrusive manner; discuss these feelings with care and sensitivity; and if needed, point them toward further mental health services available on SUNY campuses

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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