December Graduates Preparing for Next Opportunities

Submitted by SUNY Oswego

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History major Brianne Welser's studies have spanned the globe, including Oswego's study-abroad "History of Human Trafficking" course in India. Her future after graduation in December will take her to the Mississippi Delta through the Teach for America program.

OSWEGO — More than 600 SUNY Oswego students — around 500 of them undergraduates — are eligible to take part in Commencement on Dec. 18, and many are ready for the next step in their lives.

Brianne Welser of Bernhards Bay will take her history degree to the Mississippi Delta after earning a competitive spot through the national Teach for America program.

Last year, just 4,500 of more than 46,000 applicants made the cut for the program that asks graduates to commit to teaching two years in urban or rural districts. Welser went through a rigorous application and interview process, including a mock lesson, to land her assignment.

Her time in Oswego included building global awareness — from spending time in India for the “History of Human Trafficking” study-abroad class to working with Students for Global Change on a book drive supporting “invisible children,” those recruited to become child soldiers in Uganda but now in schooling.

“You see so much poverty everywhere else and you want to help, but there’s so much poverty in America, too,” Welser said. “We get to pick the region for this program, and I wanted to work in a rural region.”

And while the South has changed a lot since Oswego graduates first started teaching there in the 1860s — alumnus Amos Farnham said Southerners considered Oswego teachers “radical in their ideas” in 1875 — Welser said her studies will help her better understand the historical and cultural influences on the region.

Donor advocate

For non-traditional student Colleen Smith-Gleeson, college led to her current position as the in-house organ donation advocate for the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network at Upstate University Hospital. The psychology major explains the importance of organ donations — one donor’s organs can save eight lives, while an eye and tissue donation can save more than 100, she said — while communicating with families at a sensitive time.

Spending years in nursing, the Syracuse resident said she went back to school to “lead by example” for her son, who is a college freshman this year. Smith-Gleeson took two years off in the middle of her Oswego studies to start this job, but has finished up as a full-time student with the support of her husband and two children.

Her college experience “definitely shaped and molded me to be the professional person I am today,” Smith-Gleeson said. “I’ve learned so much about cultural diversity, dealing with a such a wide variety of people. This gave me a foundation to understand why people do what they do.”

Through Oswego, Smith-Gleeson interned in Upstate’s Palliative Care unit, which looks at alleviating suffering and boosting dignity for those with advanced terminal illnesses. “It made me think about people’s quality of life during the dying process and how families can be involved” and “broadened my choices of what I want to do,” she said.

Field of dreams

Broadcasting major Gary Ayd of Goshen will pursue his passion by starting as the play-by-play announcer for the Amsterdam Mohawks in the New York Collegiate Baseball League this season. The NYCBL is “for highly regarded players who may get drafted” by major-league teams to gain experience against top competition, he explained.

Sports broadcasting is “all I’ve thought about the past few years,” Ayd said, and he has built experience through five internships in the past two years ranging from WFAN sports radio in New York City to the Hudson Valley Renegades in minor league baseball’s NY-Penn League to YNN Sports.

“It’s a job that could lead to permanent employment in minor-league baseball or another league,” Ayd said. “I’m looking at this as a chance to work every day doing what I love to do.” He will call 42 games and travel with a team of baseball hopefuls.

In this field, “there are so many people who want to do it, you have to dedicate yourself to it,” Ayd said. “I probably have a 1 percent success rate of jobs I’ve applied for, but I’ve kept trying. Persistence and perseverance are important.”

The ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m. in the Campus Center convocation hall, will stream live from and broadcast on Time Warner Cable Channel 96. For more information about SUNY Oswego’s December graduation, visit