Liberal Arts in Action
Languages, Literatures & Cultures

Rebecca Newman ’16 (French)

Rebecca NewmanEuropean Sales Coordinator at Loop-Loc Safety Pool Covers

I am currently working as the European Sales Coordinator for a company on Long Island that manufactures and sells safety swimming pool covers domestically as well as internationally. The company was looking to expand their French market and did not have anybody working for them who spoke French, thus my ability to speak French gave me the ability to apply for the position and is ultimately why I was hired. Currently my job duties include translating documents such as price lists and installation guides into French and corresponding with international clients via email in English, French, and Spanish when necessary. Besides the obvious ways in which my French major and Spanish minor prepared me for this job, my communication minor taught me not only the professionalism necessary to be successful in an office setting, but how to relate to clients of all backgrounds instead of just speaking to them on the most basic level, a skill that is indispensable in today’s increasingly global world.

As far as I’m concerned the largest benefit of a liberal arts education is the freedom that it gives you. I have always been an indecisive person so, to me, the thought of being locked into a program that would prepare me for a specific career was terrifying. What if two years into my studies I changed my mind and then had to take the time to figure out what I actually wanted to pursue? With a liberal arts education I never once felt this pressure. Throughout my time at New Paltz, I was able to experiment and learn what it is I am passionate about while working towards my degree. I always knew I loved French and wanted to pursue a career where I would be able to use it daily, and a liberal arts education provided me with the necessary skills to make that possible. The language skills that I strengthened, combined with what I gained through my communication minor, helped to shape me into a well-rounded individual with all the necessary tools to enter a job in almost any field.

Of all the things I experienced during my time in New Paltz, there was perhaps nothing greater than the fact that I got to be a part of the department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures. I owe so much of what I was able to accomplish at New Paltz and beyond to the incredible professors of the French department. The wholehearted guidance and support they provided me with is undoubtedly the reason I was able to be successful in finding a job in my field so soon after graduation. I came to New Paltz as a scared and unsure freshman and walked out four years later with a level of confidence and certainty that I never thought possible.

February 2017


Camille Reeves ’13 (Spanish)

Camille ReevesColumbia University Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program Student

I am enrolled in the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program at Columbia University. The program helps students fulfill the necessary requirements to go to medical school. When I graduated from SUNY New Paltz I did not know what I wanted to do career-wise, but I used the tools I gained through my liberal arts education to expand upon my work experience until I could decide what I wanted to do in my future.

In the summer of 2014, I began working as a bilingual childcare worker with unaccompanied children. According to the federal government, unaccompanied children are defined as minors who have crossed illegally into the United States without the accompaniment of an adult. My education at SUNY New Paltz helped prepare me for the work. Through my rigorous studies at the college, I had developed the necessary Spanish language skills needed to interact with the youth. I had also learned extensively about Central and South American culture through my classroom experiences as well as my study abroad experience in Guayaquil, Ecuador. My journey to medicine began when I started working with undocumented children because many of our youth came from Central America, and did not have access to regular vaccinations, medical and/or dental care. Due to our lack of knowledge of the minors’ medical history, we had to closely monitor them to ensure their health and safety. After realizing my interest in medicine, I sought out a job in the healthcare field with the goal of gaining firsthand experience.

I transitioned into a position as a bilingual patient representative in a local community health center. I worked in this position until I began my studies at Columbia University. The center is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides family medicine services, as well as behavioral health, dental, and outreach services. The center serves mostly uninsured, underinsured, and undocumented patients. In my position as a patient representative, I assisted English and Spanish speaking patients as well as carried out clerical tasks such as scheduling, scanning and faxing medical records, generating referrals, etc. 

I am proud of my education from SUNY New Paltz because through my liberal arts education I was given the foundational tools that have helped motivate me to become a life-long learner. Not only do the professors at SUNY New Paltz teach you to be open-minded, and to learn about different people and cultures, they challenge you to succeed beyond your expectations and to use your talents to better our communities nationally and globally.

  August 2016


Abbey Neumann '09 (French, International Business)

Abbey NeumannCustomer Service Lead and Systems Administrator for Bobrick Washroom, Inc.

I am currently the Customer Service Lead and Systems Administrator for a manufacturing company headquartered in Los Angeles. Our company has manufactured commercial washroom equipment (soap dispensers, mirrors, washroom partitions, etc) in the United States for more than 100 years. In my role as lead, I provide support to my team wherever they may need assistance, ensuring they have the right resources to do their job accurately and efficiently. I also act as the liaison between the team and our manager, help to monitor employee performance, extract, analyze and report on data (looking for trends and opportunities), realign the department with changing goals and directions, and am a key contact to our bigger customers and sales representatives. In my role as Systems Administrator, I act as the coordinator and main contact for the systems we use daily in customer service, which include reporting bugs, testing new iteration releases, writing programming stories to propose new enhancements that will help to save us time or remove the potential for error, and searching for opportunities within existing or new programs. I represent my department often in cross-functional teams or projects for both of my roles.

It was my study of French at New Paltz which allowed me to apply for my current position. They were in a company-wide hiring freeze at the time, due to the recession, but because they had recently consolidated our Canadian customer service branch, they needed a French-speaker to help with the transition. At New Paltz, I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Besançon, France for the academic year. The people I met, places I went, and interests I gained there are things I find truly define myself to this day. Travel implores you to keep an open mind, and take in and learn from all that you can. This is a perspective that I bring with me to all situations, both professional and private.

I also had the chance to work in the Center for International Programs (CIP) upon my return, which was an excellent place to continue to meet people, and allowed me to work with people who shared similar values and interests. This was great office experience that was, unbeknownst to me at the time, the perfect platform for customer service (with the students as our “customers”).

New Paltz was a comfortable, diverse, and encouraging environment where people could find and explore their values and interests. It was a place where people with different goals and different histories could all find what they were looking for, and make what they were looking for happen. New Paltz meant people, both educators and students, dedicated to learning in a judgement-free setting. To me, a liberal arts education is defined by that very thing; equipping students with the tools they need to dig deeper, and, through self-led learning, discover the importance of keeping an open mind. This perspective is key for success in life so that valuable people, places, or opportunities are not missed or dismissed.

  April 2016


Jason Vanderbeck ’05 (French)

Jason VanderbeckConstruction & Store Design (Americas, Asia, Australia), Scotch & Soda (An Amsterdam-based retailer)

I graduated from New Paltz with no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I loved learning languages and talking to everyone. Having a degree in language first and foremost gave me the ability to communicate, and it was my ability to speak French that got me noticed by a recruiter for my first job in fashion. Having a degree in a foreign language gave me the upper hand in being able to work with our European colleagues. I got my first job in store design and construction with no experience because of my ability to communicate between both worlds in two separate languages. In retrospect, I realize that my career could have gone anywhere; I just got lucky and ended up in a field where I enjoy the work and travel. This was absolutely due to having learned a second language. Being able to take an idea in one language, convert to another, and maintain the idea in the new language is being able to solve a complex puzzle, and quickly. For me, it was design drawings, construction documents, renderings, and floor plans. But it could have easily been anything else, and I’m sure I would have been well equipped to solve it.

I speak a foreign language every day, and it’s awesome. Ironically, the language I studied at New Paltz (French) is the one I use the least, even if I do love it the most.  I now work for a Dutch company and have colleagues who give me daily lessons. I worked for an Italian company for six years and can understand it completely. I have projects in Latin America and Asia, and although my comfort level in Spanish is decent, my Mandarin needs a lot of work. I have functional knowledge of Cantonese, and at a layover in a Japanese airport I can find food and a bathroom. I can curse in Tagalog. Learning a language is more than just memorizing words - you learn about culture, expressions, why people act the way that they do, how they communicate, and in the process you learn how to adapt to any situation. It’s made me think a lot more globally than I ever thought possible, and I’m eternally grateful. 

Having a degree in the liberal arts has helped in my career in that I was able to benefit from a well-rounded base of diverse studies I didn’t know I needed. From having a more open approach to learning versus a specific focus on one field, it definitely helped me in seeing things from a big picture perspective. While my job now is focused on one area of expertise, understanding things as a whole and how each part contributes to the other is essential to my success. In my professional experience, outside of specific trades, having a more versatile mentality and adaptability is the key to growth.

  April 2016


Andrew Raphael ’07 (Adolescent Education - Spanish)

Andrew RaphaelCo-Founder and Director of Operations, Konojel Community Center, San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala

Since October 2012, I have been the Director of Operations of the Konojel Community Center, an NGO in rural Guatemala working with at-risk members of the Kaq’chikel Mayan community in San Marcos La Laguna on Lake Atitlan. The mission of Konojel is to fight chronic malnutrition and endemic poverty through nutrition, education and employment. I supervise and coordinate the daily operation of the various initiatives running in Konojel’s organization. These include:

  • A daily lunch program for 60-70 indigenous Mayans (beneficiaries include babies and toddlers, schoolchildren, young mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding their children, and many elderly members of the community);
  • A Childhood Enrichment program for beneficiaries and other young community members that focuses on providing a safe and positive environment for kids in San Marcos with an emphasis on literacy development and math and science;
  • The “Taste the Sun” cooperative of Mayan women who use solar technology to make and sell healthy and innovative snacks made with local products;
  • Four organic gardens that provide produce and permaculture education to the Konojel beneficiaries;
  • Comedor Konojel, a lunch cafe that provides fair wages for indigenous women and an income stream for Konojel programs;
  • A Computer Center for Mayan youth, which offers workshops in digital fluency and access to high speed internet, computers and free printing services.

I coordinate outreach and interaction with the indigenous beneficiaries and employees who participate in Konojel’s various programs. My job requires me to know the names and often tumultuous personal stories of all members of the Konojel family, which gives me a humbling perspective on daily life in one small village. I am the bridge between the Mayan and international communities in San Marcos La Laguna.

My studies at SUNY New Paltz helped me develop fluency in my second language (Spanish) and provided me with important socio-economic, political and historical perspectives on the region and culture in which I now live and work. My degree from New Paltz opened the door for me to work with at-risk youth in New York City classrooms. These experiences nurtured a commitment to social justice work. I have translated this into a dedication to collaborating with indigenous members of the San Marcos community where I have been living since 2011.

In addition, I teach individual and small-group classes in Spanish for international travelers, people who seek meaningful and authentic interactions with their neighbors in San Marcos. I also teach English to Mayan youth who want to participate in the world beyond their small community.

The rich liberal arts program at SUNY New Paltz offered me a holistic and inter-disciplinary perspective on culture, literature, history and education. It took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to recognize the structural forces that create unequal opportunity. My experience there made me question my role in the world outside of my own upbringing, pushing me to seek meaningful avenues to help at-risk communities raise their own standards of living. For me, a liberal arts education has meant opportunities for shaping global democracy, work that is dependent on valuing knowledge and strength from people of diverse backgrounds with many kinds of “education” often quite different from my own. It has helped me see the dangers of paternalism and seek to provide opportunities for youth and women of color in New York and in Guatemala, through which marginalized people strive for better lives for themselves and their communities.

  April 2016


Claudette Aldebot, MPS ’06 (Spanish), ‘08g (Humanistic and Multicultural Education)

Claudette AldebotProgram Manager, Latino U College Access

I am a Program Manager with Latino U College Access in White Plains, NY, a non-profit dedicated to helping low-income, first generation Latino students to and through college, breaking the cycle of poverty and strengthening our workforce and communities. In this role, I oversee all elements of two key programs, First Gen Forward and Excel Tutor.  First Gen Forward is a new pilot effort that will increase college success and Excel Tutor is our in-school youth tutoring program.  I am responsible for the development and management of these two programs.  As part of the leadership team I get to work with a group of professionals who share the same interests, values and passions while providing access to education, mentorship, coaching and advocacy to our first generation Latino scholars.

My studies at New Paltz have given me the confidence to go out into the world and know that with hard work, dedication and creativity I can become successful in all I do. My time at New Paltz allowed me to truly get to know myself, what’s important to me and where I want to make a difference. It was through self-discovery in the classroom that I got to delve into my passion for service, advocacy and social justice. These are things that are still a huge part of who I am and the career choices I make. I believe that a liberal arts education really gave me the freedom to explore my interests, my strengths and overall be creative as to how I wanted to mold myself academically. I love being so well rounded in so many areas, and that is definitely due to the curriculum at New Paltz.

As a professional in modern society, I love knowing that I have the capabilities of creating a career path that is truthful to me and my passions. What I learned in my liberal arts education at New Paltz has stayed with me throughout my entire career path, as I have been able to successfully work in different fields. I have grown so much because of the diverse opportunities I’ve had thus far.

To me, a liberal arts education means having the opportunity to explore—to be free and find a genuine way to explore yourself academically. As a result it shapes you personally and professionally. I am extremely happy with the choice I made back in the fall semester of 2003. Thirteen years later, I am happy with where I am and extremely confident in where I’m going.

  July 2016


Elizabeth GreaneyElizabeth Greaney ’09 (Spanish, Sociology – Human Services)

Assistant Director serving refugee children in a Family Reunification Program

In my current position, I manage the day-to-day operations for both clinical and case management teams in a bilingual setting. I advise on complicated cases and act as a liaison between the agency and other stakeholders to provide well-rounded services for the youth in our care. In addition, I manage programmatic data, and write quarterly and annual reports about our outcomes, which we submit to our funding sources. 

My studies at SUNY New Paltz prepared me for my career path by giving me a well-rounded foundation in academics. I was able to acquire skills outside of the classroom and apply what I was learning to real life. Studying aboard in Spain provided me with language skills that I wouldn't have acquired if I stayed in the classroom. In the concentration in Human Services, I received hands on experience in real-life settings through a series of three internships. This helped me take my first steps in applying my language skills in a professional setting.

My education at SUNY New Paltz constantly provided me with opportunities to actively engage in my education. I learned how to analyze information to make an informed opinion. To me, a liberal arts education is just that: active learning and providing people with a skill set that is adaptable in an ever changing world. My education at SUNY New Paltz has not just led me on one single track, but rather, it has provided me with diverse opportunities on many different paths that have all intertwined. 

  August 2016


Michael Willis ‘11 (French)

Michael WillisPassport Specialist, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs

I am currently working as a Passport Specialist in NYC within the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs.  That means my primary job functions are adjudication of passport applications for U.S. citizens by interpreting and applying citizenship and immigration laws to each case as necessary.  Often times, I am also able to process applications for derivative citizenship from one family member to another if they are from another country.  My job is certainly full of unique challenges and rewards, and I'm glad to gain the experience for future endeavors.

Prior to this, I was a Youth Development Volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Morocco.  I joined four months after graduating from SUNY New Paltz, and I credit my time there as one of the many factors which led me to pursue the Peace Corps.  The liberal arts was a ripe environment for cultivating my professional, as well as personal goals and ambitions, given my focuses in foreign languages and international relations while enrolled at SUNY New Paltz and its partner programs.  One notable experience was being able to participate in a study/internship program during my final semester, which was the springboard I needed to break into my field.  I credit the guidance I received from my professors, bonds shared with my friends, and participation in clubs and activities with influencing my life and career.   

  August 2016


Stephanie Brynes ’13 (French, English)

Stephanie BrynesGraduate student at the University of Texas – Austin (with a focus on 19th Century French Literature and Translation Studies) and teaching assistant     

During my four years at New Paltz, I was privileged to work with an outstanding team of professors who pushed me intellectually and encouraged my love of interdisciplinary studies. With their tutelage, I mastered the language skills necessary to live abroad in France, where I discovered TAPIF, the teach-abroad program in which I participated during my gap year after graduation. New Paltz’s French Department also put me in contact with a wealth of graduate programs across America, including the University of Texas at Austin, and helped me prepare for the series of interviews, entrance essays, and exams needed to apply. Furthermore, these very special professors surpassed all expectations by continuing their support well after my time at New Paltz had finished. Their sound advice and intellect have followed me half-way across the country and continue to guide me through my first years of graduate school.

SUNY New Paltz’s emphasis on the liberal arts truly awakened my interest in academia as a career, rather than as a stepping-stone. During my years at New Paltz, I was encouraged both by my own departments (English, French) as well as by the Honors Program to explore the ways in which varying scholarly disciplines interact. I undertook classes in a multitude of disciplines, including natural science, political science, history, language, literature, art, and music. Without these opportunities I would never have recognized my passion for translation studies, a discipline that represents the perfect intersection of my academic interests, and which has since become the focus of my graduate career.

  April 2016