Liberal Arts in Action

David Levinson ’75 (Sociology)

Photo of David LevinsonInterim President, Connecticut State Community College

What I learned at SUNY New Paltz has contributed to my lifelong career path. While at New Paltz (from 1971-1975), I was very involved in the Experimental Studies (later Innovation Studies) Division, active in Student Government and served as editor of the student newspaper The Oracle during my senior year. Having learned the tenets of social justice from New Paltz sociology, I went on to receive a M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I have been a sociology professor, academic vice president, president (of Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, CT from 2004-2019) and now interim president leading the merger of Connecticut's twelve community colleges.

Probably the one essential ingredient of an effective liberal arts education is to think critically. Another important aspect (for me) is the uniting of theory and practice, and realizing agency. New Paltz did this for me! There was a plethora of opportunities at New Paltz extended to me that I would have never received at another college or university. I attribute whatever success I have experienced to New Paltz!

There were so many faculty members who inspired me - Fred Mayo (Education); Pam Tate (Innovation Studies); Irwin Sperber, Hal Jacobs, Barbara Scott, Aaron Bindman and Ken Skelton in Sociology; Alan Chartock and Gerald Benjamin (Political Science).

May 2021


Anthony Albanese ’16 (Sociology)

Anthony AlbanesePh.D. Student at Pennsylvania State University

I enjoy the autonomy of my current position. Much of what I read and write is my decision, and there are plenty of people in my department willing to help me improve upon my projects. Outside of these independent projects and general coursework, I help my adviser by working in the archives. The wide range of expertise at New Paltz made it possible for me to explore different branches of sociology. Much of what I learned at New Paltz is connected to and guides my current work.

A liberal arts education allows a student to better understand the capacities of various disciplines. When it helps improve my work, I make an effort to synthesize what I've learned from various departments, as each discipline offers something different. Outside of an academic setting, I think a liberal arts education promotes well-rounded thinking, which can be applied in a variety of professional contexts.

February 2020


Alexandra Dahlem ’17 (Sociology)

Alexandra DahlemCase Manager - SSVF

I currently am a case manager for veterans experiencing homelessness. My job entails meeting with veterans in my office, conducting a clinical assessment, and developing what's called an Individualized Housing and Employment Plan. I connect them to community resources and provide referrals to other agencies. I then coordinate with local property managers and landlords that I've developed relationships with in order to get these veterans rapidly rehoused. Previously, I worked as a case manager in foster care. I wrote clinical assessments of the children and birth parents and monitored their progress in their foster homes. I also conducted foster home visits and supervised visitations between the children and their birth parents. During court hearings, I provide written and verbal testimonies on the child's progress in care. My education at SUNY New Paltz greatly prepared me for both these positions by teaching me about both micro and macro sociological reasons as to why homelessness and child abuse and neglect are pervasive in society. The electives I took in psychology aided me in empathizing and connecting with my clients on an individual level.

A liberal arts education has helped me become extremely well-rounded in lots of different subjects that interest me, all of which provide me with unique knowledge and skillsets to succeed in my current field. A liberal arts education means the freedom to follow passions, interests, and learn as much as you can while you have the opportunity to be studying.

May 2019

Kirsten Schlein ’02 (Sociology)

Kirsten SchleinClinical Dietitian

I am currently an inpatient clinical dietitian and work with both acutely and critically ill patients. My studies at New Paltz undoubtedly helped to prepare me for this meaningful and challenging work. Sociology equipped me with the skills to critically analyze the world around me and better understand different perspectives, cultures and the varying social conditions under which people live.

I see my liberal arts education as a crucial foundation to becoming an effective healthcare professional. The ability to think critically and have a better understanding of a range of world views, perspectives and social conditions has allowed me to be of greater service to my patients. I believe I entered into this career because of the desire to do something meaningful in society, which was largely influenced by my liberal arts education. My experiences working with various faculty at New Paltz and my engagement in activism shaped the type of person I am, helping to develop my own personal views regarding ethics and morality.

Professors Peter Kaufman and Brian Obach were most influential during my years at SUNY New Paltz. Both are highly knowledgeable in their areas of expertise and also took their passion and knowledge beyond academia and into the real world. They also encouraged students to become active in their communities and engage in areas of social justice that were important to them. Both of these professors were highly influential as well in encouraging critical thinking; this was a skill that I learned throughout the years and am forever changed by it. Both of these professors also played a key role in helping me to develop sound writing skills. I always received valuable feedback that helped me to grow in this area and later go on to publishing in my current career.

December 2017

Shawn Young ‘91g (Sociology)

Shawn YoungPh.D. Student, Retired Non-profit Executive Leader

I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in organizational leadership online at Northcentral University, Prescott, AZ.   I anticipate completing a dissertation on the topic of recidivism and correctional leadership.  In some ways, this will be a follow-up to my New Paltz master’s thesis where I examined the moral development of prisoners. The literature appears to be silent on the role and impact that correctional leadership may have on recidivism outcomes.  It is an accepted belief that leadership has responsibility for organizational outcomes and performance (e.g. profits, employee morale, etc.).

I am currently retired due to physical disability. I was previously employed as vice president of single adult shelter programs for CAMBA, a Brooklyn, NY based non-profit multi-functional social service agency. New Paltz prepared me for this last career endeavor in multiple ways. Having completed original research for my master's degree in sociology benefited me in adapting the need and use of data and analysis of the same in planning and leading programs.

The 21st century is marked by globalization, and a liberal arts education exposes a person to appreciation for diversity.

[Sociology Professor] William Philiber inspired me the most. He once told me that the data does not lie. How we interpret and understand the data is the difference between having positive and beneficial results and just data. It can be just data or assist in helping someone turn their life around.

September 2017

Katherine Raynor, LMSW '08 (Sociology - Human Services)

Katherine Raynor

Social Worker; SUNY New Paltz Instructor

My education at SUNY New Paltz has had a very direct effect on my professional career. Upon completing the Concentration in Human Services (CHS), I was hired as the Youth Domestic Violence Education and Prevention Coordinator at Family Services, which had been one of my three internship sites. Not only did the CHS at New Paltz give me the contacts and networking needed for this job, but the training in harm minimization, self-care, ecological perspectives, and advocacy skills helped prepare me to do this job well, and to truly excel at it. This is evidenced by the fact that over the next seven years at Family Services, I went on to become the Volunteer Coordinator of the domestic violence program, and eventually the Program Coordinator. I did this while also getting my MSW part time at Adelphi University. During this time, I was able to supervise the next generation of SUNY New Paltz students and was invited often as a guest lecturer for CHS classes. In 2014, I decided it was time to pursue my lifelong dream of working internationally, and I joined the US Peace Corps. From March of 2015 until February of 2017 I lived in El Salvador and Malawi doing international youth development. The skills and values that I developed in the CHS, especially due to the social pedagogical framework and focus on international human rights, played a major foundational role for my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I even brought my favorite texts on youth development from my CHS classes with me to share with my fellow volunteers!

This brings me to my next great adventure, teaching as an Instructor in the CHS at SUNY New Paltz. After participating in the CHS in so many different roles, I feel as if I have come full circle, and I am so grateful to be able to contribute to this program that gave me so much. I'm excited to share my knowledge with my students and to learn all that they have to teach me.

As a social worker, my liberal arts education has been essential. When working with people, you need to communicate, interact, and connect with them on various levels simultaneously. Classes in literature, art, mathematics, theater, history, science, and foreign languages all helped directly in my career. A few examples: art and writing to help children and teens process the trauma experienced in abusive relationships; statistics and mathematics to improve grant writing and reports for increased funding; and foreign language skills to communicate with non-English speaking clients from our community's very diverse population. Broadening my own horizons and interests have helped me live a rich and robust life outside my work, which is incredibly important for self-care and general well-being, especially as a social worker. The personal and professional relationships I developed during my education at SUNY New Paltz are still a strong and highly beneficial part of my life.

June 2019

Michael Juhl '02, '04g (Sociology)

Michael JuhlSpecial Assignment Scout – San Diego Padres

I scout professional baseball players at the Minor League and Major League levels for potential trades or free-agent acquisitions.  The scouting process includes but is not limited to:  evaluation of present baseball talent, projection of future baseball talent, and the evaluation of the player’s character as to how he may or may not fit in to the San Diego Padres.   I currently spend over 200 days on the road traveling the U.S. and Caribbean watching baseball games.  My office is in the ballpark and each day is a different experience. I received my World Series ring for being the Advance Scout for the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. 

My background in sociology is vital to my daily work, as I have to evaluate people in their environment.  I must take into consideration their backgrounds, upbringing, socio-economic status and how well they deal with adversity to make my ultimate decision on how they may or may not perform at the highest level.  All professional baseball players (especially Major Leaguers) are very good at their craft.  It’s the ones that can deal with all the outside forces weighing on them that make the best all-around baseball players.   

June 2019

Nicole Stokes-DuPass ‘95 (Sociology, Journalism), ’99g (Multicultural Education, Sociology)

Nicole Stokes-DupassAssociate Dean/Associate Professor of Sociology, Holy Family University

When I reflect on my education from the Sociology Department at New Paltz, I am so grateful for the professors that I learned from and who generously gave their time, scholarship, and expertise to me.  In their classes and in great conversations, I was exposed to the full range of all that sociology has to offer. I firmly believe that education is a vital socialization tool, and a liberal arts education particularly enables students to use what they have learned to shape the kinds of people and citizens they will become.

My education at SUNY New Paltz was a wonderful foundation for the teacher and scholar that I am today. It was the diverse and unique training as a sociologist that inspired me to want to be a change agent in society. In my classes, I convey to my students that while we are examining topics that explore the worst of human relationships—the “isms”—racism, class-ism, sexism, etc., there is great reason to hope and to see themselves as change agents who can continue forward movement toward equality for all.

In addition to my faculty role and my scholarship as a political sociologist, I am also the State Chairperson of the Pennsylvania American Council on Education Women's Network (PA ACE), a networking organization of women interested in pursuing leadership opportunities in higher education. All of these endeavors reflect my education from SUNY New Paltz where I was exposed to issues of social justice. They also demonstrate my continued passion for and commitment to broad issues of access, inclusion and increased equity within higher education.

August 2016

Rebecca Case ’07 (Sociology – Human Services)

Rebecca CaseFamilies Now family therapist

When I enrolled at The State University of New Paltz, I was not sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I am glad I was not forced to decide. The college provided me with the room to find my way and to listen to what called me. I signed up for the “Introduction to Human Services” course because the name seemed interesting. I fell in love with social work and sociology that year and have been at it ever since. I went on to Adelphi School of Social work and received my Master’s Degree in Social Work. I then went on and became licensed. I’m currently studying for my LCSW.

I work full-time as a Families Now family therapist and part-time for Astor Services as a group facilitator for two weekly parenting groups. Families Now is an intensive home-based family preservation program that serves about 50 at-risk Ulster County families a year. Families Now is designed to offer immediate, short–term services to families with a child or children at imminent risk of out-of-home placement or to expedite the youth’s early return to the family.

Families Now focuses on expanding the family’s available internal and external resources to strengthen family functioning and preserve the family unit. Treatment is responsive to the family’s culture, values, and lifestyle. During my time at New Paltz, I learned a lot about the importance of meeting the individual where they are and the importance of seeing the people we serve as people, and not clients. The service delivery we offer is flexible and scheduled meetings are at times and locations of the family’s choosing. The home-based treatment model reflects current research on best practice by utilizing an empowerment strategy.

 April 2016