2017 SUNY New Paltz Women's Leadership Summit

2017 SUNY New Paltz Women's Leadership Summit
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College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Luz Avila-Kyncl '97

Founder and CEO, Salud con Luz

Major: Psychology


Luz Avila-Kyncl MSW, CHC is a nutrition coach and wellness counselor with experience in family nutrition, weight management, and stress relief. Luz offers educational workshops to improve health in schools and organizations. In her private practice she helps individuals and families with weight problems, self-esteem, eating disorders, inactivity and stress. Most recently, Luz has created and launched her own YouTube channel, Salud con Luz, where she shares tips and advice in adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. Luz also serves on the Board of Directors for El Nido Family Centers, and in her spare time, volunteers for Meals on Wheels. She is also a contributing writer to the magazine, Siempre Mujer.


Christine DeBiase '90

Incoming General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Brighthouse Financial Legal

Major: Communications


Christine DeBiase previously served as lead counsel to MetLife’s U.S. Retail business, with responsibility for providing legal services related to the development, administration and marketing of retail products, as well as the distribution of such products through MetLife’s various distribution channels. In this role, she managed a diverse team of legal associates across U.S. Retail, representing groups including variable products and funds, life insurance, annuities, distribution and workplace initiatives. Before joining U.S. Retail, Christine served as MetLife’s corporate secretary.

Christine began her career at MetLife in 1996 as a litigation attorney, specializing in insurance litigation defending MetLife against insurance and securities fraud and sales practice violations. In 2000, she joined the corporate ethics and compliance organization focusing on insurance and securities compliance matters. Prior to becoming corporate secretary, Christine returned to the law department as associate general counsel, responsible for managing all aspects of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and state regulatory matters.


Christine is a member of the General American Life Insurance Company (GALIC) and the New England Life Insurance Company (NELICO) board of directors. She serves as vice president and director for PowerPlay NYC, Inc., a nonprofit committed to educating and empowering girls through sports. She also served on the advisory committee for MetLife’s LGBT organization. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications SUNY New Paltz and her Juris Doctor degree from Western Michigan University, Cooley Law School, where she was a member of the National Moot Court competition team and was awarded the American Jurisprudence Award in Trial Advocacy. She is a member of the New York State Bar Association.


Jessica Gardner '99

Founder and President, Media Solstice Marketing & PR

Major: Journalism


Jessica Gardner founded Media Solstice Marketing & PR as a freelance operation in 2011, and has since grown the agency into an award-winning full-service marketing firm. Media Solstice, named the 2012 Start-Up Business of the Year by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, now provides both traditional and digital marketing solutions to commercial and non-profit organizations across the Hudson Valley.


Overseeing a burgeoning team of content creators, graphic artists, website developers, and digital marketing specialists, Jessica is the driving force behind each client’s success. She is known in the region as an outspoken, enthusiastic, and tireless leader, with a deep commitment to quality delivery.


Prior to Media Solstice’s inception, Jessica held leadership roles within the marketing departments of three successful Hudson Valley companies, including Focus Media, Elant, and Monticello Motor Club. She is a former journalist for the Times Herald-Record, the largest daily newspaper in the Hudson Valley region, and the Pocono Record. While with the Times Herald-Record, Jessica earned two New York State Associated Press awards for her work.


Jessica earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from SUNY New Paltz in 1999. Prior to graduation, she spent her senior year studying European political journalism at the Hogeschool Van Utrecht School of Journalism in Utrecht, Holland and the Danish School of Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark. She is currently a member of the Orange Regional Medical Center Foundation Board of Trustees.


Debbie Lesperance '96

Director of Admissions, Columbia School of Social Work

Major: Black Studies


After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in black studies, Debbie Lesperance worked for two years at Edwin Gould Academy in Rockland County as a counselor with at risk youth. She transitioned to higher education administration as an admissions counselor for St. Thomas Aquinas College, working primarily with undergraduate students from New York City. She then moved to graduate enrollment in 2000 at the Teachers College, Columbia University as an assistant director of admissions and held the role as interim director for six months, quickly being promoted to associate director in 2003 until 2006. In February 2007, Debbie took the post of director of admissions at Columbia School of Social Work.

In her role as director, Debbie is responsible for all recruitment efforts for the Master of Science degree program. She leads a staff of six professional team members, serves on campus wide committees, and handles scholarships for new students. She finds her position to be both rewarding and challenging. Each year she is charged with the task of securing the most talented and diverse student pool to help continue the school’s mission and outreach to the community.

At SUNY New Paltz, Debbie had the pleasure of working with great administrators while she was an orientation leader, peer mentor and resident assistant, which she believes helped to shape her interest in working in higher education, and she keeps those experiences near to her heart. She is a member of the Association for Graduate Enrollment Management (formerly The National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals). She enjoys reading and traveling and currently resides in Rockland County, N.Y.


Skyler Srivastava '04

News Anchor, NBC 2

Major: Journalism


A wise person once said, “Find something you love to do, and do that to the best of your ability because you will never consider it a job,” and she was right.


Skyler Srivastava is a storyteller, a news anchor, and a reporter. She was born in India, raised in western Canada, and works in the United States. She is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz, and received her master’s degree, summa cum laude, from Fordham University, where she studied journalism and mass communication, but she says her real education comes from taking risks. 


After graduation, she worked in television, radio, and print across Canada, New York, Washington, and India, observing the little idiosyncrasies that make us all human. She has traveled extensively, speaks five languages, and has lived independently since the age of 19, but says talking to her mother still makes her pull out her hair (sometimes).


Outside of broadcasting, Skyler is a writer, a women's advocate, and a shoe enthusiast.