Commencement 2020 profile: Jose Gerez

Graduate grows through political science, Harpur Edge and other organizations

Jose Gerez ’20 was so committed to a diversity of perspectives at Binghamton University that he attended meetings of both the College Democrats and College Republicans.

“I came to Binghamton trying to be open-minded,” said Gerez, who added that he was exposed mostly to Democratic positions while growing up in Queens. “I didn’t want to (keep) opposing views away from my scope. Welcoming philosophies and ideas makes you a well-rounded person. I wanted to sit in those meetings and hear and understand both sides.”

The quest for growth led Gerez to choose Binghamton University over Hunter College in New York City.

“What swayed me was the opportunity to go away and grow,” he said. “Even if I had been in a dorm at Hunter, I still would’ve been home. I wouldn’t have been challenged like I was at Binghamton when I didn’t know anyone and had to figure things out away from home.”

Academic growth took place when Gerez decided to major in political science. He had always been interested in American politics, but taking Comparative Politics as a first-year student with Associate Professor Robin Best forced Gerez to “look at the outside world.”

“The political-science professors have a wide range of knowledge that is evident inside and outside the classroom,” said Gerez, 21, who also praised faculty members Daniel Magleby and Katja Kleinberg. “There was something about the department and the professors that got me excited to take the courses. There is a lot of energy in the department. I took what I learned there and applied it to my sociology, history and Latin American classes.”

Gerez also found a home outside the classroom as a first-year student in Harpur Edge, which helps liberal-arts students prepare for graduate school and careers by providing them with resources and connections. Gerez was looking for a campus-involvement opportunity when he noticed an email saying that Harpur Edge was seeking student associates. He soon was hired and began informing other students about the organization.

“From that moment, I started learning about communication and reaching out to people — helping Harpur Edge build its brand and making it a staple of Harpur College,” he said.

Over the next three years, Gerez advanced to become a programs associate at Harpur Edge, developing and hosting events, presenting to campus groups, and assisting with student appointments and other administrative duties.

He also took advantage of Harpur Edge’s networking by spending the summer of 2019 as a law intern at the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

“There was never anything I could not vocalize or express my opinion about in the Harpur Edge office,” Gerez said. “I felt like I was contributing to the culture there and the resources they provide to Harpur students. I can’t thank Harpur Edge enough.”

Harpur Edge Director Erin Cody and Associate Director Wendy Neuberger said they, in turn, are thankful for Gerez’s efforts within the organization.

“Jose’s personality brought fun and warmth to the team,” Cody said. “He served as an ambassador for Harpur Edge by engaging his fraternity brothers and other friends in the programs and services we offer and often connected Harpur students to our funding resources to advance their professional, academic and personal development. With Jose’s help, we reached students who found him and Harpur Edge to be approachable and energizing.”

“Jose was a valued member of the Harpur Edge team,” Neuberger added. “He had a positive attitude and was a strong supporter of our office. He went out of his way to make everyone feel welcome.”

Gerez’s other work included serving as president of Delta Epsilon Psi, a South Asian social and service fraternity on campus. In spring 2018, he worked with student organizations to co-host Holi, “a festival of colors” that spread cultural awareness and raised money for children with diabetes.

Besides being a part of the mock-trial team, a hall ambassador in Dickinson Town Council and an associate justice for the Student Association’s Judicial Board, Gerez also learned about the bar/restaurant industry by taking on a variety of roles at The Colonial in downtown Binghamton.

Since finishing his classes at home as a Binghamton University student, Gerez has prepared for the “flex” version of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). He hopes to attend a New York City law school after first spending a year getting “real work experience” as a paralegal.

“Graduating from law school has always been my ultimate goal,” Gerez said. “Even in these uncertain times, I’m staying focused. This is a marathon, not a race: There is so much more to come.”

When he needs a break from LSAT studies, Gerez works on his guitar- and bass-playing skills, and reads Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor from 161-180 AD.

“I’ve been trying to practice stoicism — which Marcus Aurelius was big on,” Gerez said. “It’s the belief of not worrying about the things you can’t control. That’s a great message for these times.”

Gerez also hopes to return to Binghamton University at some point for Commencement, as he believes it will be special for his three younger half-siblings to see him cross the Events Center stage.

No matter where he is, Gerez said he will strive to keep learning from others and be open about all ideas.

“My time at Binghamton University has been defined by the variety of experiences and people that I came across,” he said. “From my major to my cultural opportunities that I became part of, I tried to get a little bit of everything and understand other perspectives.”