June 23, 2024
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Eleven students selected to speak on behalf of peers at Commencement ceremonies

Students to address fellow graduates at nine of Binghamton University's Commencement ceremonies

Arkiatou Keita was the student speaker at the third Harpur College of Arts and Sciences ceremony in 2022. Arkiatou Keita was the student speaker at the third Harpur College of Arts and Sciences ceremony in 2022.
Arkiatou Keita was the student speaker at the third Harpur College of Arts and Sciences ceremony in 2022. Image Credit: Jonathan King.

Binghamton University’s Commencement ceremonies will begin with a doctoral hooding ceremony at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, in the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater. Remaining ceremonies for master’s students and each of the University’s six schools, including three separate Harpur College of Arts and Sciences ceremonies, begin Friday, May 12 and run through Sunday, May 14. The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences ceremony will be held in the Osterhout Concert Theater. All other ceremonies will be held in the Events Center on campus.

Student speakers have been selected to represent their fellow graduates at all except the doctoral hooding ceremony. Here, read about the 11 students who will take the podium.

Oluwateniayo Sopitan

Doctor of Pharmacy
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
10 a.m. Friday, May 12, Osterhout Concert Theater

Maryland native Oluwateniayo Sopitan, who goes by Teni, has been a leader since the beginning of her studies as a PharmD student at Binghamton. She credits being elected as class president her first year to asking questions. She has remained in that role each year since.

“I was always asking questions, so it was really just me having the courage to speak up in class. I always asked the questions because I was so confused!” she said.

As an undergraduate, she was a Division I scholarship volleyball player and team captain at North Carolina State University. She came to Binghamton’s Doctor of Pharmacy program by herself and not knowing anyone.

But while at NC State, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in nutrition science with a minor in exercise science, she developed a team philosophy as a member of its Wolfpack — a philosophy that fits right in with the team-oriented interprofessional education at SOPPS. “It’s important to form teams and be team-oriented,” Sopitan said. “You need people.”

She served as vice president of the Oncology Pharmacy Student Organization, helping to get it off the ground. She also tutored first-, second- and third-year students for three years, and served on different committees for the SOPPS Student Government.

As a fourth-year student, she and her classmates have been away on APPEs (Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences) and completing a capstone research project, so her work with Student Government scaled back.

Her favorite APPE was critical care, working in an ICU setting. “It can be very sad, but it really showed me how valuable a pharmacist is in a clinical setting,” she said. “It was so educational and everything you’d want in an APPE was there.

“The last week of APPEs is going to be hard because we have so much to do, but I’m really looking forward to it because everyone’s going to be in the same place at the same time, sitting in the same seats we’ve sat in for all of pharmacy school like beginning again as we get the last steps done,” she said. “We’re all very big on just graduating after doing all the hard work!”

Sopitan has also prepped since November for the rigorous fellowship application process, and has been accepted to work as a fellow for RevHealth, a company that pharmaceutical companies contact for assistance with account management, and a member of the Industry Pharmacy Organization (IPhO). “I will be a marketing fellow working in content development, based in New Jersey, but I’m trying to see if I can work from home!” Sopitan said.

She also intends to get her pharmacy license and work at a small, independent, family-owned pharmacy for a family friend. So, next up, is studying for, and taking, the NAPLEX (the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination).

John Atkinson

Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences
1 p.m. Friday, May 12, Events Center

A transfer student from Jefferson Community College, John Atkinson received his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Binghamton University in December 2021. He worked as a staff photographer for the student newspaper, Pipe Dream, while he was an undergraduate and calls photography his lone hobby during his time as a nursing student.

The catch? He’s what he terms “painfully” colorblind and can basically see only black and white. So, for the most part, he shoots a lot of film rather than digital photos, and develops the black and white images in his portable darkroom. Being colorblind doesn’t hinder his love of photography. “For me, it’s seeing the film and the emotional impact of the photos, especially photos of someone you care about,” he said.

While an undergraduate, he was also a student worker in Decker’s Innovative Simulation and Practice Center; tutored students is statistics, calculus and psychology; was a member of student groups and honor societies; and worked off campus as a pharmacy technician at a local pharmacy. After earning his bachelor’s degree and before starting the Baccalaureate Accelerated Track (BAT), he worked as a pharmacy technician.

Since starting the BAT in May 2022, he’s focused on his nursing program. “The program is intense,” he said. “But all of my rotations were incredible. I really loved working in geriatrics because it’s so rewarding to see a part of medicine that many forget exists. For me, it reinforced the importance of whole-person care and empathy and that we are making a difference in people’s lives.”

Following Commencement, Atkinson will begin working in the intensive care unit at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

Sasha Kinsler

Master of Business Administration
Master’s Ceremony
4:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, Events Center

After earning her undergraduate degrees from Binghamton University — she was a double major in English and Judaic studies with a minor in Hebrew — Sasha Kinsler continued at Binghamton and is graduating with an MBA.

The Rochester, N.Y., native toured a lot of schools before deciding on Binghamton. “I’m a very logical thinker and I put all them in a spreadsheet and ranked them one to 10 in a number of categories,” she said. “I ended up with a computer a score based on what each school had to offer and Binghamton checked all the boxes. I didn’t even realize that until I saw the score.”

Her favorite classes while in the MBA program were operations management taught by lecturer Donald Sheldon and her — you guessed it — spreadsheet class taught by lecturer John McDonald, but she also stayed busy outside of class.

For three years, Kinsler led a team of more than 50 employees as assistant director of Binghamton Sound, Stage and Lighting, providing training and streamlining processes.

Most recently, she has been a graduate assistant in the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development for three semesters. “It’s given me hard skills I know I’ll use for the rest of my life and it’s such a great environment,” Kinsler said. “It’s the first time I’ve worked in a setting where I genuinely like everyone and it’s given me a lot of confidence and skills I don’t think I’d have otherwise.”

Kinsler has also been heavily involved in the leadership for Hillel at Binghamton since she arrived at on campus, including serving as vice president of finance and co-directing a new Jewish Union of Graduate Students. “It just started this year,” she said. “I saw a need for programming for grad students and had no idea it would get off the ground so well this year, so now we do study hours, social events like brewing our own mead for Passover. We have game nights, trivia and Jewish learning with the Hillel professional staff. We to know each other.”

Another leadership role was serving as president of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi Xi Chapter sorority, mentoring members and executing a strategic plan focusing on community, academic success and philanthropy.

The best part of Binghamton for Kinsler? “I’m very people-oriented, so it wasn’t necessarily the classes I’ve taken or extracurriculars I did. I now have so many people in my life from Binghamton who will definitely be there in the years to come,” she said. “I think that, just putting myself out there as much as I did, led me to the friendships that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

And Kinsler’s love of spreadsheets has only grown during her time in the MBA program. (“I LOVE a spreadsheet!”) She hopes to continue to put that love to use as she applies for positions following Commencement.

“I’m trying to figure it out and I’m applying to jobs in a couple fields,” she said. “But my ultimate goal is to work for a nonprofit. I’m looking for New York cities and will definitely stay in the North.”

Blessin McFarlane

Bachelor of Arts in English
Harpur College of Arts and Sciences 1
8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 13, Events Center

Originally planning to pursue a major in neuroscience and in the molecular and biomedical anthropology research stream in the First-year Research Immersion program, Blessin McFarlane realized that tracing the DNA of mummies and struggling through biology and chemistry courses were not in her future.

Instead, the Brooklyn, N.Y., resident found a different path at Binghamton University: she switched her major to English and has been writing ever since. “I realized that maybe my mother was right that journalism was for me,” she said. “I had always been set on STEM but didn’t consider my passions. Then when I was taking English for my Gen Eds, I thought it was so fun and wanted to do something for myself.

“I’m so happy that I didn’t wait until I was about to graduate and realize I actually hated what I was doing,” McFarlane added. “I’m glad I figured it out earlier.”

After admitting that she chose Binghamton because of the trees surrounding College-in-the-Woods, McFarlane said Binghamton turned out well for her. She has gained writing experience with Pipe Dream, the student newspaper, through writing about researchers and their work for the Division of Research, and as an intern at the Q Center, helping to promote events.

She also took advantage of the wide variety of courses available to her. “Academically, I’ve been all over the place, trying everything out and hoping something would stick,” she said. “I took a few costuming classes, learned to paddleboard, took some religious studies courses, acting, a python class and even Korean and Italian while I was here, knocking off my Gen Eds.

“That’s another reason why I like this school so much,” she said. “Even though my courses seemed kind of random, I was meeting with advisors three times a semester to make sure I was on track to graduate and working with Harpur Advising really closely. They helped me stay on track.”

McFarlane will be traveling over the summer and being considered for internships and a law firm and a marketing firm, but will be back in the fall for a one-year master’s program in English literature. “It put me a whole year ahead,” she said. She’s likely to apply to become an Area Resident Coordinator on campus, and perhaps do some freelance writing to keep working on her skills.

She’s had good role models when it comes to education. Her mother has two master’s degrees and is the dean of a special education elementary school, so McFarlane may find herself pursing a second master’s at some point, perhaps in journalism and law or journalism and activism. “I don’t want to fall into teaching, but I want a lot of experience,” she said.

She’s certainly had experiences on campus, including as a residential assistant, a tour guide and working in the Call Center on campus. “They’ve all been helpful for me, but I never felt as confident in my personhood as I did until I became involved with the Black Student Union,” she added. “They helped me want to explore hairstyles and makeup. And Pipe Dream helped me become more confident in my writing style and more nuanced.”

As a McNair Scholar (a federal TRiO program designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds), McFarlane has also been getting experience doing talks about how research can help underprivileged communities. Considering activism as part of a career, she would love to do humanities-based research projects “and through public speaking and writing articles and speaking in communities address issues about incarceration and education and how they affect families later on in life — to be able to project through experiences in journalism to get to higher platforms.”

Chloe Van Caeseele

Bachelor of Arts in Anthropological Perspectives, Minor in Linguistics
Harpur College of Arts and Sciences
12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, Events Center

Chloe Van Caeseele is a Hotdogger. Really. In fact, she made it her mission to become one and will start June 4 as one of only a dozen Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Hotdoggers, driving around the country for the next year. She’ll be paired with another Hotdogger as they stop at supermarkets, amusement parks, conventions and other events, giving out signature wiener whistles along the way.

Van Caeseele spent the past year prepping for the Hotdogger position, even talking with current Hotdoggers. In January, she learned she was among the few to earn an interview for the extremely competitive selection process — more than 2,000 apply. The interview, in Madison, Wis., was intense, she said. “We had dinner the night before and four interviews the next day, including one in a media room where they test your skills.”

But it wasn’t always so definite for the Hornell, N.Y., native. Van Caeseele came to Binghamton University undecided and unsure about what she wanted to pursue, finding it after taking an anthropology course in her first semester. Her degree is in anthropology with a minor in linguistics.

“I really like anthropology and I had to meet a foreign language requirement so I took three semesters of American Sign Language (ASL) and absolutely loved it and added the linguistics minor,” she said.

Van Caeseele doesn’t make decisions easily, she said, but knew Binghamton was the right place for her when she came to visit. “My tour guide was amazing, and when I came back for accepted students’ day I had the same tour guide,” she said. “I talked to staff at the Fleishman Center and they told me that, no matter what path I decided to take here, I would be supported in doing it.

“For me, it’s very important with the experience you get here that the professional standards are held to the same standards as academics, so coming here was easily the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” she said.

Van Caeseele got involved on campus right away. “I would be nowhere if not for co-rec football with Hinman college,” she said. “I made friends for life. It took me out of my comfort zone and really became one of my core college memories. From there, I met so many people and had many professional opportunities too, but it all started with that joy for fun.

“Doing something together and as a tradition pushed me to my goal of becoming a campus tour guide,” Van Caeseele added.

Binghamton changed her life and prepared her to the be the best possible person, she said. While on campus, she became a program coordinator for Undergraduate Admissions, overseeing 65 tour guides; she was a mentor resident assistant for a building of 300 students; a teaching assistant for an ASL course; and assistant news editor of Pipe Dream, the student newspaper.

She also interned at local TV station WBNG-TV and in the Office of Communications and Marketing on campus, was Baxter the Bearcat for Binghamton University Athletics, and also assisted with ESPN live streams for the Athletics Department.

“It’s been fun to share experiences from day one and grow into leadership positions with friends who are following the same path of exploration,” Van Caeseele said. “One of the best things in my life has been being an RA in Hinman.”

After her Hotdogger gig ends, Van Caeseele will likely rely on her network and apply for positions in talent acquisition and the recruitment industry, but her next dream job is to be a television host.

Oscar Hutarra

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, Minor in Forensic Health
Harpur College of Arts and Sciences 3
4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, Events Center

Fun fact about Oscar Hutarra: His 9-year-old self planned on being an actor, and he, in fact, was the voice of Tico on Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer.

The White Plains, N.Y., native has majored in biological sciences with a minor in forensic health and has a drastically different career plan now — to become a surgeon. ”It was amazing to work for Nickelodeon, and then I got interested in medicine! It’s a 100% career shift,” he said.

Hutarra will take two gap years following Commencement to work as an EMT to help him become a well-rounded healthcare provider, save a bit of money and prep for the MCAT exam. He’ll also continue to volunteer at Westchester Medical Center, where he spent the summer of 2022 shadowing and assisting where he could.

“I love spending time there,” he said. “I’ve volunteered with the departments of surgery, palliative medicine and also with the Office of Victim Advocacy.

“One of the things I gained out of the hospital volunteering is that I became a certified victim advocate as part of the Sexual Assault, Abuse and Victim’s Empowerment (SAAVE) program there. I can provide support over the phone or when patients come into the ER,” Hutarra added. “Becoming certified involved some training and I’m very proud of it.”

In the surgery and palliative medicine departments, he worked as a patient companion, asking patients about their experience and whether they had any concerns. “It involved working with providers and healthcare teams to address those concerns,” he said. “I’m grateful for the experience and that they want me back. It’s great to feel appreciated and to do something so satisfying.”

On campus, Hutarra has been a member of the swim club through Campus Recreation, rising to become co-president for his junior and senior years. His main event is the 50 fly, but he also swims the 50 freestyle and occasionally a medley relay. “One of my proudest accomplishments is that we went to nationals this year,” he said.

“Being co-president was an incredible opportunity that allowed me to explore what it meant to be in a position of responsibility over myself and others and put into perspective how much is required of a president or e-board to help a club function properly,” Hutarra said. “I considered it a privilege and a lot of work, but I was lucky to have that opportunity and that is something that Binghamton University has been able to exclusively offer me. That has been a highlight experience.”

While at Binghamton he also served as a teaching assistant for several courses and was a violist in the Binghamton Symphonic Orchestra.

“Music has been a big part of my life here,” he said. “It’s a great way to destress and explore the type of classical music I was into.”

Hutarra said it took some trial and error to figure out how to balance his time. “I would like to say it all came smoothly, but hiccups are part of the learning experience. I only really learned and improved my time management in college. I now understand, and know to consider what time is being asked of you before committing to something. I’m excited to see where these learned skills and experiences take me in the future.”

Catriona Huber

Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science
8:30 a.m. Sunday, May 14, Events Center

Catriona Huber was in fourth grade when she knew she wanted to be an engineer. That’s when she worked with a very simple circuit board to turn a lightbulb on. “It was the first time, looking at the light, that I could appreciate all the systems that exist in an everyday household — the interconnectivity of it all,” she said.

She chose electrical engineering because it ties together most of what she wants to do. “I thought there were three things I could do: build the physical parts, build the circuitry or program,” she said. “Electrical engineering gives me the opportunity to build or to program.”

Huber will get that opportunity when she starts a position at Nine-Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station in Oswego in June, a job she found by attending the Watson Career Fair.

“I’m interested in physics, too, and nuclear is new and interesting and there are so many ways we can progress with it,’ she said. “Being part of building a safety system that provides power to people is something I believe in and I can help out and be useful, which is what made me want to go into engineering to begin with — to have a physical impact on the world has always inspired me.”

While at Binghamton, Huber managed more than her studies. Her first semester on campus, she became an apprentice at WHRW, the free-format, student-run radio station and has remained involved, now hosting a Saturday afternoon show called Against the Wedge as DJ Fresh Squeeze. “I have to take the FCC exams every year, but now I get to teach apprentices and I’m really proud of them,” she said.

“I love to perform,” she said. “When I was younger, I did figure skating, ballet and show choir. She recently played Puck in the Dickinson Community Players’ performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

But the organization that has had the greatest impact on Huber is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and her fellow female engineers. “Last semester I went to Houston for the SWE national conference and it was incredible,” she said. “I went to as many things as I could and met some great women and bonded with others in our chapter.”

Huber said it was the encouragement she received from other members of SWE that convinced her to attend the conference. “It was being able to share that moment of my success with my friends. They appreciated me and were proud of me,” she said.

What has been the best part of her experience at Binghamton? “The short answer? The people.”

Bryana Thompson

Bryana Thompson is a Black female engineer who took up space in Binghamton’s Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science. During the course of her studies, she often found herself as one of the few — or the only one — in her class who looked like her. She however, found her way, excelling as the first in her family to pursue an engineering degree.

After choosing to attend Binghamton because of its rigorous engineering program, she put her all into the program.

“It was difficult being a Black woman working toward a STEM-focused degree at a predominantly white institution,” she said. “I initially felt out of place and until I found others in my major and bonded with them.”

Becoming involved with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), including serving as president of the Binghamton University chapter, made a difference for Thompson, pushing her out of her comfort zone as well as helping her build supportive relationships.

Attending the NSBE national conferences had the greatest impact on her, she said. “And being part of NSBE helped me realize my capability. I presided over meetings and was able to help dozens of other students attend the national conference as well.”

Thompson, who participated in the Image and Acoustic Signals Analysis stream in the First-year Research Immersion (FRI) program, also worked on a robotic arm manipulator team for her senior design project, as logistical design lead.

“In the FRI, I was team lead for autonomous robot navigation and object detection,” she said. “I facilitated a team of four and we worked together to develop a robot that autonomously navigates an unknown environment.

“For the senior design project, I was on a team of five tasked with designing a robot to clear debris and fill surface cracks with a stream of compressed air.”

Thompson will continue her studies at Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science in the fall, pursuing her master’s degree in mechanical engineering through the University’s 4+1 program. She plans to focus on dynamic systems and potentially continue on for her PhD elsewhere.

Suleima Rivas

Master of Public Administration
College of Community and Public Affairs
Noon Sunday, May 14, Events Center

Suleima Rivas earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with a minor in international studies from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., then worked in advertisement sales at Yelp for two years.

“During the pandemic, I reevaluated what I wanted to do with my life,” she said, “and thought about public service, but more about policy issues. I initially thought about law school because I didn’t know about other avenues, but then searched public administration.”

That’s when Rivas set her sights on a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) at Binghamton University. She completed her MPA studies in December 2022.

Up next, she begins a two-year fellowship with the New York/New Jersey Port Authority in July and will have a permanent placement with the agency after the fellowship ends.

“I really want to work in economic development,” she said. “I enjoy how nuanced and complex it is; It’s an umbrella for a lot of other things.”

As a first-generation college graduate, attending college was a learning experience.

“I have to navigate systems not made for me,” Rivas said. “I applied for the Port Authority fellowship because they pride themselves on supporting their future leaders through this managerial rotational program.”

While at Binghamton, Suleima was a Scholars Intern for the National Science Foundation (NSF), where she assisted the NSF’s Technology, Innovation and Partnership Directorate with its Regional Innovation Engines Program.

“The NSF-sponsored Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) program I was part of was a pipeline that gave me the opportunity to work for a government agency. Being surrounded by other students in a cohort that support one another was one of the main reasons why my time at NSF was so successful.”

Being supported and supporting others is intrinsic to Rivas. “That’s why, in the MPA program, I prided myself on the community engagement aspect in everything I did,” she said.

For Rivas, producing the “Do Good Well” podcast that highlighted the people and programs at CCPA was “hands down” a highlight of her time at Binghamton. She also served on the MPA Graduate Student Organization.

“Everything I did I really prided myself on being mindfully intentional on why and where I put my efforts,” Rivas said. “It’s the philosophy I take with me as a first-gen student and the child of immigrants.”

Guinevere Cotten

Bachelor of Science in Human Development
College of Community and Public Affairs
Noon Sunday, May 14, Events Center

Guinevere Cotten always wanted to get a college degree. As a first-generation student, she earned her associate and now her bachelor’s degree and will soon be starting on her master’s degree.

A Binghamton native, she dropped out of high school after struggling with depression and anxiety as a teen, before earning her GED when she was 16. During that time, she also attended Broome-Tioga BOCES for cosmetology, and received her cosmetology license at 18. After deciding that working in a salon wasn’t what she wanted, she worked in retail and knew that also wasn’t the answer. “I knew I wanted more for myself and I didn’t want to work retail for the rest of my life,” she said. So, she started on her college path at SUNY Broome.

“I received my associate degree there in liberal arts individual studies in May 2021,” Cotten said. “My advisor there is connected with the Department of Human Development, and he suggested I look into the program.”

Cotten began her college studies as a part-time student and continued to work in retail, but after receiving scholarship assistance, coupled with jobs on campus at SUNY Broome, she was able to attend classes full time. “On campus, I was a work study student,” she said. “I worked in financial aid and in the math lab, also as a tutor for Intro to Psych and American Sign Language (ASL), and I worked at the ice center for a bit.”

Though she doesn’t have anyone in her family who is Deaf, Cotten took ASL as a foreign language requirement and it’s become a big interest for her. “It has led me to my interest in working with students with disabilities,” she said.

Following her graduation from SUNY Broome, Cotten transferred to Binghamton University as a full-time student.

The transition was bumpy.

“One of the biggest things when I transferred here was that I had a difficult time adjusting as a non-traditional and local student,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I fit in, but the human development program and faculty here at Binghamton have helped with that, made me feel I belong and made me decide to stay.“

Deciding what she hoped for as a career was also up in the air.

“When I came here, I still had no idea what I really wanted to do, but I started doing presentations on accessibility in higher education,” she said. “I ended up doing a semester-long project in a human rights course on how higher education doesn’t always provide the accommodations students with disabilities need, which really hit home for me as a student with disabilities with prior experience with educational institutions’ ableism.”

Cotten will begin her studies for a Master in Student Affairs Administration from Binghamton in the fall, with a goal of continuing her work on accommodations for students with disabilities.

After she earns her master’s degree, she hopes to travel some, and possibly relocate. “No one in my family has been able to move away from the Binghamton area and not end up moving back, and I haven’t been anywhere, so I’m hoping to travel and get a sense of where I want to end up,” she said. When she has free time, she relaxes by playing video games, and when she has more time, she also hopes to get back to figure skating; she met her fiancé at the rink at SUNY Broome.

Lara Kaplan

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Concentration in Finance
School of Management
3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 14, Events Center

Tennis brought Lara Kaplan from her home in Sydney, Australia, to Binghamton, where she majored in business administration in the School of Management (SOM).

“I wanted to come to the U.S. to continue my sport pursuit, but equally I wanted to attend a great university, experience life in a different country and generally to broaden my life perspectives, ” Kaplan said. “My mom was born in Long Island, and so there was a natural inclination for New York. I did a lot of research into business schools and was in contact with a few coaches. As soon as I interviewed with Coach Libby, I knew this was the one…. and I have never looked back!”

Kaplan clearly recalls her first day at Binghamton. “The uber dropped me off outside my room and my college experience had begun. Reality had for sure set in; I did not know a single person out of the 18,000 students at this University,” she said. On her first night she found herself walking up to random people and saying hello “and they literally are some of my best friends now.” Fast forward 3 1/2 years, and she can undoubtedly say that “the friendships I gained from this unfamiliar and stressful situation were the cornerstone to my college experience.”

As a January 2020 admit, Kaplan was just settling in when she was sent home due to the COVID pandemic. Being in a very different time zone had her attending class at some strange times. “I had to be up at 3:30 a.m. for classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there were some challenging exam timetables as well. I did have an exam at 2 a.m. once!”

As a student-athlete, Kaplan has had to carefully manage her time and schedule balancing her studies with a very disciplined tennis schedule but also making time for experiencing University life. ”One of my favorite experiences was joining a business fraternity and becoming the social chair, which has provided some lifetime memories.” She is also an active member of the Binghamton University Advisory Committee (SAAC), which spreads awareness and education to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes.

Kaplan’s also seen a bit of the country traveling with the tennis team. “Tennis in the spring is incredibly busy, however, one of the benefits is travelling with the tennis team,” she said. Though there isn’t generally time for a lot of sightseeing, she has gone to some random cities and had some unusual experiences like axe throwing!

States in Australia are all pretty similar and so when traveling in her native country, there isn’t a big culture change, but Texas was a bit of a culture shock, Kaplan admits. “The culture, climate, the food, the accent. It was like a different country, and I had an amazing experience there,” she said including a memorable hockey game.

Kaplan has been home only a few times since the school returned to in-person classes and will spend the summer following Commencement as an audit intern at KPMG in San Francisco. In the spring she plans to return to Binghamton to pursue an MBA at SOM.

What happens after that ends is uncertain.

“I’m not up to speed on the legal requirements for me to work in the U.S.,” she said. “There’s so much I need to look into, but I would work in the U.S. for a few years if given the opportunity.”

Ultimately, Kaplan sees herself working in an investment bank and being involved in client relationships consulting or advising. “That’s my thinking right now,” she added. “I took a lot of finance courses, so investment banking makes sense.”

“I’ve built great relationships here with my professors, and getting real world advice from them on internships and career steps has been incredibly beneficial,” she said.

Whatever the future holds, Kaplan takes one day at a time, makes the most of every opportunity and is living “her best life.”