March 1, 2024
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11 amazing students from the Binghamton University Class of 2023

Inspiring stories from the Binghamton University Class of 2023, featuring students from across the globe

Laman Mirzaliyeva, a member of the Binghamton University Class of 2023 Laman Mirzaliyeva, a member of the Binghamton University Class of 2023
Laman Mirzaliyeva, a member of the Binghamton University Class of 2023 Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Each year, BingUNews features the stories of several Binghamton University students as they prepare for Commencement. Check out the stories of 11 amazing graduates from the Class of 2023 below!

Jack Chapman
Philosophy, Politics and Law

After beginning his career as a Binghamton police officer, Jack Chapman decided he was more interested in the legal system and set out to become an attorney.

But first, he needed to earn his bachelor’s degree and studied part time while continuing his job in law enforcement.

“Anyone who might be thinking about going back to school later in life should know there are challenges, but you can absolutely make it work.”

Read more of Jack’s story here.

Julia Rakus ’22
Public Administration

Julia Rakus cultivated her love of working in nonprofits while interning at the Crime Victims Assistance Center in Binghamton and from her extensive roles in community theater.

She’s hoping to channel those skills into a public administration career supporting victims and at-risk youth.

“Public administration gives you skills that can be carried across a lot of different sectors. It could help you work in any nonprofit organization, like the nonprofit theaters that I was interested in, or in something else like local government. I really liked the versatility of this program.”

Read more of Julia’s story here.

Carrie Hathaway ’22
Mechanical Engineering

Carrie Hathaway wanted to be a doctor while growing up in Geneseo, N.Y., but instead found a way to combine all of her interests — art, STEM and helping people — into one focus: product design and automation.

Design is a way to be creative and artistic, but it’s mathematical and still governed by science,” she said.

“A lot of the things I like designing are not things you think about using every day, like light switches or toothbrushes.”

Read more of Carrie’s story here.

Batur Shairzadeh

Batur Shairzadeh is a first-generation college student and a first-generation immigrant who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age. He grew up dealing with a poorly managed disease and financial hardship, and it wasn’t until his junior year in high school that he began putting effort into getting into college. He was admitted to Binghamton University through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), worked hard and graduated in May with a BS in nursing. He is on his way to becoming a registered nurse who is committed to helping others with diabetes.

“EOP is a safe place for students from underprivileged financial situations and underrepresented backgrounds to voice our struggles and express our adversity. Many students in EOP have to send money back home to our families, so we have to work and we have to balance working with being students. We wear a lot of hats and that creates a lot of pressure.”

Read more of Batur’s story here.

Cameron Wallace
Environmental Design and Sustainability (individualized major)

For his honors thesis, Cameron Wallace is growing a coffee table out of mushrooms, their dense root network threading through a substrate of coffee grounds and sawdust.

That’s right: He’s essentially making a coffee table out of coffee.

Originally from Lumberton, N.J., Wallace created his own major in environmental design and sustainability, coupled with minors in Spanish and sculpture. The individualized program allowed him to combine his interests in environmental studies and nature with his passion for the arts and creativity, interweaving the arts and sciences into a cohesive whole — a bit like the mycelium that comprises his coffee table.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from art, but I also want to be able to give something to the world in a larger sense — to encourage people to think differently about how they interact with the environment.”

Read more of Cameron’s story here.

Oluwateniayo “Teni” Sopitan
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)

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 not being afraid to ask questions in class.

She also learned the value of being with others. “It’s important to form teams and be team-oriented,” Sopitan said. “You need people.”

During COVID: “The group message, which included everyone in the class, was always going crazy and someone was always posting something. That was the only way we could communicate with each other.”

Read more of Teni’s story here.

Nia Johnson
Human Development

Brooklyn native Nia Johnson made the most of her time at Binghamton University as a member of the Student Association and the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).

Along the way, she discovered a passion for teaching and righting inequality.

“I will forever be indebted to EOP. I gained a family through EOP that will be with me throughout my life. Additionally, EOP introduced me to ‘org life.’ It was during my time in BEP (the EOP Binghamton Enrichment Program) that I learned about all of the multicultural organizations on campus. The connections that I made with other EOP students and students of color, helped instill a sense of belonging.”

Read more of Nia’s story here.

Laman Mirzaliyeva

Laman Mirzaliyeva not only moved nearly 6,000 miles away from her home country of Azerbaijan to study accounting at Binghamton University by herself — she did so when she was only 16. She immediately got involved with several opportunities the School of Management (SOM) provides, and even decided to minor in education.

Her achievements resulted in her being named one of SOM’s Seniors of the Year, and she is now a mentor to new students.

“Binghamton offers so many opportunities, so I always recommend that students try something different while they are here.”

Read more of Laman’s story here.

Yangzhou Bian

After discovering her love for dance at SUNY Broome, Yangzhou transferred to Binghamton University to join the theater program, where many dance styles are offered. She discovered a love for translation and playwriting during her time as an undergraduate, which led her to join the TRIP Certificate program. She will return to campus as a TRIP PhD candidate, where she will be researching and translating classic Chinese plays into stageable English that shares their legacy and resonates with the here-and-now.

“The professors contributed a lot to my education and also to me becoming a more mature person. They’re all very forgiving with my personal mistakes but also relentless with the academic work we have to do. They’re very patient in helping me identify what I did wrong and helped me to grow. With that kind of community and that degree of support, you don’t feel like you are alone.”

Read more of Yangzhou’s story here.

Beatrice Arana
Computer Science

Beatrice Arana found inspiration among the women of Watson College, and she tried to pass on that love for STEM as a supplemental instruction leader and a marketing director for the Women in Tech student group.

“I was able to make my dream a reality at Watson College, and I’m lucky to be continuing that dream after graduation,” she said.

Read more of Beatrice’s story here.

Haythi Ei
Public Health

Haythi Ei and her family fled their home country of Myanmar when she was nine due to danger posed by her mother’s human rights work against the military regime. She returned twice, once to teach English at a refugee camp when she was 17, and again as an undergraduate volunteering with the Burma Children Medical Fund. Ei has interned with groups working against conflict-related sexual violence, gender-based violence and workplace violence. She is passionate about helping people in marginalized communities, especially immigrants and refugees.

“Learning about all the factors that contribute to health conditions that affect vulnerable populations has given me an insight on how the world operates.” she said. “It allows me to see the world more holistically and realize that there are a lot of social determinants for health. It has allowed me to become a more well-rounded person and expands my view of how the world around me lives and operates.”

Read more of Haythi’s story here.